With the Lakers bringing in seven new players, there is not too much we can gather from their first pre-season game, but with how this team was constructed so quickly, there should definitely be some signs early on about what team they want to eventually become.
Pushing the pace: For this current version of the Lakers, pace and attacking off the dribble should be one of the main ways they look to score. With so many suspect shooters, but also an array of elite playmakers, constant movement can make their lives so much easier. As we can see, as soon as the other team scores, several Lakers players are putting their heads down and sprinting to an offense. The ball handler gets the inbounds pass and is also looking up to see if there is a pass ahead of him or if he should just get it and go.
Having the ability to move the ball quickly after a score allows the offense to get easy buckets by attacking while the defense is recovering, and since the Lakers have several players with excellent vision and passing skills, this should translate to quite a few easy buckets over the course of the season. This method also improves the Lakers lack of three-point shooting in a couple of ways.
- It allows players the opportunity to attack the basket first, then look for a three-point shot second if need be. With the ball taken out so quickly, the opposing team needs to be extraordinarily disciplined or extremely athletic to contain this method of scoring, and frankly, over an 82 game season, the Lakers could win a significant amount of games if they did this consistently and efficiently.
- It can create better looks for the subpar- average three-point shooters currently on the roster. Attacking a defense early on puts a lot of pressure on them before they are even set, which creates chaos and mistakes by the defense. With Rondo forcing the ball up the court after a make, also if he does not want to shoot as his first option, the defense must react if he gets into the paint. At this point, there still might be two defensive players trailing, and with Rondo drawing the attention of at least two more, this can create more open three-point looks for Caldwell-Pope, Jason Hart and the others to get a rhythm going.
There may be times when the Lakers struggle to move the ball and get out quickly, that comes with a young a team getting the best player on the planet, along with new veteran players in the mix. But below are examples of how the Lakers can use these two methods to mask their weaknesses, while at the same time capitalizing on their strengths.
Example #1: After the Nuggets score, Ingram gets the ball to Rondo in Rhythm, allowing him to get up the court quicker. We can see Lebron already on his way, McGee making a move and Ingram wasting no time getting back into play.
Example #2: After another Nuggets basket Kuzma gets the ball into Rondo who is already on his way up the court, with his eyes ahead looking for the next play. Lancy is on his way up the court as well, with Lebron on the opposite wing looking for the pass forward from Rondo. From this image we can also see three Nuggets players who Lebron is going to beat down the court, this is a perfect example of how pushing the pace can create easy buckets.
Example #3: Ingram collects the pass on the move from Beasley, who is already in motion to head up the court. With Lance looking to ahead, and Hart already running, this is how the Lakers can help supplement their lack of elite three-point shooting by attacking the defense while they are recovering.
Example #4: This shows the Lakers getting a full look in transition because of the pace they force. KCP is going to hit Kuzma, giving Millsap a tough choice between Hart on the wing, or sticking with Kuzma forcing him to make a play. We count four Nuggets players who are scrambling back in transition, creating chaos, and Jokic just playing lazy defense by pointing instead of making an effort to help Millsap.
Kuzma catches the pass in triple threat position, shoulder and feet squared to the basket, with too much ground for Millsap to cover to make a keen contest on the shot. Kuzma also has Hart drifting to the corner wide open if he wants to pass up the shot.
Half-court player and ball movement: Surrounding Lebron with four shooters and letting him ISO or a high pick and pop every possession is how Cleveland was able to be successful the past four years with Lebron back home. This method will not work with his current team, as the current Lakers squad lacks anything above average three-point shooting at best. There are going to be certain games where Lakers can get away with it because of a hot hand or mismatch, but over the long haul, and especially playoffs (If we can figure that out) this roster is not built for that. The way the Lakers are going to be successful in the half court is by constantly moving, cutting, screening and attacking off the defense off the dribble.
I feel confident that we have enough shooters to hold our own against teams, but we need movement to be how we get those jump shots. Lebron can still get his isolation and screen plays, but the players not involved need to be moving off the ball and not standing around watching him work.
Example #1: Ingram breaks down the defense which causes Millsap to come over and help off his man. Rondo catches the pass and immediately attacks the paint, putting pressure on the defense to react.
Millsap starts off in a lousy position recovering from Rondo’s drive, with Ingram catching the ball in the paint with plenty of room to operate. Jokic is the closest defender to help, but help would leave McGee open for a dunk. This is an excellent example of Rondo not forcing a three, but keeping the pressure on the defense off the kick from Ingram,.
Example #2: This play starts with McGee swinging the ball to Lebron at the top of the key, and Ingram setting a screen for Rondo off pull to get him open. After Ingram sets the screen, he slips into the paint.
We see the Nuggets not communicating on defense, and both running to Rondo off the screen, leaving Ingram wide open off the cut with the entire paint to operate. Jokic appears to be in terrible position, as there is no need to guard McGee that far away from the basket. If Jokic had dropped back a foot or two, he would have been in great position to intercept or disrupt the pass from Lebron.
Example #3: Lebron catches the pass from KCP, with Ingram in motion to the weak side, where Lance and McGee set a double screen for him. Ingram uses the screen to curl back around into the paint.
Ingram curls into the paint and collects the pass from Lebron in rhythm, with the entire right block to operate, where he gathers himself and hits a nice fadeaway over Jokic.
Example #4: This play shows how the Lakers can use Lebron’s gravity to get easy looks at the basket. Lebron currently has the attention of all five Nuggets defenders, with the middle of the paint wide open for McGee to slip in and get the pass.
Once in McGee is in the paint and Lebron hits him, there is too much space for Jokic to cover that quickly to contest the shot. McGee shows surprising touch around the basket and hits a nice floater off the pass.
Example #5: This action starts with McGee setting a screen at the top of the key for Rondo, who uses it and gets into the heart of the defense drawing attention. While the screen is being used by Rondo, we see KCP coming up to set a back screen for McGee in an attempt to get him open via lob from Rondo.
KCP vacates the paint after setting the screen, clearing out space for McGee to catch the pass. While Rondo has the ball in the air, we can see that three Nuggets players standing around watching and not reacting, which leads to the McGee dunk.