It’s still very early in the 2022-2023 NBA season, and there are already telltale signs of a potentially miserable season for Los Angeles Lakers fans. After losing to the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in their first game, no one seemed to bat an eye as this outcome was expected. In the next two games for the Lakers, we began to see dangerous indicators that this team may need to be changed immediately.
It’s not just because they lost three straight games with arguably the best player ever in LeBron James on their roster, it’s how they are losing. The Lakers are embarrassingly bad at shooting the ball. The median field goal percentage across the NBA is currently 46.3%, the Lakers are currently last place in the league at 40.7%. When it comes to shooting the three ball, the Lakers are equally bad, shooting a measly 21.2% from deep while the league median is 36.9%. Basketball is a simple game, score points, don’t let your opponent score. The Lakers are not going to win many games when they aren’t scoring!
The shooting problem isn’t just a short-term issue, this roster isn’t made to shoot the ball at a high percentage. The league median for three point percentage as a team is 36.9% as previously mentioned. Most teams are shooting at that percentage or higher, meanwhile the Lakers only have one player who averages over 36.9% from three over their career, and that’s Patrick Beverley. Beverley is a solid role player who excels on the defensive end, but only makes one-to-1.5 threes per game each year. When James has flourished, he was typically surrounded by outstanding three point shooters. Guys like Danny Green, J.R. Smith, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love to name a few. James’ typical style of play is very simple, he is elite at driving to the rim, and will do so with the intent of sucking in the defense and then passing the ball to a wide open teammate outside the three point line. After some of his teammates start knocking down shots, the defense tends to stay put on the three point shooters, thus giving James a clear path to the rim. This current roster has no chance of giving James the right opportunities he needs to succeed. With James, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis, the Lakers clearly want to live in the paint but don’t have the supporting cast needed to execute.
Another sign of the Lakers’ potential demise is their body language and decision-making. Teams and players occasionally go through shooting slumps, that is normal, but the decision-making and body language is something that should always be at a high level. James is the leader of this team and everyone will follow his lead, but when your leader is airballing logo three pointers with 14 seconds left on the shot clock, it’s hard to get excited. James has consistently looked defeated, even shaking his head when his teammates drop routine passes. It’s hard to stay positive when things aren’t going your way, every NBA fan understands this, but as a leader, it’s up to James to keep a level head and encourage his teammates when the going gets tough. The leadership aspect does not only fall on James’s shoulders, as Westbrook is also responsible for some deficiencies. Westbrook has looked horrendous thus far, shooting four-of-26 (15.4%) over his first two games. At times Westbrook has been seen to lose all confidence in his shot, as he has refused to shoot wide open three pointers only to later chuck up a worse shot later in the possession.
In order for this Los Angeles Lakers team to turn things around, their front office is going to have to make some moves to acquire shooters to complement James, Westbrook, and Davis. Without that, this team can forget about the NBA Finals aspirations they had coming into this season. Even a single player can make a big difference, if this team could trade for a player like Buddy Hield or Seth Curry, the weight on James’ shoulders would immediately start to feel relieved. In addition to making some roster changes, the leaders of this team need to be just that, leaders. It’s not too late to turn things around, but it starts now.