What’s wrong with the Los Angeles Lakers’ offense?: Inside the numbers

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers /

1. The Los Angeles Lakers’ decline in fast-break offense

LeBron James’s reputation as a transition finisher precedes him, and for good reason. With his unparalleled combination of strength, speed, and smarts, he is a nightmare for opposing defenses when he gets a full head of steam.

The fact that he has been flanked all season by Anthony Davis — one of the most mobile, versatile big men in league history — has only further weaponized LeBron’s potency in unsettled situations.

Prior to the Orlando restart, the Lakers lived up to their “Showtime” moniker and took full advantage of their star duo’s transition acumen, emphasizing fast-break offense as the backbone of their attack.

According to NBA Advanced Stats, the Lakers produced a whopping 18.5 fast-break points per game over the course of the 2019-20 season, good for second in the entire league, behind only the Raptors.

However, upon returning to play, Los Angeles has lost much of its productivity in transition, generating a middling 12.0 fast-break points per game in the seeding games and just 15 points of that nature in Game 1, again according to NBA Advanced Stats.

Although that drop-off of 6.5 points may seem minuscule to some, the ramifications of those missing buckets, especially as the margins tighten during postseason play, could very well prove costly.

For a team thin in offensive creation beyond James and Davis, transition offense is especially crucial. Not only do unsettled opportunities lead to easy baskets for the aforementioned stars, but they also serve a catalytic function for the Lakers’ many role players, who often struggle to create unencumbered looks in half-court sets.

Although LeBron wasn’t referring to transition opportunities specifically in his now-famous “two points is not two points” line, that sentiment is especially applicable to the Lakers and their fast-break offense.

For example, an open fast-break layup for Alex Caruso in the first quarter could very well embolden him for a key drive in the fourth. Or, for the volatile Danny Green, an unguarded transition three early in the game might be all he needs to get hot for the crucial moments.

In both hypothetical but reasonable cases, the sagaciousness of LeBron’s thinking shines through, as does the importance of transition offense to the Lakers’ championship hopes.