2. The Los Angeles Lakers have significantly better outside shooting
Last season, the single-biggest team weakness for the Los Angeles Lakers was a lack of outside shooting. Aside from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the since-departed Danny Green, no rotation player shot the three-ball at a high clip. The result was a team-wide three-point percentage of 34.9%, ranked 21st in the league.
This season, the team has completely turned their outside shooting fortunes around, with their mark of 39.6% ranking 4th in the league.
For context, last season’s league-leading Utah Jazz shot 38.0%, so there’ll certainly be some regression. I can confidently say that there’s absolutely no way Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso continue to shoot threes at 55.3% and 58.3% respectively on multiple attempts per-game.
However, because shooting is often a skill that continues to improve through a career, there’s reason to believe that both LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who are shooting the three-ball at 38.2% and 37.1% respectively on the season, have made legitimate improvements to that part of their game.
It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Kyle Kuzma has made strides as a shooter, even though I expect some regression from his current 40.0% clip. After all, he did hit over 37% of his threes as a rookie and shoots with solid form.
Ultimately, the front office deserves credit for adding shooting to a roster that desperately needed it, and the returning players deserve a lot of credit for working on their outside shooting in the offseason, even after winning the title.
The result is that each of the nine Lakers who’ve played the most minutes this season (except for Montrezl Harrell) are legitimate threats to score the ball from three, a marked improvement from last year’s squad.
With the extra dimension of being able to consistently shoot the long ball, I believe that this year’s team is significantly more potent offensively than its predecessor.
The numbers back that up: in 2020-21, the Lakers’ offensive rating ranks 4th at a mark of 114.9 per game, as opposed to last year’s 11th ranked offensive rating of 111.7 per game.