Last season, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott said he doesn’t believe that 3-point shooting can win a title.
I don’t even have to go in any detail about how off that statement was over the last few years and especially last season.
The Lakers shot a lot of long 2-pointers last season. Not just Kobe Bryant, but Jordan Hill, Wayne Ellington, and, well, it was basically the whole team. 3-pointers and lay-ups are the most efficient shots and long 2-pointers are some of the least efficient.
This offseason, the vibe is completely different in Los Angeles. Drafting D’angolo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick over Jahlil Okafor was the first sign they changed their overall approach. Drafting a score-first point guard who they think will be one of the leagues best for years to come over the polished offensive big man in Okafor is something they wouldn’t have done in the past.
Throw in the fact that last season Jordan Clarkson started at point guard as a rookie and made the second team All-Rookie team, averaging over 15 points per game after the All-Star break and you’ve got the best-looking Lakers point guard in a long, long time. Naturally, pundits assumed that Los Angeles would take Okafor because their point guard position was already figured out. But this seems like a modernized team all of the sudden, with the plan looking like Clarkson at shooting guard now with Russell next to him in the backcourt.
This all means that Kobe Bryant is slated to start at small forward. Over the last few seasons he’s played more point guard then small forward, and Byron Scott recently came out and said Kobe will see some time at the power forward and even that D’angolo Russell will get some run at the 3. The Lakers are embracing small ball and going all the way with it. Julius Randle spent time playing center during summer league and so did rookie power forward Larry Nance, Jr.
The Lakers may be able to afford to go that small in certain situations. Most teams do it. This isn’t all that different than Paul Pierce playing the 4 in the playoffs. The offseason trade for Roy Hibbert gives them even more flexibility with small lineups, as he’s one of the best rim protectors in the league and playing Kobe at power forward with him down low doesn’t seem all that crazy in today’s game.
Lou Williams, another veteran added this offseason, will likely play down the stretch of games for his shooting and scoring. Last year’s Sixth Man Of The Year winner will likely guard the other teams point guard and this is where you will see Clarkson, Russell, and Bryant — at the 2, 3, and 4, respectively.
This is no different than what almost every other team does. During crunch time, put your best scorers and shooters on the floor, and sub out for defense if you can. We still don’t know if Byron Scott has any new feelings regarding 3-point shooting, but the Lakers seem to be taking a step in the right direction.