After the NBA’s trade deadline passed in February, the Lakers decided to make some moves to shore up the tail end of the team’s rotation. They created two roster spots by waiving center DeMarcus Cousins and guard Troy Daniels. In June, another roster spot opened when the team’s starting guard, Avery Bradley, decided not to participate in the league’s restart in Orlando.
The Lakers first brought in Markieff Morris, who had been bought out by the Pistons. They signed Dion Waiters, let go by the Grizzlies after he was traded from Miami, shortly thereafter. And after Bradley backed out, the Lakers gave a contract to J.R. Smith.
In the Lakers’ six games since coming back from the NBA’s coronavirus hiatus, all three players have been a disaster. Combined, Morris, Waiters and Smith are shooting 32.5% from the field and a woeful 10.3% from the 3-point line. They have scored 72 total points in 209 minutes played.
Waiters has missed 10 straight 3-point tries. Smith has missed all eight of his 3-point attempts. Morris is 1-for-9 shooting 3s in Orlando.
“I think everyone knew they would miss Avery Bradley,” one Western Conference assistant coach told Heavy.com. “I don’t think anyone knew how much they would miss him. Obviously, his defense is hard to replace but I think they figured they could make up for that with what Waiters can do and maybe J.R. would make some shots. But those guys, you can see them struggling. When they’re on the floor, you can sag way off them and help on the other guys.”
Avery Bradley Had Been Shooting Well for Lakers
Bradley was shooting 44.4% this season, 36.4% from the 3-point line, and averaged 8.6 points per game. He struggled with injuries early in the year but had been shooting particularly well for about a month-and-a-half before the league suspended the season in March. Bradley was shooting 45.2% from the 3-point line in 18 games before the break.
While Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has replaced Bradley in the starting five, Waiters has been called upon most frequently to fill the bench minutes in the backcourt. Last week, he expressed frustration with his inability to make shots.
“Trying to get that rhythm, man,” Waiters told reporters. “It’s been a little while right now. I ain’t never missed this many 3s in my life. It’s a little frustrating right now. I get to the basket, but I ain’t never missed this many 3s before. That’s just frustrating right now.”
Lakers Offense Ranks Last in the NBA Restart
The Lakers’ problems surely go beyond the three new guys. They have been the worst offensive team in the league during the NBA’s restart, with an offensive rating of 97.9 points per 100 possessions. That is 22nd by a large margin. The team above them, Toronto, has an offensive rating of 102.1.
Anthony Davis insisted that the struggle stems from not making shots and that the Lakers will turn things around.
“I think it’s just as simple as making shots. We’re getting good looks. Everyone’s not shooting the ball very well, especially from three” Davis told reporters last week, per NBC Sports. “I think we’re fine. I don’t think this is anything eye-opening or something that we need to be afraid of. If our defense was bad, I think we’d be a little more in shock about our team and where we are but I think our defense is where want it to be. I mean, we clinched first. We’re fine.”
Maybe, but the team’s depth figures to be an issue, even when point guard Rajon Rondo comes back from his wrist injury. Waiters, Morris and Smith were signed to address that problem. So far, it remains a problem.