Los Angeles Lakers: Can Larry Nance Jr. extend his game to three-point range?

Larry Nance has played well in his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, but extending his range could make him a force moving forward. 

When discussing the Los Angeles Lakers modifying their big men roster spots, one area I avoided was the evolution of the players on the roster. Instead of going out and adding players and paying market – in some cases, above market – value for guys, the Lakers could perhaps, put some faith in some players improving and extending their range moving forward.

Julius Randle would be an interesting option here. He expanded his range this season – but yielded very little results. Randle shot from the 31 percent from midrange (16-24 feet) and 27 percent from three – not too far off from the 25 and 27 percent from the season before. He has hit over 70 percent from the line in each of the last two seasons, so maybe he can become an effective shooter.

The man of intrigue here is Larry Nance Jr. Adding a three-point shot to Nance’s game would make him a dangerous player, one that could even evolve into a long-term answer for Los Angeles at the center position.

Over his first two seasons, Nance has quietly been an effective player for Los Angeles. After a -1.4 Box Plus-Minus as a rookie, Nance finished this past season with a +2.0 BPM. His Value Over Replacement Player was +1.5, which led all Lakers, and he finished 11th in the league in Defensive Real Plus-Minus among power forwards, above players like Taj Gibson, Kristaps Porzingis and LaMarcus Aldridge. Not bad.

He’s been fine offensively, too,  seeing his Player Efficiency Rating jump from 13.4 as a rookie to 15.8 as a sophomore. He’s a good finisher at the rim —70 percent at the rim last season — but the one thing that lingers is his ability to space the floor. In two seasons, Nance has taken 46 threes and made 27 percent of them. Can he extend the range?

Over the past four seasons at Wyoming, Nance was a good free throw shooter, hitting 77 percent for his career, suggesting that he has some range. His midrange shooting in college, however, wasn’t great. Outside of solid junior season, Nance has shot below 40 percent on two-point jumpers. So it can go either way.

He flashed his ability to space the floor and even hit shots from the midrange. Last season, Nance made 43 percent from 16-24 feet, showing the ability to hit all the shots from the right side of the floor and from the middle. Even from the three, he shows the ability to space the floor. His jumper has a slight hitch, but it looks like it can work.

Larry Nance Jr. % of FGA by Distance (Via Basketball-Reference.Com)
Year 2P 0-3 3-10 10-16 16 <3 3P
2016 967 .463 .150 .097 .257 .033
2017 .900 .416 .186 .114 .191 .100

He’s even taken a step forward in a right direction, trading long range twos for threes from year one to year two. As the graphic shows above, Nance’s percentage of shots from 16 feet out have diminished, while the three-point attempts have gone up. Now, all we need to see is the results.

The ability to play good defense and space the floor from a post position is a big deal, as it would allow Nance to play alongside someone like Randle or even Ingram in a small-ball lineup at times. If Nance could become a weapon from beyond the arc, he can only add to Los Angeles’ group of young talent. 

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