During his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers, recently acquired guard Isaiah Thomas showed one way he can help the team while on offense.
He scored a three-point on his first shot attempt with the Lakers. It was set up with a screen by Los Angeles big man Brook Lopez. When he was playing alongside LeBron James, it was unusual for the team to call a play for him.
Meanwhile, the frequency Thomas was used to score off screens during his final two seasons in Boston was around 9 percent. His efficiency on this play type improved from 1.05 points per possession during his 2015-16 campaign to 1.15 PPP last year.
Among those with as many possessions, the only player who was more effective scoring off screens was Stephen Curry (1.18 PPP) and Kevin Durant (52.8 percent) was the only player with a higher scoring frequency than Thomas (47.3 percent).
But during the 15 games that the point guard played in Cleveland, he had just 11 possessions to score off screens. His effectiveness (1.09 PPP) was still strong but his frequency (4.2 percent) was essentially cut in half.
Thomas has proven himself more than capable of thriving in this type of offense but it was never utilized by the Cavaliers.
It’s hardly an area where the Lakers have impressed as they rank second-to-last in efficiency (0.87 PPP) as well as scoring frequency (35.4 percent) and third-to-last in field goal percentage (35.8 percent) so far this season.
This can be closer attributed more to a lack of skill rather than a lack of opportunity.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17.8 percent frequency), Kyle Kuzma (9.1 percent frequency) and Jordan Clarkson (7.9 percent frequency) have been given ample possessions to show their prowess. Only Caldwell-Pople (1.02 PPP) had been above the league average (0.99 PPP) on this play type. Kuzma (0.77 PPP) has struggled mightily in this type of offense.
Thomas will likely take over a similar role to what Clarkson had when he was in Los Angeles. This assumes he will have more chances to score off screens for the Lakers than he did when he was on the Cavaliers.
Expect head coach Luke Walton to continue utilizing his skill scoring off screens as the season continues for Thomas.