LeBron’s Most Value Is Still to Come This Season

Reggie Bullock ranked second in the NBA in three-point shooting last season at 44.5 percent. You could argue Bullock was actually the best in the business, because Bullock attempted 76 more threes than the only player to have a higher three-point percentage (Darren Collison, 46.8).

Mike Muscala is 6-foot-11 but also a shooter. One of the simplest effective attacks in James’ recent years has been having a shooting big man as another kick-out option for James’ passes. Just the threat adds floor spacing by forcing the opposing defense’s rim protector to vacate the very lane that James wants to drive.

Bullock and Muscala coming to the Lakers before the trade deadline Thursday signifies a further commitment to building this team around James. The Lakers also now have a vacant roster spot, possibly to add a third veteran player to upgrade the team’s perimeter shooting.

To be fair, the Lakers were largely unable to test their offseason hypothesis that their wide-open players being fed on-time passes from James and Rajon Rondo would outperform their career three-point percentages. James and Rondo, two of the league’s four active leaders in career assists along with Chris Paul and Tony Parker, have been hurt so much of the season that it was downright jarring to see that theory come to fruition Thursday in Boston, with James and Rondo combining for 22 assists and the Lakers shooting 53.7 percent from deep for a franchise record of 22 three-pointers.

But if the incoming shooters are sharper while James and Rondo stay healthy, the Lakers’ offense is primed to rev louder the rest of the season. As much as the Lakers intend to continue utilizing all their players’ ball-handling skills for fast-break baskets off athletic defense, that LeBron-with-shooters attack is time-tested.

“If I’m healthy and we’re a collective group, I think we can make a push. And that’s all it’s about,” James said. “If I continue to get into form, and we continue to get into form, as well, as a collective group, then we will hit a stride.”

It’s undeniable that the Lakers were already hitting a top speed when James’ groin muscle gave out during the team’s flag-planting victory at Golden State.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka’s perspective in his Spectrum SportsNet interview reflected that.

“We were fourth. We were just a couple games back from second or third seed in the West,” Pelinka told Mike Bresnahan. “We were fourth on Christmas Day when LeBron got injured. But we can’t look at that as an excuse. I think you have to look at it as an opportunity.

“Life is full of circumstances that you can’t predict. They fly at you, and you have to react to it. You’ve got to batten down the hatches and find a way to get through it. Hopefully with our team, we’ve gone through some of this adversity, and it’ll meld us together. And if we can get in the playoffs, I wouldn’t want [to be an opponent] to see us in any seven-game matchup, that’s for sure.”

Said James: “When we’re healthy, my level [of confidence] is high. We’re a team that is built on depth. When we’re healthy, we’re very good, as we saw and we showed the league. We’re getting back to that.”

The unlimited upside of what someone as valuable as James can offer his team is why Pelinka was willing to give up Svi Mykailiuk’s potential for “a guy who could do it now in Reggie Bullock … then let a player like LeBron do what he does in the playoffs.”

“When we have a guy like LeBron,” Pelinka said, “we want to give ourselves the best chance to go deep in the playoffs. We felt like he [Bullock] was a key piece for that.”