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Film Room: How Quinn Cook fits next to LeBron James in new-look Lakers

Dunk Wire logo Dunk Wire 8/22/2019 Jacob Rude
USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

There is some value, particularly in the NBA, to zigging when everyone else is zagging. It was that mindset that led the Lakers to buck the trend the rest of the league was adapting to by going small with shooters last season and, instead, surrounding LeBron James with playmakers.

To put it mildly, the Lakers failed to piece together whatever idealistic version of the team it thought it was putting together. Instead, they filled the Lakers with non-shooters and made LeBron James' life more miserable. The good news is the Lakers appeared to have learned their lesson and resorted to the strategy that James and the Cavaliers succeeded at.

After seeing Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson lead the team in three-point shooting last season (not a typo), the Magic Johnson-less front office brought in Troy Daniels, Jared Dudley, Danny Green and Quinn Cook this summer, completely reshaping the look of the roster.

It's that last name, though, that brings a dynamic to the team that the Lakers lacked last season. Cook played fourth fiddle at times in Golden State in the guard rotation and has largely flown under the radar. But he has developed into an elite three-point shooter.

For all the talents of Lonzo Ball in recent seasons, a consistent three-pointer shooter he was not. Though he may have come with a reputation as a shooter in college, he quickly gained a new reputation as a wildly inconsistent shooter (at the 3-point line and the free-throw line), leading to defenses daring him to shoot much of last season.

https://streamable.com/e/lzz3j

James comes off a screen but has no driving angle because Ball's defender helps off of him all the way into the paint. While Ball makes this shot, this was the exception last season.

Per Synergy, on unguarded catch and shoots, Ball shot a staggeringly low 19.2 percent on 73 attempts. On spot-up attempts out of pick and rolls, or the very scenario presented above, Ball was 6-of-32 from the field. That means you just watched 17 percent of his made jumpers in that scenario.

With Cook, defenses won't be afforded the same luxury of sagging off. His release is quick and, importantly, he knows where to position himself to get off his shot. While the exact scenario above with Ball didn't present itself often with Cook, he was great spotting up off-ball in pick-and-rolls.

https://streamable.com/e/ms3yu

This obviously includes a stellar read and pass by Durant out of the screen but it's the type of read James will absolutely be capable of making as well. Cook reads that his defender is helping off, sags into the corner and has plenty of time to get off a shot.

On unguarded catch and shoots, Cook shot 53.6 percent. Out of pick and rolls, Cook shot 50 percent on spot-ups, though he only had 22 attempts on the year.

But Cook's ability and willingness to shoot opens up lots of possibilities that weren't there with Ball or Rondo at the point last year.

https://streamable.com/e/pla8v

In this clip, Charlotte goes into a zone but Cook simply slides down to the wing in a gap of sorts and quickly fires off a three. Cook actually attempted 54 spot-up shots against zone defenses and hit 48.1 percent of them.

Cook could be due for a breakout season in a bigger role this season. It's a situation that has played out many times before, a competent young point guard that outgrew his role, moved to a new time and performed well in a bigger one. Whether that larger role involves a starting position this fall remains to be seen, but expect him to be a contributor on the Lakers this fall.

As a ballhandler, he's a comfortable operator in the pick and roll that can punish defenses that simply go over screens. Given his shooting prowess, defenses often went over screens last season. In those scenarios, Cook finished in the 84th percentile.

https://streamable.com/e/wif4o

And though he didn't have to do it often, Cook flashed some ability to attack closeouts or late rotations.

https://streamable.com/e/d8ybu

Cook's size, or lack thereof, is his strongest deterrent. He doesn't finish well at the rim, hitting just 48.4 percent of his shots around the basket to rank in the 22nd percentile. For reference, Ball shot 55.9 percent at the rim last season.

Defensively, his size leads to him being unplayable at times on the court. While he often knows where he's supposed to be, it doesn't matter much when you're 6'2″ and 179 pounds.

https://streamable.com/e/d8ybu

In this clip, he rotates to the cutter at the right time but Russell is simply able to elevate over him. When he misses, Cook is left in no man's land and when Joe Harris cuts to the rim, Cook offers little ability to do anything. Obviously, in ideal situations, Cook isn't near the basket defensively but he's the type of player defenses target on switches and in mismatches.

But even with his defensive liabilities, he should be a positive role player for the Lakers this season. There's also inherent value in having players who have not only played in the biggest games but aren't scared of the moments. Cook has now played in a pair of NBA Finals, though he was an actual contributor this past June. And he certainly wasn't afraid of the moment, knocking down some big three-points on the road in the series.

If nothing else, he represents a return to a norm for a James-led offense this season, which is a big step in the right direction for the Lakers.

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