D'Angelo Russell just set the Lakers record for single-season 3-pointers, but that's not saying much



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D’Angelo Russell’s bounce back campaign for the Los Angeles Lakers has seen him thrive from almost everywhere on the floor, but nowhere more so than behind the arc. He’s shooting a career-best 42.4% on 3-pointers this season and he’s making almost three of them per game on average. That doesn’t just lead this year’s Lakers. It’s Lakers history.

On Friday, Russell’s first 3-pointer against the Philadelphia 76ers gave him 184 for the season. That broke a tie with Nick Van Exel for the most any Laker has ever made in a single season. After missing his first couple of shots, Russell finally made good with a 25-foot LeBron James-assisted shot. 

On the surface, your instinct is likely to assume that leading a historic franchise like the Lakers in any single-season category is remarkably impressive. The truth is, though, that the Lakers have simply never been a high-end 3-point shooting team. Just take a look at the entire top 10.

Player

3-Pointers

Season

D’Angelo Russell

184

2023-24

Nick Van Exel

183

1994-95

Kobe Bryant

180

2005-06

Nick Van Exel

177

1996-97

Chucky Atkins

176

2004-05

Malik Monk

173

2021-22

Nick Young

170

2016-17

Jodie Meeks

162

2013-14

LeBron James

161

2021-22

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope/Kyle Kuzma

159

2017-18

With the two obvious exceptions of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, that’s not an especially famous group of names. The Lakers, as a franchise, have never been built around a superstar who relies on 3-pointers as his primary source of offense. Compare that to, say, the Warriors, where the top 18 single-season 3-point making seasons all belong Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and you get a better idea of why this number is so low.

If anything, Van Exel is the outlier here. He hit his total in the 90’s. Everyone else here is a 21st century shooter, most of whom skew fairly recent. That makes quite a bit of sense on paper. The average NBA team attempted 15.3 3-pointers per game in 1995, when Van Exel set his record. That figure has risen steadily over the years and now sits at 35 per game. 

So how did Van Exel set his record during a time period in which 3-pointers weren’t as common as they are today? The NBA shortened the 3-point line to a uniform 22 feet away from the basket starting in the 1994-95 season. That arc lasted through the 1996-97 season. Not coincidentally, Van Exel’s two appearances on this list both came in that stretch.

So prior to Russell, most of the best shooting seasons in Laker history came either from role players in recent seasons or during outlier stretches in history. But with almost a month left in this season, Russell has a chance to make this record a bit more respectable and at least become the first Laker in team history to reach 200 3-pointers in a season.

That doesn’t mean much in 2024. Most of the league has had a player reach 200 3-pointers in a single season at some point by now, and 20 players did so last season alone. But hey, at least we can welcome the Lakers to the 21st century in terms of shooting numbers now. Considering that record was previously held by Van Exel, I mean that literally.





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