Despite winning the championship, the Los Angeles Lakers were more active in free agency and the trade market than just about any other team in the NBA.
They lost a slew of key role players from last season, retaining just Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma, and of course superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Two of the Lakers’ biggest losses were JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, who both found new homes this offseason. McGee was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to make room for Marc Gasol, while Howard signed with the Philadelphia 76ers.
McGee and Howard were a huge part of why the Lakers led the NBA in blocked shots last season, and without them the team faces adjustments on the defensive end.
Caruso does not believe the Lakers got worse defensively with their new additions, but still thinks they’ll have to be less reliant on blocking shots. “It’s going to be a different look. We lost two enforces inside as far as shot blocking, contesting the rim and cleaning up the boards,” he said.
“But at the same time, I think the pieces we added fit great. I don’t think it’s a step backwards in any means. I think it’s just different. I think we have the IQ of the team and coaching staff to put together a great system, to work on that system and improve it throughout the year like we did last year.
“And ultimately be in the right place at the end of the year to use whatever system they put in place, do it really, really well and hopefully get back to the Finals.”
Gasol will certainly cover up a majority of Howard’s and McGee’s production, but L.A. will need the likes of Morris and Montrezl Harrell to become more dominant paint presences on defense.
As for the perimeter, it’s arguable that the Lakers improved. Replacing Rajon Rondo and Danny Green with Dennis Schroder and Wesley Matthews is almost certainly an upgrade.
While the Lakers likely won’t lead the league in blocked shots again, they will undoubtedly find ways to impact the game defensively, as it’s that identity that led to a championship.
Caruso believes he can improve offensively
Beyond the work that will need to be done on the defensive end to make up for the lost free agents, Caruso believes he can make a leap on the other end of the floor.
Aided by the fact that the Lakers have made huge strides in terms of offensive firepower, Caruso should be able to pick and choose his spots with ease, becoming a more consistent shooter and ballhandler.
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