Despite overhauling their roster and making a change in head coach during the 2019 NBA offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers have largely gelled and avoided the pitfalls of a team that needs to develop chemistry.
The Lakers stormed out to a 17-2 record and even with a recent four-game losing streak, are still atop the Western Conference standings. Los Angeles has largely remained a top-five team in both offensive and defensive rating for most of the season, and they are undefeated against teams below .500.
However, head coach Frank Vogel is hardly satisfied with what he’s seen thus far. “All of them,” Vogel answered when asked where the Lakers could still grow.
“We’ve got to improve in all areas. We’re not looking at our record. Every time we take the floor, we’re 0-0 on the season. We want to stay in the moment and know there’s no perfect basketball being played.”
The day-to-day mentality is something Vogel has emphasized since training camp, and it’s an approach the veteran-laden roster has bought into. In addition, the Lakers preach defense first, which Vogel credited Anthony Davis and LeBron James for helping spearhead.
The team’s 20 blocks against the Detroit Pistons was one shy of tying the all-time franchise record. Nonetheless, Vogel is mindful of avoiding complacency and uses that to drill key points in the film room and during practice.
“We’ve got to improve on the defensive end, improve our free throws, our transition defense, our one-shot defense,” he said. “Offensively, a lot of minor execution pieces: keeping our turnovers down, our screening, screening angles, ability to keep our turnovers down.
“All those types of things. We’re going to continue to work every day to perform on both ends of the floor. Focus on what’s controllable and what’s not. Strengthen your strengths and improve your weaknesses.”
Obvious trouble spots for the Lakers include free throw percentage and three-point shooting. Though, improving in either figures to be an uphill battle without any roster changes. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jared Dudley and Rajon Rondo have shot well from behind the arc, while the likes of James and Kyle Kuzma have essentially been as expected.
Troy Daniels and Davis could improve the team’s percentages, but the former isn’t seeing consistent playing time and the latter is better suited attacking in other means.