The Los Angeles Lakers overwhelmed opponents with their suffocating defense last season, which ranked third in the NBA over the 2019-20 campaign.
L.A. stood out on that end of the floor particularly thanks to its rim protection. JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard complemented one another and often dominated the paint for the Lakers alongside Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Anthony Davis.
Some wondered whether the departure of the two defensive-minded centers would hurt the defense that was crucial to L.A. claiming the NBA title. Particularly as the Lakers replaced them with Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell, two big men whose strengths lay elsewhere on the court.
But head coach Frank Vogel is not worried about his team’s shot-stopping ability, even after losing what he deemed “two of the best shot blockers in the game” in McGee and Howard. “I think we can be every bit as effective, but we probably won’t be as highly ranked in terms of blocks,” Vogel said.
“Mark and Trezz are more position defenders, charge takers. I don’t think our defensive efficiency needs to be any less. It just might not show up in that blocks area.”
Vogel acknowledged that Gasol and Harrell cannot interchangeably share similar responsibilities on the floor as, unlike in the case of McGee and Howard, they are players of two different profiles.
But, he pointed out, that can translate into a more diverse playbook on both ends of the floor. “There could be times we put Trezz on other team’s 4s and let A.D. guard the roller,” Vogel explained.
“Obviously offensively, Marc is going to be spaced around the 3-point line a lot more than Trezz being the dunker and rolling to the basket. They are different, we did have a little bit of a similar role for Dwight and JaVale last year, but this is a new team and we’ll customize based on our personnel.”
Davis: Lakers chemistry feels ‘pure and natural’
The Lakers carried out a significant roster overhaul in the offseason with Dennis Schroder and Wesley Matthews joining Harrell and Gasol as newcomers. The personnel changes potentially threatened the team’s chemistry touted as one of the best in the league last season.
But Davis said the locker room atmosphere has not changed much with the new group of players. “If you follow me, Trezz, Dennis or Q.C. on Instagram, that chemistry is already there,” he said.
“We’re messing with each other and it’s all pure and natural. We all kind of clicked from Day 1, to be honest.”
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