Over the past decade Frank Vogel has proven himself to be one of the NBA’s elite defensive coaches. In his time with the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers, Vogel has never had a defense rank outside the top eight.
His two-year stint with the Orlando Magic was the exception due to a tanking roster. Regardless, it’s fairly obvious that defense is what has allowed Vogel to be a great head coaching option for the last 10 years.
That is especially true for this year’s Lakers team, which — despite some flaws — have a stranglehold on the league’s best defensive rating.
When asked what surprised him the most about the team this season, Vogel spoke about how they’ve achieved the top spot on defense despite such a short offseason. “Probably just our overall defensive disposition and connectivity,” he said.
“It’s not always great, but compared to the rest of the league we’re rated No. 1. That’s a little surprising, with a lot of new guys and coming off of a championship less than three and a half months ago.
“I wasn’t sure what type of urgency and disposition we’d have early in the season, but it’s been done at a pretty high level. That’s probably the biggest thing that I’m pleased with.”
Vogel is clearly happy with his team reaching the top of the rankings. However, he still sees significant room for improvement moving forward. “Even though our rating is really good, I feel like there is a number of areas we can still improve on,” Vogel said.
“As a coach you study the game tape every game and you be perfectionist. Just all areas where we can be more connected: the two-man communication, what goes into pick-and-roll coverages, calling out directions, sending the ball to the help, shrinking the floor more off the basketball, being more committed at the rim and in transition.
“There’s always ways you can be better, and we have a lot of room for improvement despite where we’re at with the rating. We’re going to continue to coach them hard on that side of the ball and continue to raise the standard.”
The Lakers do have several flaws on defense even though the overall rating is favorable. They give up points in the paint at a rate that is bottom-seven in the entire league, among other issues.
One thing that has stuck out about Vogel as a coach is that he never stops looking for ways to improve what he sees on the court. Even after winning a championship, a top-ranked defense does not make him complacent.
Vogel concerned by slow starts
The Lakers have gotten off to an extremely slow start in a majority of their recent games. And while Vogel has done a good job differentiating between actual flaws and problems that arise due to coasting, he was concerned about this trend.
“We definitely are concerned about our slow starts. We’ve got to do better. It’s the simplest way to put it,” Vogel said. “We are going to put ourselves in a hole one of these days and not be able to come back. That’s going to happen.”
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