The Los Angeles Lakers are promising to become an offensive superpower during the 2021-22 season with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook in the starting lineup and the likes of Carmelo Anthony coming off the bench.
However, it remains to be seen how well this star-studded team will fare on the other end of the floor.
The Lakers don’t have many players on their roster that excel at defense, particularly around the perimeter. On the one hand, Davis is a perennial NBA All-Defensive First Team and Defensive Player of the Year candidate who can make stops both in the paint and around the 3-point line. But L.A.’s defense took a hit by losing Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the offseason.
In addition, the Lakers lost Trevor Ariza for about eight weeks due to a preseason injury, one of the few 3-and-D players on the roster.
Known for his defense-first approach, head coach Frank Vogel admits that having so few lockdown perimeter defenders isn’t ideal. However, he hopes that the team’s work during training sessions can help the Lakers perform well even without defensive specialists in their ranks.
“Yeah, obviously it’s a concern of mine. But we have to get the job done regardless of that,” he said. “And what I like is we have two-way players, like everyone on the rosters is good on both sides, there’s just not this specialist that we had, guys that are elite on that side of the ball.
“And our thing is we just have to get our guys really executing our scheme at a high level. Basically, our scheme teaches guys to chase their perimeter player to our bigs the right way and then pass them off the way we want to within our scheme. We’re confident we should have an elite defense again.”
The Lakers’ defense is yet to start performing at least remotely close to the fearsome 2019-20 group that propelled the team’s championship run. But Vogel points out that due to the arrival of 11 new players in the offseason, L.A. needs to gather a particularly rich supply of patience as they wait for their hard work to pay off.
“I mean Draymond and Steph have been executing that system [at Golden State], for the most part with that exact personnel for many years,” he noticed.
“Phoenix obviously went to the Finals with their exact personnel that they’re bringing in tomorrow night and we’re very different and new to each other. So there’s going to be more of a need for patience with our team than any, but I do think that’s part of every team’s training camp, every team’s early part of their season.”
Vogel: Lakers’ defensive schemes largely unchanged despite injuries
The absence of Ariza and Talen Horton-Tucker, who joined the veteran 3-and-D wingman on the sidelines due to a thumb injury, interrupted the process of solidifying the Lakers’ defense. But Vogel says the Lakers aren’t changing their game plan despite the early injury wave.
“I mean our scheme is gonna remain what it is,” he said. “We’re still actually trying to grow some of the things we do defensively with a lot of study this summer, some things that we can just continue to build.
“Our scheme by the end of our championship run was, not very different, but way more advanced than when we started training camp thinking that we were going to be. We just added pieces along the way and added tools to the tool chest that know they can just enhance their D and we’re still in that mindset.”
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