For the second straight season it appears the Los Angeles Lakers will sit near the top of offensive rating, defensive rating and net rating statistics in the NBA. Despite rarely being at full strength thus far, they respectively rank fourth, first and first in such categories.
It might be surprising considering the Lakers — at least not until recently — have been somewhat inconsistent on the defensive end. It has been a huge talking point after almost every game, win or loss, and even led to sharp criticism from Anthony Davis after the Lakers lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Head coach Frank Vogel has been among those to express his content with the Lakers defense and their trajectory. That is particularly true given the schemes are not yet fully installed or being utilized.
“We haven’t really adjusted too much, to be honest. We’re just getting everybody tied together with the schemes,” Vogel explained. “The new guys are learning what we’re doing. We finished up last year defensively very different than the way we started. We grew throughout the year with our package and arsenal of schemes we can throw at teams.
“I think the biggest challenge this year is to not overcomplicate our schemes in these early regular season games. It’s easy, especially against a team like Portland or Houston, to go to Plan B, Plan C, Plan D types of coverages. There’s a risk of being too complicated for a one-game regular season type of night. We’re striking that balance, but I feel good about what we’re doing on that end of the floor.”
It should be a terrifying thought for the rest of the league that the Lakers already are first in defensive rating without making many adjustments. As Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews each continue to learn their role, they’ve still managed to be almost as effective this season as they were last season.
Vogel: Lakers had identity win against Rockets
Part of what has allowed the Lakers to get to the top of defensive rating is incredible performances like their win over the Houston Rockets. Vogel spoke about the 120-102 blowout, calling it an identity win.
“This game, as much as any throughout the year, was a Laker basketball type of win,” he said. “Flying around defensively, getting stops without fouls, either forcing turnovers or forcing misses, and then flying on the break. It was sort of an identity win.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!