Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has long been known for creating a hard-nosed defensive identity wherever he goes. Last year — his first with the Lakers — he netted the team the third-best defensive rating in basketball. However, he was just getting started.
After reloading the roster with more defensively active and intelligent players such as Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol, Vogel knew his defense had the chance to be special. This was especially true if he could get LeBron James and Anthony Davis to buy in the same way they did in 2019-20.
Well, Vogel’s game plan turned out to be successful, as L.A. secured the best defensive rating in the entire NBA for the first time since 1999-2000, reaching a 106.8 mark for the season, via the Lakers’ official Twitter:
For the first time since the 1999-2000 season, the Lakers finish with the league's top-ranked defense 🔒 pic.twitter.com/q6yC2Hu4oS
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 18, 2021
While Vogel has been seen as a defense-first coach for quite some time now, it’s not discussed enough just how dominant his teams have been. Outside of a two-year stint with a rebuilding Orlando Magic team, he has been towards the top of the defensive rating stat every season.
He’s coached seven seasons with the Lakers and Indiana Pacers combined, and in that time he’s had seven top-10 finishes, five top-3 finishes and now three No. 1 finishes. This is incredible work from someone we should start considering perhaps the best defensive head coach in all of basketball.
What makes this year’s first-place finish even more impressive is how many major players missed significant time. James missed 27 games, Davis missed 36, Schroder missed 11, Matthews missed 14, Alex Caruso missed 14 and Andre Drummond only played in 21. This is unprecedented success given what Vogel was working with on a day-to-day basis.
Now, he’ll have yet another chance to prove his defensive dominance in the playoffs. To this point in his career, Vogel is 9-4 in his 13 playoff series.
Everyone remember what happened the last time the Lakers had the best defense in 1999-2000, of course, as they went on to win the first of three championships in a row with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson at the helm.
Davis won’t call season successful unless Lakers win championship
Davis spoke about the team’s regular-season success — or lack thereof — as the Lakers look forward to the Play-In Tournament.
“We’re not happy where we are. We know we could be better. Injuries took a toll on us this season. Me and Bron missing a lot of games this year with our injuries. When we’re healthy, we saw what we can be. When we’re not healthy, this is the position we’re in.
“We won’t call this successful until we raise a banner, but we’re in a position to do something special no matter what seed we’re in. It’s only unsuccessful if we don’t win it all. That’s how I view every year that I’ve been in the league.”
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