To say that last season’s Los Angeles Lakers struggled on defense would be a massive understatement. The team finished dead last in defensive rating last season, giving up baskets in the paint at an alarming rate. Opposing teams looked genuinely thrilled to run their offense against Los Angeles, knowing that they would be able to generate quality shots on a consistent basis.
While most of the focus is currently on rookie point guard Lonzo Ball and the way his passing will transform the offense, if the Lakers are going to improve next season, it’s going to have to start with getting stops.
Corey Brewer guaranteeing defensive changes on @SpectumSN: "No way, we’re not going to be 30th. We’re going to be a lot better than that."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) September 22, 2017
The one nice thing about finishing dead last in something is that there is nowhere to go but up, so it shouldn’t take too much for the Lakers to be able to say they improved at that end. Head coach Luke Walton has long promised to focus on defense first, so we should get an idea of what the team’s general schemes are during the preseason.
Last season’s team didn’t feature any true defensive stoppers, but that changed this past summer when the Lakers brought in veterans like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brook Lopez, and Andrew Bogut.
Caldwell-Pope is already considered to be one of the better perimeter defenders in the league and both Lopez and Bogut should provide an upgrade in rim protection over Timofey Mozgov, who was the team’s starting center last season.
The Lakers still have an extremely young team, so expecting them to suddenly become lock-down defenders is not realistic, but moderate improvements on that end should be possible next season.