LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have come out of the gates hot to begin the 2019-20 NBA season, starting 7-1 for the first time in nearly a decade.
While the Lakers being this good this early is somewhat surprising, the real shock is just how good head coach Frank Vogel’s team has been defensively.
When Vogel was hired, he immediately stressed that defense would be the most important thing, and he has without a doubt lived up to that word. Through eight games, the Lakers have a team defensive rating of 96.5, good enough for first in the league by over a full point.
Part of this has come from James who is having what seems to be a defensive renaissance, playing with a hustle on that end of the court that fans haven’t seen in a couple seasons.
Vogel commended James for his effort on defense prior to a 95-80 win over the Miami Heat for his tone-setting abilities.
“He’s working really hard. I couldn’t be more impressed with his commitment on that end and his intent to set a tone with our group, which it’s done,” Vogel said of James.
“In every film session, every player is coached hard and held to a high level of accountability. And he’s just been unbelievable with his commitment on that end.”
Last season, it was clear James was taking plays off on defense and looking back it’s hard to blame him. While the team did have moments of great success, it was never going to be a championship-caliber team.
This team has serious championship potential and they’re flashing it very early on. The Lakers have the league’s best defense and net rating while having an offense that is struggling in many phases, ranking in the bottom half of the league.
If that offense can reach even top-10 and James and the Lakers continue this defensive effort, they might just be able to run away with this season.