With a combination of a new roster and injuries that have kept key players in and out of the lineup, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has had trouble finding lineups that can credibly defend on a nightly basis.
It was clear the front office had a vision of a more offensive-centric team and that Vogel could coach it up to be as solid defensively as previous seasons. However, that has been far from the case as the Lakers have fallen in the bottom half of defensive efficiency during the 2021-22 season.
One player who could help on the defensive front is Talen Horton-Tucker, and Vogel sounds like he will give his young guard more time to prove that he can develop into an impact player on that end.
“Some good, some bad,” Vogel said before Friday’s game against the L.A. Clippers of Horton-Tucker’s defense. “It’s super early. He missed the first chunk of the season. I’m not sure how many games he’s played now, but obviously missed a lot of time early. I think we’re going to need the first half of the season if not longer to really give the proper evaluation.
“He’s had some really good sequences on-ball. He needs to work on not getting screened and obviously the containment issues against some of the elite players, but overall, he’s got really good defensive instincts. Good toughness, length. Obviously, being able to deflect the ball. He’s had some really outstanding plays at the basket… Tonight will be another one of those challenges where he’s got several elite offensive players on the perimeter for the [L.A.] Clippers that he’ll be matched up with.”
As far as Horton-Tucker’s defensive ceiling, Vogel is unsure but seems to think he can grow into a stopper role. “I don’t know yet. To me, that’s the hope that whatever perimeter player we’re playing each night that he can draw that assignment, but he’s still a young player and we still have to put him in those situations before we can make an evaluation.”
Trevor Ariza was supposed to be Los Angeles’ primary perimeter defender, but he has been out with an ankle injury. Horton-Tucker was challenged before the season started to improve defensively so he can take on important assignments and it looks like Vogel will trust him to figure it out throughout the year.
The Lakers have been unable to string together many wins because of their defensive inefficiencies, so Vogel believes that getting better on that side of the basketball will be the key to going on a winning streak. It will interesting to see how much they improve as a unit and how Horton-Tucker plays a part in it.
Malik Monk acknowledges he needs to improve defensively
Another young player who needs to step up defensively is Malik Monk. Although Monk has been a sparkplug off the bench as a scorer, he has struggled defensively which can make it difficult for Vogel to play him extended minutes some nights.
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