While much of the focus about what changes new head coach Luke Walton will bring to the Los Angeles Lakers has been on the offensive side, it is the other end of the floor that must improve dramatically for the team to really improve.
The Lakers were either at or near the bottom of the NBA in every major defensive statistic last season, and that is unacceptable. With the Lakers officially starting training camp after getting their first practice under their belts, Walton is focused on changing that.
According to Chris McGee of Spectrum SportsNet, Walton said that 80 percent of the Lakers first practice was about defense:
Luke says overall energy and focus was great… "80% defense which isn't fun, but they were great"
— Chris Geeter McGee (@geeter3) September 27, 2016
This is smart by Walton and crucial in establishing what he wants to do. For the Lakers to be able to get out and push the pace, they must get stops on the defensive end, something they couldn’t do last season.
The need to improve is not lost on the players either as guys such as D’Angelo Russell and Larry Nance Jr. constantly mentioned defense as something they had worked to improve in the off-season. Jordan Clarkson also spoke about having to take a big step as far as his defensive performance goes.
The teams who rank high in most defensive metrics tend to be the best teams in the league. While many focused on the offensive exploits of the Golden State Warriors these past few years, it was their team defense that allowed them to make the leap they did.
The Lakers understand that, and Walton is putting an emphasis on making sure there are significant improvements on that side of the floor. Hopefully, the Lakers will apply this to the court once the games get underway.