Coming into this season, one of the major concerns for the Los Angeles Lakers was their defense. Head coach Luke Walton spoke about turning around the team’s fortunes on that end of the floor. To that end, general manager Mitch Kupchak brought in a couple of veterans in Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng to help out.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t mattered for the Lakers as they rank 26th in the NBA in points allowed and 29th in defensive rating. In particular, some of the young players like D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle have been terrible more often than not on that end.
This has many wondering if the Lakers can ever become a good defensive team with the core players they have. In an interview with David Aldridge of NBA.com, Kupchak said that he believes they can, but the players haven’t made the commitment on that end yet:
“If you look at the stats, I think we’re close to the bottom of the barrel. You would say that it’s not possible. But if you can score in this league, you can defend. It’s just a matter of putting your mind to it and making the commitment. So we haven’t done that yet. You can point to injuries, you can point to youth. But we haven’t been able to do it yet. There’s no reason why we can’t.”
While Russell, Randle, and Clarkson have all struggled for the most part defensively, Larry Nance Jr., Brandon Ingram, and Ivica Zubac have all shown that they can make an impact on that end. Kupchak is right in that the team as a whole simply hasn’t made that commitment.
The problem for the Lakers is that they’re defense usually picks up once their offense gets going and most teams prefer it to be the other way around. The Lakers stepping up on defense will improve their offense and the team as a whole.
There are some good individual defensive pieces on the roster, but whether or not they can come together to form a good unit remains to be seen.