The Los Angeles Lakers made headlines during the offseason with their aggressive moves via trade and free agency.
After winning the NBA championship, it would have been easy for vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka to simply keep the status with the similar or same roster, but he chose to make bold moves that made L.A. younger and more talented.
It led to the acquisitions of Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol, while losing several notable role players from last season. Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Avery Bradley and JaVale McGee all were either traded or departed in free agency.
While it’s impossible to deny that the Lakers added more talent, one NBA executive believes that L.A. simply changed their identity, but didn’t necessarily improve or decline considerably, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic:
“I think the Lakers got different. I don’t know if they got better, but I don’t think they got worse. … What I mean by that is (the Lakers) were really, really good last year defensively (third in the regular season; sixth among 16 playoffs teams in defensive rating). And they were big and physical. Dwight Howard had a large impact on that, even JaVale McGee at some level. And … all of their guys were really good defenders, and (Lakers coach) Frank (Vogel) really emphasized it.
“Danny Green (who signed with Philadelphia) is a good defender — he’s slowing up a little, but he’s a good defender. And Avery Bradley (who signed with Miami) and some of the other guys they had (were good), so I think it changed (them). They’re more offensive with Schröder and Harrell. Wes Matthews will give them a little bit of a toughness component. Marc (Gasol) — he knows how to play and is who he is. He’s slowing up, but he’s obviously very different than Dwight Howard. So I don’t think they’ll be as physical and tough or as good defensively, but I think they’ll be better offensively. And so it will be interesting to see how that impacts them. But they’re certainly going to be really good.”
It is true that defense was the defining factor of the 2019-20 Lakers and that losing Howard, McGee, Green and Bradley could impact that. However, Harrell is the only new addition who has ever had any questions on the defensive end.
Despite a poor defensive showing against the Denver Nuggets in the postseason, Harrell can still provide value as an active rebounder and shot blocker if given the right matchups.
Schroder, Matthews and Gasol have all made names for themselves as being defensive minded, meaning there should be little to no drop-off in their production compared to the players they replaced.
Alex Caruso confident in Lakers defense despite different personnel
This is not the first time the Lakers defense has been called into question in light of their new additions. However, Alex Caruso is confident that they can remain dominant on that end of the floor.
“It’s going to be a different look. We lost two enforces inside as far as shot blocking, contesting the rim and cleaning up the boards,” he recently said.
“But at the same time, I think the pieces we added fit great. I don’t think it’s a step backwards in any means. I think it’s just different. I think we have the IQ of the team and coaching staff to put together a great system, to work on that system and improve it throughout the year like we did last year.
“And ultimately be in the right place at the end of the year to use whatever system they put in place, do it really, really well and hopefully get back to the Finals.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!