The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t had much success on defense in recent years. The team posted its worst defensive efficiency ever last season, allowing 113 points per 100 possessions to rank not only last in franchise history, but last in the league as well.
Third-year forward Larry Nance, Jr. says he and his teammates are focused on changing that.
“We're not going to have the worst defense in the league this year. That's something that I think we're all working on but me especially. We need to fix that,” Nance told Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum Sportsnet.
It’s a problem the Lakers have needed to fix for a while. The purple and gold have been a disaster on defense for the last few years, ranking last in the league for the last two and in the bottom three for the last four years. Nance said the Lakers are so motivated to fix their defense that they’re harping on it in offseason scrimmages, and leading that charge is a responsibility he’s taken to heart.
"I want to be on the forefront of the way things change,” Nance said.
Nance was one of the Lakers’ best defenders last season, with the fourth-best defensive rating on the team (108.3), and he ranked second among Lakers to play more than 22 games. A team allowing 108.3 points per possession isn’t good, but it’s a hell of a lot better than 111.9 the Lakers allowed while Nance sat.
The Lakers look set for more success on defense this year with another year of growth from their younger players and the addition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but they still likely won’t be good on that end given the overall youth of their team and lack of any standout defenders.
Will they be able to meet Nance’s goal of not being the worst defense in the league? It’s certainly possible, and how far they can get away from the bottom will likely have a large impact on whether or not the team fulfills the other goal Nance said they’ve set for themselves.
“I want to make the playoffs. I think everybody wants to make the playoffs here,” Nance said.
To even get in the hunt for a postseason spot, the Lakers will have to make huge strides defensively, something the team seems to understand and be committed to. They may not be able to meet that goal, but if they get anywhere near the race it will likely mean they’ll have cleared the low bar Nance is aiming to hop over defensively.
All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. All quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.