The Los Angeles Lakers were the worst defensive team in the NBA last season while fielding their worst defense in franchise history, but the roster seems to be committed to changing that this year.
Lakers big man Larry Nance, Jr. said the team’s defense won’t repeat as the league’s worst, and while sophomore forward Brandon Ingram wants to get better as a shooter and offensive player overall, he’s not forgetting about the other end of the floor.
“I’m focused on ball-handling, running off screens, scoring in the mid-post and attacking the rim,” Ingram said in a blog for protein supplement BiPro USA. “On the defensive end, I want to get quicker laterally and I’m trying to use my length to block more shots.”
Ingram was touted as a future shutdown defender when he entered the league, but that future looked a long way off as the 19-year-old rookie was bullied by bigger and stronger grown men during his debut campaign. Defensive rating has it’s flaws, but it’s worth noting that it reflected that eye test, with the Lakers giving up 4.8 points per 100 possessions more when Ingram played (112.6) than when he sat (107.8).
Despite those numbers, Ingram still showed plenty of flashes of what the future could hold for him defensively, with his endless arms occasionally coming out of nowhere to block or bother a shot from behind.
Those flashes were more frequent towards the end of the season, something Ingram doesn’t feel is a fluke (again, via his blog for BiPro):
Ingram’s defense also picked up. He netted almost three times as many steals in that span compared to before the all-star break.
“I was just being more aggressive. Getting in the passing lanes, using my length to disrupt the player I’m guarding,” Ingram said.
As Ingram gets a little more adjusted to the NBA, it’s easy to picture him becoming a far larger and more bothersome impediment defensively by using his inflatable-tube-man frame to wave around in front of players trying to shoot all over the court. How much of that we’ll see this season is an open question, but at the very least Ingram seems to be working on the right things as he attempts to fulfill potential larger than his already prodigious wingspan.
All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.