The Lakers have stocked the roster with big guards and wings who can rebound, pass, and push the pace. That should come as no surprise considering Magic Johnson’s playing career, as he is just shaping the team in his image.
The result is the best defensive rebounding backcourt in the NBA, at least on paper. Lance Stephenson lead all NBA shooting guards last season with a 22.0% Defensive Rebound Rate. Lonzo Ball had one of the best seasons on the glass for a rookie guard in NBA history,
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a career year on the boards, and Josh Hart did excellent work off of the bench. Rajon Rondo was also useful in this respect during the regular season, before stepping his game up to pull down 6.6 rebounds per game during the playoffs.
Let’s take a closer look at how this quintet cleans the glass.
The Lakers asked their bigs to box out last season while their guards grabbed the rebound and pushed the pace. Despite his meager individual numbers, Brook Lopez fit well within this style, and the team rebounded better with him on the court than off of it. Lonzo and Hart, in particular, thrived at “sandwiching” down on the offensive rebounders as Lopez boxed them out, which is something that Stephenson excels at as well.
JaVale McGee and the other members of this year’s center rotation - including possibly LeBron James (!) - are stylistically different than Lopez on the boards, so it remains to be seen if Luke Walton will take a similar approach to last season. Regardless of which direction he chooses, the roster is replete with guys who tenaciously crash the defensive glass. The swarm may make what strategy is actually used a moot point.
The emphasis on this component of the game is to both end opponent’s possessions and assert the Lakers’ desired pace on their opposition, where each of the five players on the court are capable of getting the ball and advancing it as soon as possible. Lonzo and Rondo can do this via outlets, hit aheads, or off of the dribble, whereas Stephenson, Hart, & KCP generally push it ahead themselves.
Many of you reading this are too young to have seen Magic Johnson play outside of a highlight reel on YouTube. In some small way, he’s trying to change that, if only through the vision that he’s implementing with this team.