Between LeBron James and Anthony Davis, two of the NBA’s top-10 scorers last season, the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t expected to have a hard time putting points on the board this season. The real question is whether or not they’ll be able to keep other players in the star-studded Western Conference modest with their defense.
The Lakers have been ranked No. 13 in the league in defensive rating in each of the last two seasons. In the four seasons before that, they were a bottom-three defensive team. This season — with a defensive-minded head coach in Frank Vogel — they’re expected to be better and if they’re not, Vogel told reporters after practice on Monday that his team will have hard time reaching their full potential (via @Lakers):
“It’s going to determine whether we have a successful season or not. We’re going to be able to score the basketball if we commit to sharing it. How many wins we put in the win column is going to be directly tied how well we come together on the defensive end: Where are care factor is, how tough we’re playing, how connected we’re playing.
“I believe that we can make a big improvement. We have some physical talent on the defensive end to get the job done and there will be an emphasis on that end all year.”
One of the team’s more proven defensive players, Avery Bradley, thinks the Lakers have a chance to be great on the defensive end, and believes Vogel will be a big reason why:
“I think we can make a huge jump. We have some good individual players and we have a great coach that puts an emphasis on the defensive end and I think he can put us all in great positions to be successful in the game each and every night on the defensive end.”
Ironically, the Lakers were ranked No. 13 in defensive rating once again in the preseason, but they held teams to 98.6 points per 100 possessions. Again, they were just preseason games, but they looked sharper than last season’s team on defense — especially in their “dress rehearsal” against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.
The Lakers will have a chance to show their commitment to the defensive end on Tuesday, when they take on the LA Clippers for their regular season opener at Staples Center.