The Los Angeles Lakers are a good defensive team — some would even argue great. Through 21 games, they’ve allowed just 102.7 points per 100 possessions, which is ranked fourth in the NBA behind the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks.
Offensively they’ve started to find their footing, too, and they’re ranked sixth in the league in offensive rating, but on the nights where their offense hasn’t been there, their defense has, which Danny Green believes is a sign of a championship-caliber team.
During our interview with two-time NBA champion and starting shooting guard for the Lakers Danny Green on the Silver Screen and Roll podcast earlier this week, he said that the believes the team’s defensive prowess is built for a champion run:
“Oh yeah, defensively we’ve been pretty exceptional at moments, at times, and our chemistry off the court has been really good. Those are definitely two good key signs of a team that could be potentially the last team standing.”
On paper, it makes sense that the Lakers are a good defensive team. They have six players on their roster that have made an All-Defensive Team at least once in their careers, including Green, who made the All-Defensive Second Team in 2017.
But Green didn’t realize just how good they’d be until he started playing with them, and he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from his team — especially from Avery Bradley and LeBron James:
“Well I knew everybody on this team was very capable, but you don’t really get to see it up close unless you play with them, and to see Avery on the ball is something special. And then seeing how LeBron’s picked it up this season has been amazing on that end of the floor.”
“Obviously AD Is a defensive monster, and then you have some of the other guys that can do so many different defensive things with JaVale, Dwight. From the guard standpoint, Alex Caruso has been playing great defense, Kenny has been playing good defense. Everybody’s been stepping up. But to see those two — Avery when he’s playing on ball and over screens — is something special and LeBron this year has especially picked it up on that end of the floor.”
A lot has been made of James’ resurgence on the defensive end, and rightfully so. This season, James is posting the best defensive box plus-minus (+2.2) and defensive rating (103) he’s posted since the 2015-16 season, according to Basketball Reference. The “eye test” holds up with those stats, too.
But what exactly has led to James having one of his better defensive seasons at the age of 34? According to Green, it’s how vocal James has been to start the season:
“Just communicating where guys need to be and for himself to be when we talk on defense. It helps you put yourself in the right position and be where you’re supposed to be. Telling guys where to be, telling guys where to go. Also figuring out what’s working against certain players and certain teams. He’s been active, he’s been communicating a ton.”
It’s probably unrealistic to assume that James will maintain the level of defense he’s been playing throughout the course of the 82-game regular season but then again, it was seen as unlikely that he’d play defense at all during the regular season. Until James shows otherwise, he’s a valuable piece to the Lakers on both ends of the floor.
You can listen to our full conversation with Green below.