With Avery Bradley electing to sit out of the NBA restart in Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers will be entering the resumed 2019-20 season without the player who has so far been their primary perimeter defender. That’s undoubtedly a loss for the third-best defense in the NBA, but it’s one Danny Green says he’s ready to make up for.
On the latest episode of his eponymous podcast, “Inside the Green Room,” Green was asked by co-host Harrison Sanford about how ready he was to take on more responsibility defensively with Bradley out.
Green said he’s “very excited” to get a chance to step up, and to make his case to head coach Frank Vogel to let him:
“This is something I’m looking forward to. Obviously Avery made it easier for me on the defensive end of the floor. We were able to switch a lot, he also picks up 94 feet, but being able to take on that challenge night in and night out of being, hopefully, coach using me as the primary defender, is something I look forward to.
“It’s something that keeps me involved in the game, more locked in, and more focused and able to just play my game. Because my defense usually carries over to my offense. We’ll see how it goes, I hope they pick me, but I really look forward to attack, challenge and embrace being the primary defender on the team. But I’ve got to put the work in, got to be ready, stay healthy, and see who else comes aboard with us.”
One player who looks like a near certainty to join the Lakers in Orlando at this point is free agent guard J.R. Smith. But while Green said in the same clip that Smith has looked good when he’s seen him work out during the NBA stoppage, at 34 years old, it’s unlikely Smith will be taking on anywhere close to the defensive burden of the player he’ll technically be replacing on the roster.
That leaves the Lakers with a few options to make up for Bradley’s production defensively, and to fill the hole he leaves in the team’s starting lineup. For the latter job, the two best candidates would seem to be Alex Caruso or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caruso brings something closer to the never-ending defensive intensity from Bradley that Green praised, while Caldwell-Pope is a superior offensive option who is a less stout individual defender (while still being a helpful one in a team context).
But even with either of those players sliding in with the starters (or, gulp, Rajon Rondo), Green stepping up defensively would have a welcome impact on the Lakers’ top lineup, and there is evidence that he might be primed to do just that.
The Lakers have stealth load-managed Green all season, playing him his fewest minutes per game (25.1) since 2012. Green has still been an impactful team defender and in transition, but him locking in even further individually in the playoffs — if he has another level left to reach on that front — would be a boon for the Lakers, who have lacked a consistent, lockdown defender to throw at bigger wings. LeBron James and Anthony Davis will surely draw that responsibility some more in the postseason, but Green giving the Lakers an extra option on that front would be a big help for the team so it didn’t have to overburden their stars too often.
Still, Green is 33 years old himself, so he may not have another gear left to reach individually anymore. And the Lakers will clearly need to get extra contributions from all of their starters to make up for the hard-to-quantify energy boost they all say Bradley gave them on the defensive end. Without his effort to inspire them anymore, they’ll all have to bring some of the same energy to inspire each other. At the very least, it sounds like Green is ready to try. It probably won’t fully replace Bradley, but in conjunction with their other options, it might go a long way.