One of the biggest battles in training camp and the preseason for the Lakers has been the starting guard position alongside Russell Westbrook. The likes of Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn entered as the most likely candidates to anchor the spot with Talen Horton-Tucker as an outside shout.
Throughout the first week-and-a-half of games, each has separated themselves in some way or another, both positively and negatively. Monk was the standout player of the first game of the preseason while Ellington’s struggles on both ends of the court have likely dropped him down the depth chart early on.
One of the more consistent performers through the first three games has been Nunn. The combo guard came into the team this summer with a reputation as a scorer but has shown a feistiness on the defensive end that has impressed even LeBron James.
“He comes from a defensive-minded franchise in Miami,” James said after making his preseason debut on Friday. “You have to show up and play defense in order to be on the floor in Miami. So I just love his competitive nature, and he’s from Chicago. Those guys are another level of pride when it comes to basketball on both sides of the floor. So I love what he brings to our ball club, and I look forward to him having a great year.”
Perhaps the highlight of Nunn’s preseason was, in fact, a defensive play on Saturday when he chased down Chris Chiozza for a block on a fastbreak late in the game as the Lakers were looking for a late rally.
Considering head coach Frank Vogel’s nature as a defensive-minded head coach, it’ll be his performance on that end of the court that’ll go a long way in making his case for a starting guard spot. While Anthony Davis remains one of the top defensive big men in the league, the Lakers lost a fair amount of defensive talent on the wing this offseason.
If a player like Nunn can step up to fill at least a part of that void, he’ll move himself up near the top of the depth chart in the backcourt and it could be enough for him to secure a starting spot. And considering how hotly contested that position will be this preseason and even into the regular season, any little edge could prove to be important in landing a spot in the starting lineup. Having the public support of James also certainly can’t hurt either.