Twenty games into the NBA season, the Lakers have more questions than answers about their identity and what their ceiling as a team can be. Much of that is due to injury woes, which appear to be improving with the return of Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura to the Lakers lineup this weekend.
Following L.A.'s win in Detroit, LeBron James made a surprising statement on what he considers to be one of the team's strong suits, their defense.
"Man, we already one of the best defensive teams in the league, but when you add that length, you add that anticipation and guys, you know Cam is one of the league leaders in deflections Vando, historically throughout his career, has been one of the league leaders in deflections," James said postgame. "So we able to get some of those pieces back it's just going to just heighten what we already do defensively."
The comment is surprising because the Lakers have been mediocre on the defensive side of the ball. According to NBA.com, the Lakers have a 112.6 Defensive Rating, good for 14th in the league, not exactly the ranking you'd give an elite defensive team.
Indvidiually we have seen some stellar performances. Anthony Davis should be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year, Cam Reddish is starting to showcase his defensive prowess as a guard and even Max Christie has shown defensive potential in his sophomore season.
The main issue with James' comment is that the individual performances haven't resulted in a team effort that's been defensively dominant. On paper, the roster has the personnel and defensive-minded coach to get the job done. Now, it's just a matter of seeing them execute it night in and night out, regardless of the quality of their opponent.
With the Lakers finally nearing full health, maybe James' comments and these individual performances will come together and the Lakers will be a top-ten defensive team by the All-Star Break. For now, it's fair to be skeptical and want to see it consistently before you believe this iteration of the Lakers is an elite defensive team.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.