The Los Angeles Lakers were arguably the most disappointing team in the NBA last season, and their defensive woes were a major reason why.
The squad allowed a whopping 115.2 points per contest, which was the third-worst mark in the entire league.
While injuries and fit issues on the offensive end also contributed to L.A.’s poor season, the team’s problems on defense were equally as brutal.
New Lakers coach Darvin Ham has made it very clear that defense is a priority this season.
Over the offseason, L.A. added some pesky defenders to its roster, and it sounds like some of those newcomers are already making a defensive impact in practice.
Anthony Davis recently made that clear.
Anthony Davis said it’s difficult to dribble in practice when Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schroder are on the floor, given the constant ball pressure up and down the floor.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 10, 2022
It’s a good sign for the Lakers, who are going to need to take a massive step forward on the defensive end this season if they want to become legitimate title contenders.
Looking To Right The Ship
Since taking over as head coach of the Lakers, Ham hasn’t been shy about challenging his guys to step up on the defensive end.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham on Russell Westbrook’s role next season: “The biggest word we used was sacrifice.”
"I want him to get back to guarding at a championship level." From NBA Today: pic.twitter.com/HPu69MzXaM
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) June 6, 2022
Lonnie Walker IV said he thinks he’s one of the more athletic players in the NBA, but he wants to show that more on defense. That’s part of the evolution he wants to get to this season, and where he’s been challenged by Darvin Ham and the coaching staff.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 7, 2022
The first-year head coach has seemingly done and said virtually everything right so far, but the true test will begin in a week when the Lakers open their regular season.
L.A.’s defense will be tested immediately, as the team will have to face the Golden State Warriors on the road to get things going this season.
It’s likely widely known within the Lakers organization how important it is to have a strong defense.
In the 2019-20 season, L.A. posted a defensive rating of 106.1, per NBA.com, which was the third-best mark in the league.
Thanks in large part to their defensive dominance, the Lakers claimed the 2020 NBA title, their first championship in a decade.
The following season, the Lakers once again looked like title contenders before injuries derailed their chances.
Los Angeles posted a league-best defensive rating of 106.8 during that season, and one can only wonder how far the team would have gone if the injury bug hadn’t gotten in the way.
Last season, the team completely lost its defensive identity and posted a defensive rating of 112.8, which ranked 21st in the NBA.
It’s not a coincidence that the Lakers missed the playoffs in the same season that their defense took a massive step back.
Here’s a closer look at L.A.’s defensive ratings and regular season records in recent years.
Keep in mind, a lower defensive rating is better.
- L.A.’s 2019-20 season: 106.1 defensive rating … 52-19 regular season record (made playoffs)
- L.A.’s 2020-21 season: 106.8 defensive rating … 42-30 regular season record (made playoffs)
- L.A.’s 2021-22 season: 112.8 defensive rating … 33-49 regular season record (missed playoffs)
There’s obviously a correlation there.
That’s no surprise, but it goes to show how important Los Angeles’ defense is to the team’s success.
The Lakers have tons of talent on their roster, but if they want to give that talent a chance to compete for another championship, they’re going to have to buckle down on defense.
Based on Davis’ recent comments on some of L.A.’s new additions, it sounds like things are headed in the right direction.