When Mike D’Antoni resigned as the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers a few months ago, most fans met the decision with joy. The an who had been chosen over Phil Jackson and the coach during the Lakers most disappointing season and worst season (record wise) in LA Lakers history, was gone. The Lakers problem two years ago was abysmal chemistry and last season it was injuries and lack of defense. The Lakers now sport a re-vamped lineup and a new head coach in Byron Scott. With all the changes, will the Lakers’ defense be better or worse?
The obvious answer to most is that because Mike D’Antoni is gone the defense must improve. Byron Scott said when he spoke to a few players, “I told them that sounded great, but they ‘better be ready to play some defense.'” Now Scott’s words are certainly encouraging, but are they realistic?
At point guard the Lakers will trot out Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, and Jordan Clarkson. Nash can play team defense, but one-on-one he is clearly a liability. Lin has never been known for his defense, despite his offensive prowess and Clarkson, while an intriguing athlete, is a 2nd round draft pick in his rookie season.
At the shooting guard spot, Kobe Bryant will split time with Xavier Henry and Nick Young. If Bryant tones down his reckless roaming from a couple years ago, his defense won’t be nearly as bad as certain basketball forums would lead you to believe. Henry and Young both have the athleticism to be good defenders, and Swaggy P actually played defense fairly well last season.
The wing is likely the Lakers strength on defense – and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Wesley Johnson returns and was able to average over a steal and block per game. Unfortunately, that is where the depth ends. Ryan Kelly, Young, Henry, and even Kobe will likely get minutes at the SF position this season.
The Lakers big men do have some potential on the defensive side of things. Robert Sacre is a big body who has improved each season he’s been in the league. Jordan Hill is a great defensive rebounder and will be relied on heavily as a rim protector this season. Ed Davis is a big body with some athleticism who will likely be asked to carry a larger defensive load than in previous seasons. Rookie Julius Randle, at 6’9″ 250 lbs, is a big body who likely would be tough to back down in the post. We all know Carlos Boozer wasn’t known for his defense in Chicago.
The Lakers don’t have the personnel to be elite defensively, but if Scott can implement a team defense scheme that hides the Lakers weakness at guard and utilizes the plethora of big men, the Lakers should improve over Mike D’Antoni’s “let them score” defense.