Los Angeles Lakers: 3 midseason takeaways from 2019-20

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Lakers
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2. Frank Vogel deserves Coach Of The Year Consideration

The Lakers tried to hire several other better-known coaches before settling on Frank Vogel. He had led Indiana to four winning seasons in his five full seasons there, including a couple of Eastern Conference finals appearances against LeBron’s Cavs. But success eluded him in his two seasons at rebuilding Orlando, and he wasn’t exactly a hot coaching commodity.

Vogel had to agree to allow the team to hire two former NBA coaches, Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins, as his assistants. The feeling around the league was that Vogel was on a short leash, that if the Lakers got off to a slow start he would be axed with his successor was already in place.

But Vogel immediately earned the respect of both James and Davis. The team readily adopted his excellent defensive principles with James and Rondo playing their best defense in years. The Lakers rank third in the NBA in points allowed per game, fifth in defensive field goal percentage, fourth in three-point percentage allowed and first in blocked shots.

The offense was a little slower to develop but has since come on strong. The team ranks third in points per game and first in field goal percentage. And they have moved up to 10th in three-point percentage after being at or near the bottom of the league for several seasons.

Beyond the statistics, Vogel has demonstrated strong communication skills. Players know just what to expect and every man has accepted his role. There has been no grumbling, certainly not in public but reportedly not in private either. To a man, the team seems focused on the goal of doing whatever it takes to win ball games.

Vogel has also shown flexibility in his substitution patterns. He believes in going with the players who perform best in a particular game. Play well and you earn more minutes later. Have an off night and you’ll probably spend more time on the bench. The two superstars will get their court-time, of course. But who surrounds them, especially in the fourth quarter, is fluid depending on Vogel’s judgment.

One of the few knocks against Vogel is the way the team runs its end-of-the-game offense. Too often LeBron holds the ball 25 feet from the hoop while the other four players stand around watching. There is no player or ball movement and no ball screens. The possession often ends up with James hoisting up a relatively low percentage fadeaway jumper. Hopefully, Vogel will address the situation and provide better options.

But overall Vogel’s coaching has been outstanding. He has been far better than pundits predicted, and at this point may well be the top candidate for Coach of the Year honors.