Los Angeles Lakers’ reserve unit:
- Alex Caruso (Talen Horton-Tucker)
- Wesley Matthews
- Kyle Kuzma
- Markieff Morris
- Montrezl Harrell
Frank Vogel has been an excellent defensive coach throughout his career in the NBA. Fans who don’t regularly follow the Lakers probably think Vogel is back at it this season. Lakers rate as one of the best defensive squads in the NBA.
The Purple and Gold’s lofty defensive metrics are fool’s gold. The Lakers have gotten lucky in their matchups this season.
LeBron James and company played the Dallas Mavericks without All-Star big man Kristaps Porziņģis. Then they played the Minnesota Timberwolves without All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns.
Then they played the San Antonio Spurs twice without (you guessed it) All-Star big man LaMarcus Aldridge. The Lakers won all four games. The Purple and Gold even matched up twice with the Memphis Grizzlies minus their up-and-coming star, Ja Morant—another two wins.
One of Frank Vogel’s core defensive principles has always been to have a shot altering center in the game at all times. This year he’s swerved off course and left the 6’7″ non-shot blocker, Montrezl Harrell, on the court as the Lakers lone rim protector for large chunks of game time.
The two times the Lakers faced a squad with competent centers (The Trail Blazers duo of J. Nurkic and E. Kanter and the Clippers’ pair of S. Ibaka and I. Zubac), the Purple and Gold lost, and the opposing center feasted.
- VS. the Clippers: S. Ibaka—15 points and I. Zubac—11 points
- VS. the Trail Blazers: J. Nurkic—10 points and E. Kanter—12 points
Frank Vogel’s decision to leave Montrezl on a defensive island by himself is an odd tactic. Even casual Lakers fans who occasionally pop into a game understand that Memphis Grizzlies’ backup big, Gorgui Dieng, shouldn’t be able to abuse Harrell on the block the way he did in the Purple and Gold’s most recent game.
Anthony Davis doesn’t want to start at center, but he should.
Frank Vogel only has two genuine shot-blocking big men on the squad—Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol. Vogel should stagger both player’s minutes, so the Lakers have rim protection at all times.
Anthony Davis should start and play the entire first quarter at the 5, giving the Lakers shot-blocking to begin games. Marc Gasol should come off the bench and enter the game at the beginning of the second quarter. Gasol can play around nine minutes, and then Davis can finish the half if necessary. Vogel should stick to a similar pattern throughout the second half.
This strategy would ensure the Lakers always have a true center on the floor, and it would allow Harrell to run amuck on offense without getting exposed on the less glamorous side of the ball.