Why Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel should be coach of the year

Feb 26, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel gestures in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center The Lakers defeated the Trail Blazers 102-93.. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel gestures in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center The Lakers defeated the Trail Blazers 102-93.. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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Breaking down Frank Vogel’s opening play to start most games:

Coach Vogel has a go-to play to start every game to get Anthony Davis a touch on the right block. Now with both LeBron James and AD out, Vogel has had to resort to running this same play for Markeiff Morris or Montrezl Harrell.

Very rarely does this play result in a lob for Devontae Cacok.

Devontae Cacok has the potential to make the rotation down the line, but he is not ready to start NBA games. Vogel started him because the Lakers were that shorthanded. The fact he got such a wide-open dunk is thanks to Coach Vogel’s X’s and O’s acumen.

Normally, the guard (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in this case) would set the cross-screen for Anthony Davis on the left block. The roll man on the screen (Cacok in this play) would set what is called a flex screen to get KCP open for an outside shot.

But with Morris replacing AD in the lineup, Vogel adapted it to where KCP set the screen on the right block and cleared the left block to set up Cacok’s roll to the basket. Pelicans guard Nickeill Alexander-Walker may have been able to stop the lob had he focused on defending the roll as opposed to trying to get KCP in a belly-to-belly suplex.

Regardless of New Orleans’ defensive lapse on that possession, Vogel’s adaptation was a subtle yet excellent adjustment to start an otherwise dreary performance by the Los Angeles Lakers. I foresee the Lakers’ offense relying more on Vogel’s plays as long as LeBron and AD are injured.

Conclusion:

Given there are several excellent candidates for coach of the year, Frank Vogel will likely not be considered for the honor. But Coach Vogel should be praised for steadily navigating a tumultuous, injury-riddled season. Vogel has engineered the best defense in the NBA in spite of not having Anthony Davis, the best defensive player in the NBA, for half of the season.

Coach Vogel has kept them in the fourth seed in spite of the Lakers having one of the ten worst offenses in the NBA. Vogel will have to go deep into his bag of tricks to generate enough offense to elevate the Los Angeles Lakers’ offense to at least league average.

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Ultimately, Frank Vogel’s coaching acumen will again be decided in the playoffs. But for this regular season, Vogel should be praised for building a strong culture and engineering the league’s best defense.