One of the biggest issues with the Los Angeles Lakers has been on the defensive side of the ball. The Lakers really prioritized good team defense and interchangeable perimeter defenders when the team made its run to the NBA Championship in 2020.
However, because they took on the massive contract of Russell Westbrook, who hurt the floor-spacing, the Lakers were forced to shop in a very limited market and needed to sign three-point shooters to keep the floor spacing from looking like the team was built for the 1960s.
The problem is that the Lakers sacrificed defense by doing that. The team does not have to be the best defensive team in the league like it was in 2020 but it certainly cannot be one of the worst if it plans on making a true run at the 2022 NBA Championship. Right now, the Lakers have one of the worst defenses in the league and it is not going to get much better.
Trevor Ariza eventually getting healthy will help some but he is not going to have a massive impact in the role he will have. The team needs external help, and because of the salary situation, they do not have many ways to improve defensively this season.
However, there is one potential defensive improvement that has been sitting there, on the table, that the Los Angeles Lakers have downright ignored for months.
The Los Angeles Lakers have ignored the easiest defensive help possible in James Ennis.
All signs pointed to the Los Angeles Lakers signing James Ennis in the offseason. There was reported interest by the Lakers and Ennis was showing his hand as being very interested in becoming a Laker. But.. it never happened.
A roster spot opened up and the team instead decided to elevate Austin Reaves. Okay, I get it, Reaves has potential and they see something in him and want him to get NBA minutes. However, with the 15th roster spot still available right before the start of the regular season, the Lakers decided to bring in Avery Bradley, not James Ennis.
Bradley, despite getting praised by Frank Vogel and playing a somewhat big role in the rotation, has not been that good. His offensive impact is easily replaceable and defensively he has not really been good at all. Certainly not as good as Ennis would be.
Would Ennis solve all of the Lakers’ problems? No. But he would at least give the Lakers a defensive option to play on the wing. Kent Bazemore has been horrible on both ends of the floor and Talen Horton-Tucker is the team’s best defender but is not a traditional wing.
The Lakers need a defensive wing that they can play alongside the likes of Wayne Ellington or Malik Monk. Both of those guys are perfect as shooters next to LeBron James but you can only have them out there if there is a good defensive wing next to them to help take off the defensive load.
The Lakers don’t have that. Instead, they are playing horrible defensive combos of Monk and Ellington, or Rondo with one of the wings, or Westbrook with one of the wings. It simply is not working and adding just one above-average piece can help a ton.
Ennis is far from being an elite defender but he is very athletic with the fundamentals to succeed. Frank Vogel can really maximize defenders like Ennis, whereas there is not much to maximize defensively with the other players on the roster.
It seems like a perfect fit… yet there he remains, on the free-agent market, despite wanting to be a Laker.
It doesn’t make much sense, quite frankly, but neither do a lot of the recent moves that the Los Angeles Lakers have made.