When the Lakers made the trade for Russell Westbrook, there were plenty of question marks even with the optimism that came with adding a player with Westbrook’s history onto a team already having LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, one thing seemed pretty certain. Frank Vogel’s defense would be taking at least a moderate step back if not a considerable one after ranking 3rd in defensive rating in the 2019-20 season and 1st during the 2020-21 season.
Of course, not many expected the team to also suck on offense, but the expectations regarding the defense have been validated all season. The team is ranked 16th on the season in defensive rating, a middle-of-the-pack ranking that even has Vogel surprised given how bad they’ve been this year. They’ve been even worse since the All-Star Game break, ranking 23rd across the league in that time span.
On Friday, Vogel talked about that defense and why it has had so many issues, seemingly blaming the overall roster construction in a veiled dig at the Lakers’ front office (h/t Lakers Nation’s Daniel Starkand).
Frank Vogel on why the Lakers are struggling defensively: pic.twitter.com/knCULc0wYN
— Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand) March 4, 2022
Vogel references the team’s lack of size as one of the main reasons, something someone might scoff at when considering the heavy use of DeAndre Jordan earlier in the season as well as the availability of Dwight Howard. However, maybe Vogel means size from players who, uh, can actually play. Or, he is just referencing the team from top-to-bottom as the team’s overall size has a massive drop after those two centers, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James.
He also references the team’s spacing on offense, not necessarily saying an abundance of spacing on that end helps the defense, but that he can’t find the best lineup combinations that have a base level of 3-point shooting and perimeter defense.
LeBron James also discussed the team’s poor defense on the season immediately following the team’s loss to the Clippers on Thursday night. Silver Screen & Roll’s Jacob Rude reported the quote below, as LeBron also discussed the role of the offense in the team’s defense while also discussing some of the perimeter things that Vogel was discussing. However, LeBron doesn’t recall back to the championship team’s spacing on the perimeter when talking about the offense. Instead, he simply points out that turnovers, bad shots, or not getting back after good shots can end up having a severe negative effect on the defense.
Here's the full quote from LeBron after being asked by @DanWoikeSports about what it's been like seeing the team's defensive identity erode over time this season https://t.co/tPrPsacgmR pic.twitter.com/AUAravsB9k
— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) March 4, 2022
It seems LeBron and Vogel can for sure agree on one thing when it comes to the defensive woes. They’re not getting a good enough effort on the perimeter, specifically as it relates to pick-and-roll coverages. However, maybe “effort” isn’t the best word, as Vogel seems to indicate that he just doesn’t think they have the personnel on the roster to fully maximize his defense that was a strong reason for the team winning a championship in 2020.
If that is the real reason for the issues on that end, then get ready for rough sledding for the final 20 games as this roster isn’t changing or getting an injection from Anthony Davis any time soon.