The Los Angeles Lakers have been a mess on both sides of the floor nearly all season, save for a few stretches where the offense was able to flourish (even if those stretches may have come against lowly defensive teams around the NBA). However, although the team had a few bright spots on the offense at times, their defense was almost always bad. Frank Vogel just wasn’t able to muster enough defensive prowess out of this roster throughout the campaign, especially not during those times that the offense was somewhat succeeding as those stretches came without Anthony Davis as LeBron James helmed the defense at the center position, leaving the Lakers at a supreme disadvantage on that end.
Overall, it has dropped the Lakers to the 22nd ranked defensive rating in the league on the season… a massive plummet from the previous season when the Lakers were the 1st ranked defense in that statistic even with Davis and LeBron missing 2-3 months of games at the same exact time.
In a 30-minute phone interview that was conducted by Bill Oram and The Athletic ($$$), Frank Vogel commented on why this happened, seemingly displaying another indirect critique of the front office’s roster construction… something he’s been doing nearly all season but not nearly blunt as the following:
“The habit building, there was a lot to make up with,” Vogel said. “Guys that did not have great defensive habits. You know what I mean? So you coach it on a daily basis and push them to be accountable. But there was just a lot to overcome with this year’s team.”
Even while lamenting over the floor of the team’s overall defensive talent given its pieces, Vogel also indicated that the concessions he had to make to the defense to even have those small stretches of good offense also affected the way they were able to defend.
“The nature of how our offensive pieces fit together didn’t allow us to play with a defensive size and positional size that I typically like to have to give us that type of defensive success,” Vogel said. “So there were a lot more smaller lineups to open up the floor because of how our offensive pieces fit. Trying to make the offense work compromised our defense directly.”
Oram summarizes the revolving door of defensive talent that occurred in the 2021 offseason, as names like Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and (in the 2020 offseason) Danny Green were replaced with the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Wayne Ellington, and Malik Monk. All four of those added players have displayed bottom-of-the-barrel defense throughout their entire careers. To give Monk credit, he hasn’t really had that long of a career to try and improve on that end, but with his measurements coming out to 6’3”, 200 pounds… he will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to the defensive end.
Please go read the full interview if you haven’t already, as it’s just about as unfiltered as you’ll ever get Vogel, including his opinion that the team was “imperfect” even aside from the injuries that plagued them throughout the campaign.