Byron Scott has long been considered a defense-first coach who employs a grit-and-grind philosophy to keeping the ball out of the basket. When the Lakers brought him on board during the summer of 2014, the expectation was that his presence alone would improve a team that badly struggled to get stops under Mike D’Antoni.
Oops. Last season’s Lakers finished with the second-worst defense in the league. It was so bad that opposing teams looked genuinely thrilled to have an opportunity to run their offense against LA’s token defenders, knowing that it would get them great looks and big stat lines.
Of course, the blame for the poor defensive showing wasn’t solely on Scott, as the Lakers suffered an avalanche of injuries that made implementing a consistent, cohesive scheme nearly impossible. To make matters worse, none of the rotating list of healthy players Scott had at his disposal were plus-defenders individually, making for a perfect storm of defensive ineptitude.
While this season’s Lakers roster still features a number of turnstiles, the overall team defense should be much improved. Players like Bryant and Nick Young will have their shortcomings, but new addition Roy Hibbert promises to help make up for some of those issues with his verticality-driven rim protection.
Roy Hibbert, rim protector https://t.co/c3eKLh0UTD
— Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane) October 12, 2015
Young players like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson will also be ready to pitch in, using their athleticism to harass ball handlers. Robert Upshaw also has the potential to be a rim-protector of the future, although he isn’t quite ready for prime time at this juncture. Even D’Angelo Russell, who was thought to be a sub-par defender, does a solid job of using his length to dig down into passing lanes and create turnovers.
Furthermore, the return of Metta World Peace will help the young guns to grow on the defensive side of the ball, as will Brandon Bass’ blue collar, bring-your-lunch-pail grinding on the inside. It still won’t be pretty, but the Lakers defense will take some much-needed steps forward this season, ones that will set the tone for years to come.