The Los Angeles Lakers have made huge strides defensively this season a lot sooner than anyone could have expected considering they ranked dead last in defensive efficiency the last two seasons. So far through their first 27 games though, they rank fourth out of 30 teams with a defensive rating of 100.8.
While one reason for it is the amount of focus head coach Luke Walton put on defense in training camp and the preseason, it also has to do with some changes in personnel.
The Lakers signed one of the best defensive guards in the league this offseason in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and after Sunday night’s win over the Denver Nuggets, Walton credited both him and Corey Brewer for setting the tone defensively.
“Yeah, they do a really good job. A lot of people ask about how we’ve made so far, such a big jump from being last in defense to the top five in defense,” Walton said.
“A lot of it is what they’ve brought to the table those two. Being a hard-nose, being able to make the right read and switch and get after people, be the aggressors on that end of it, and they play like that in practice all the time too. I thought our young guys see what that looks like and they get a feel of what that’s like playing against each day in practice. Obviously there’s a lot of other reasons too, but that’s a big part of what’s helped change the way that we’re playing defense.”
Both Caldwell-Pope and Brewer’s impact on the defensive end of the floor were on full display against Denver as they had four steals apiece.
Veterans like them, Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut were brought in specifically to help the team improve on defense, and so far early in the season it looks like they are doing their jobs as the Lakers have gone from the worst defensive team in the league to one of the best.
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