Defensive Awfulness, By the Numbers

Darius Soriano —  March 31, 2014

I usually try to look at why things happen rather than the end result. In other words, process does (and always will) matter to me and getting to root of an issue is what I try to do on a consistent basis when I watch games (and, consequently, when I write about them here or elsewhere).

Normally, then, when discussing the Lakers’ putrid defense I would try to explain what is actually making it, you know, putrid. This might lead to an exploration of the team’s transition woes, their inability to stay in front of their men on the perimeter, how some of their wing defenders are habitual gamblers, how their bigs fail to protect the rim adequately, and how the lack of communication between the five players on the floor exacerbate all of the above.

Unfortunately, though, I don’t want to write a dissertation on the Lakers defensive deficiencies.

So, rather than get into how dribble penetration allowed on the perimeter exposes slow-footed big men who, even when they do rotate, aren’t then protected by the perimeter players who should be helping the helper but don’t, I’ll just post a few numbers that basically confirm the team’s terribleness. Since the All-Star Break, the Lakers are:

  • Tied for 29th in the NBA with a defensive efficiency of 112.2
  • Last in defensive rebounding percentage at 68.6%
  • 27th in fast break points allowed at 17.2 points per game
  • Last in points in the paint allowed at 51.3 points per game
  • Last in opponent’s effective field goal percentage (which accounts for the value of three point field goals) at 54.5%

To put some of these numbers in context, in every single one of those categories the Lakers’ post all-star game number would rank last when measured against the current worst number posted for the season. Said another way, whatever team ranks last for the season the Lakers’ numbers since the middle of February are worse. Read those last two sentences again.

Never have I believed that the Lakers have quite on Mike D’Antoni. When you watch the games, the team continues to play hard, an observation that even the opposing team’s broadcast crew makes nearly every game. That said, what is clear is that even if the team is playing hard, it is not playing smart. Nor do I think that “playing hard” translates to all aspects of the game at all times. Often times players do not make the extra rotation defensively, do not sprint back in transition to slow the opposition, do not give the effort to defense that they generally do to offense.

Whether this is due to coaching, the player’s individual bad habits, or a combination of both is open to interpretation. What is not, however, is whether these things are happening and the negative effect it has on the the team’s ability to compete game in and game out. And no matter what side of the player vs. coach of the debate you fall on, the fact is that it is a major problem moving forward. Not necessarily this year (there is little left to play for or prove in these final nine games), but for next year and beyond.

After all, do you want players who go hard on one side of the ball but not the other? Do you want a coach who is the one who oversees these things happening? These are the questions the front office will need to ask themselves this summer when reflecting on this season and forecasting out to future ones.

Because, ultimately, the Lakers cannot have another year where their defensive numbers mirror the ones they have put up the 2nd half of this season. Not unless they’re okay winning 20 some odd games each year.

Darius Soriano

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