Lakers News: Darvin Ham Expects L.A.’s Wing Defense To Be “Elite”

Follow-up question: Is he gaslighting us?

New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham is convinced that the team’s perimeter players will collectively contribute to one of the… best defensive clubs in the NBA.

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Yes, we’re a bit shocked too.

Jovan Buha of The Athletic reports that, during his Media Day interview with the press on Monday, Ham expressed his confidence in the club’s defensive ceiling:

With the exception of All-NBA small forward LeBron James and second-year shooting guard Austin Reaves, the Lakers are set to field a very different perimeter rotation this season than they did in 2021-22. 

The team’s defense as a whole (i.e. also including its frontcourt) was pretty rough then, given that its best defender, Anthony Davis, suited up for just 40 games, and the club allotted major minutes to a bunch of geriatric NBA players, some of whom may never play in the league again. Last year’s Lakers ranked 28th in opponent points allowed per game (115.1) and 21st in overall defensive rating (113.3 points allowed per 100 possessions). 

L.A.’s wing rotation in 2021-22 consisted of very, very old players like James, Kent Bazemore, Avery Bradley, Wayne Ellington, and occasionally Trevor Ariza (he was barely available and played a lot at the four). Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker, both poor defenders, and Reaves, a decent defender, were the team’s only swingmen consistently in its rotation who were younger than 30.

This year, the team has added some athletic younger pieces with defensive upside along the perimeter in Lonnie Walker IV and Troy Brown Jr., but, like most of their fellow new Lakers, both are minus offensive players, which could limit their minutes and thus their impact. Kendrick Nunn (a 6’2″ holdover combo guard from last year who didn’t play due to injury) is a poor defender. It has been reported that L.A. considered 6’1″ point guard Patrick Beverley to be a wing at this juncture in the 34-year-old’s career, but it would behoove L.A. on offense to start Beverley at his more natural position, so it remains to be seen how much the longtime Lakers foe will actually be stationed along the wing.

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