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Lakers Becoming Defensive Juggernaut with Revamped Dwight

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After an offseason of activity and glitz, all eyes were on Los Angeles.  The Lakers have been the standard bearer in the city forever and the Clippers are the new hot team in the league.  Some fans thought that adding Anthony Davis among other role players would lead to an underwhelming season for the big brother.  Many more laughed when they added Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley, who had washed out of previous disappointing stops.  An opening-night loss to Kawhi Leonard furthered the rumblings and ripping of the King and crew.  Since then, the Lakers have soared to the top of the West and the biggest reason why is their defense.  Furthermore, Dwight Howard has been one of the biggest reasons why.

 

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Return of Superman

Many NBA fans laughed when Dwight Howard signed with the Lakers, and for good reason.  When he was last there, the season was a disaster, leading to the current malaise the franchise has been in for years.  He then bounced from the Rockets to the Hawks to the Hornets and finally the Wizards over the following six seasons.  Health and immaturity led to all of those teams racing to get rid of him.  Without an injury to DeMarcus Cousins, Howard may have never gotten a chance.  All that negativity said, he has made much more of the opportunity than anyone could have expected.

The numbers alone bear out Dwight Howard’s impact.  He’s combined for 5.7 blocks and steals per 48 minutes while shooting 77% from the field.  He is posting a defensive rating of 95.3, which is 19th among players averaging at least 20 minutes per game.  Intensity and consistency off the bench for a team with limited resources is essential.  Dwight has brought that on a nightly basis.

The Defenders Assembled

Speaking of players who rank highly in defensive rating, the Lakers have seven players in the top 19.  LeBron James and Anthony Davis are defensive stalwarts who for years have only been held back on this end of the floor by motivation.  So far, they have been locked in and it is showing.  Danny Green is a perennial contender for the All-Defensive Team and his shooting is making him one of the steals of the summer.  Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have been solid and reaped the benefits of playing with top tier defenders.  Avery Bradley has recaptured some of the magic he had back in Boston.

This collection of defensive talent has led to the team leading the league in Defensive Rating through November 8th.  This is without bringing back Rajon Rondo, who is set to come back from injury this coming week.  Having six former All-Defensive Team players motivated to succeed has led to a lethal team defense buoyed by LeBron James and Anthony Davis on offensive looking for Danny Green shooting on the perimeter.  If there was ever a coach to figure it out, Frank Vogel has a strong reputation as a defensive guru.  This season may be the greatest feather in his cap yet.

Defend LA for the Long Haul

Once this team is fully healthy and has even more games under their belt, their defense looks to be championship worthy.  Furthermore, they still have moves to make with an open roster spot due to the Cousins injury.  The entire league thinks they will be going after Andre Iguodala (when he becomes available) and he does fit this mentality perfectly.  Shooting may be a more realistic priority since spacing around a team that is outperforming their offensive potential thus far.  Either way all of the people laughing at the Lakers this summer for missing out on Kawhi Leonard need to rethink their stance.  The Battle for Los Angeles rages on and the Lakers are up for the defensive challenge.

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