Well before it became official the Lakers would cement themselves with the worst record in franchise history, Mike D’Antoni envisioned something happening.
He insisted the Lakers could rank in the top 10 on defense. Cue the laugh track.
Never-ending injuries and a lack of defensively elite players prevented that from happening. A locker room remained divided on whether D’Antoni’s fast-paced system contributed toward the Lakers finishing last in several defensive categories as well. That included finishing 29th in total team defense (109.2 points per game), 24th in defensive field-goal percentage (46.8) and 30th in fast-break points allowed (16.7).
And among 63 of the NBA players receiving votes for the NBA’s All-Defensive teams, none of them played for the Lakers. Instead, first-team honors went to Chicago’s Joakim Noah, Indiana’s Paul George, the Clippers’ Chris Paul, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka and Golden State’s Andre Iguodala. Second-team honors included Miami’s LeBron James, Houston’s Patrick Beverley, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert.
As for the Lakers? Well, it was expected they would experience a drop-off in defense after Dwight Howard departed to Houston and Metta World Peace was waived in a cost-cutting measure. But few envisioned they would deny Lakers fans free tacos seemingly every night.
Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman lacked consistency on rim protection. Jordan Hill provided lots of energy, but only in waves. Steve Nash struggled with both staying healthy and staying in front of guards. Nick Young occasionally took a charge or two, but no one will mistake him for a defensive stopper. Wesley Johnson’s
The only defensively consistent players entailed Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and Robert Sacre. Blake scrapped for every loose ball, but he was limited with injuries before being traded to Golden State. Jodie Meeks remained the few who rushed back on transition defense, but he’s still more effective with scoring. Sacre hustled well enough to eat into playing time for Hill and Kaman, but Sacre is still developing as a player.
Add it all up, and the Lakers soon became a defensively deficient team. Hence, the rankings.