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Lakers Rumors: Byron Scott Will Have to Fix LA Defense to Find Success

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, Tuesday, April 9, 2013.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Nate LoopFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2014

The Los Angeles Lakers have certainly taken their time in making a head-coach hiring, but it appears that the purple and gold may have finally settled on Byron Scott to guide the team into a new era.

According to sources for ESPN's Chris Broussard, the Lakers are in negotiations with Scott to head the team:

Scott comes into a tough situation, although he doesn't necessarily have a tough act to follow. The Lakers' last coach, Mike D'Antoni, resigned in late April after amassing a 67-87 record in two trying Tinseltown seasons.

It's become clear that D'Antoni's fast-paced system, while providing entertaining basketball, doesn't foster the defensive commitments necessary for a team to make a real title challenge.

The Lakers won't be anywhere near a title this season, but Scott will have to rejuvenate the team's defense in order to at least bring the team back into playoff contention.

The Lakers ranked 28th in defensive efficiency last season, per ESPN's Hollinger rankings. The current roster, even with some new acquisitions, isn't really shaped to offer Scott much help in this regard.

At point guard, Jeremy Lin and Steve Nash are both major defensive liabilities.

Jordan Clarkson shows promise as a wing defender; he should be able to cover both guard spots with his 6'5" height and 6'8" wingspan. However, his only value may be versatility, considering DraftExpress.com noted his lack of speed as a potential damper on his success on defense at the professional level:

Defensively, Clarkson's size is a plus when he's closing out shooters or contesting shots inside the arc, and he puts in decent effort at times when he's fully engaged, but his lack of great lateral speed limits his ability stay in front of quicker guards.

A rotation between Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson at small forward could solidify the perimeter, and relegating Nick Young to a part-time starter and backup role at shooting guard could keep the more athletically gifted players on the court for Scott.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 16:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 16, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photogr
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is a nine-time member of the NBA's All-Defensive First Team, but 35-year-old's coming off Achilles injuries don't really project as plus defenders. Scott made comments in late May of 2014 about his relationship with Bryant and how he views himself as a coach. Via USA Today's Sam Amick:

Again, I think I've got a hand up on (the job) because of our relationship. We get along extremely well. Kobe knows all about me and what I'm about. He knows that I'm an old-school coach who's very demanding on the defensive end and knows that defense and rebounding wins championships, so I think from that point of view we see eye to eye.

These statements don't quite match up with his results, as per NBA.com's John Schuhmann:

Having the backing of Bryant could help Scott establish a clear defensive identity and engender trust in him early on.

The fact that he at least sees himself as a defensive-minded coach is a departure from D'Antoni and should bring some hope to fans who grew sick of the Lakers' leaky-bucket defense last season.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Scott does have a potential defensive anchor in Ed Davis, who allowed opponents to shoot a mere 43.3 percent at the rim last season, per NBA.com. 

For comparison's sake, Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka allowed opponents to shoot 43.9 percent at the rim. However, Davis will have to fight for minutes with Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle.

Ed Davis could be crucial to the Lakers' improvement on defense.
Ed Davis could be crucial to the Lakers' improvement on defense.Matt Slocum/Associated Press/Associated Press

If Scott is wise, Davis should see an increased role at center, although this could diminish the value the Lakers get from Hill and his fancy new contract. Boozer should face the squeeze, as he allowed opponents to shoot 55.3 percent at the rim last season, per NBA.com.

The Lakers as an organization expect to be in the title hunt year in and year out. They weren't able to land the big-name free agents that would have immediately put them in contention this year, which means Scott will have to mold the team in his image both now and in a likely post-Kobe era.

He's come close to garnering championships, with two NBA Finals appearances as the coach of the New Jersey Nets.

Scott's playoff pedigree and legacy as a former Laker should give him a longer leash than most coaches, allowing him the opportunity to position the Lakers for another run at success.

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