Why Lakers Need Backcourt Upgrade To Win Another NBA Championship

With their starting front court now set with the Hachimura trade, the Los Angeles Lakers next move should be to upgrade their backcourt by pulling off a trade for the Toronto guard duo of Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent, Jr.

Upgrading their backcourt by replacing Dennis Schröder and Patrick Beverley with a pair of star guards from the Raptors in Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent, Jr. would improve the Lakers both on offense and defense.
It’s the also kind of move that would require the Lakers to give up both of their available first round picks, which Rob Pelinka says Los Angeles would only be willing to do if it would make them championship frontrunners.

With the trade for Hachimura, the Lakers starting front court is now set with Rui likely starting at the three, LeBron at the four, and AD at the five. That leaves the starting backcourt as the Lakers’ area of greatest need.
The NBA is still a guard’s league and the top teams in the league regularly get as much as 50 to 60 points per game from their backcourt. The Lakers’ backcourt only averages 39.8 points per game, 23rd out of 30 NBA teams.

To make the Lakers backcourt woes worse, it’s not like Schröder and Beverley are making it up with great individual defense. They’re undersized and frankly underqualified to be starters on a championship contender.
The eye test and analytics confirm that Schröder and Beverly are not plus defenders. They’re almost always outscored by their opposing duo, who’re usually players earning greater salaries and averaging double digits.

The time has come for the Lakers to upgrade their backcourt with a pair of guards who have the 3-point gravity to fix the Lakers’ spacing issues and the defensive grit and tenacious ability to play elite perimeter defense.

How VanVleet and Trent Jr. Help Lakers Offensively

The Los Angeles Lakers greatest offensive need in the backcourt is high volume, high percentage 3-point shooting to create spacing to free up superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis to attack the paint and rim.

The biggest difference is VanVleet and Trent Jr. combined are averaging 37.8 points per game vs 18.3 points per game than Schröder and Beverley, more than twice as many points per game on slightly better shooting stats.
That’s a difference of almost 20 points per game, which will go a long way towards improving the Lakers win-loss record. Most importantly, half of those extra 20 points per game are due to more volume 3-point shooting.

Together, VanVleet and Trent, Jr. make 5.5 and take 15.8 threes per game while Schröder and Beverley make just 2.3 and take just 6.8 threes per game. The difference in made threes represents 9.6 points per game.
And that’s not counting the additional points that LeBron James and Anthony Davis get because there suddenly are wide open lanes to the basket because defenders cannot leave VanVleet or Trent, Jr. alone.

The balance of the 20 points per game more that VanVleet and Trent, Jr. generate comes because Fred and Gary are simply better offensive players. Their 3-point gravity opens doors that Schröder and Beverley simply can’t.
No disrespect but there’s a reason Fred and Gary combined earn more than twice as much as Dennis and Patrick. They’re bigger, younger, and more talented and their skillsets are better fits for the Lakers’ backcourt needs.

The Lakers have already begun their backcourt makeover by trading Nunn. If they want to compete for a championship, they need the volume 3-point shooting and better offense Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent, Jr. can provide.

How VanVleet and Trent Jr. Help Lakers Defensively

The Los Angeles Lakers greatest defensive needs in the backcourt are preventing opposing guards from breaking down the defense and getting into the paint and forcing rotations that lead to easy wide-open threes.

The Lakers as a team rank 21st out of 30 NBA teams. While Schröder and Beverley have reputations as good defenders, the eye test this season has told a different story as opposing guards routinely blow by both of them.
Schröder’s and Beverley’s individual DefRtgs are 16th and 14th respectively out of the 18 players who have played for the Lakers this season. Their poor perimeter defense is part of why the Lakers are 20th out of 30 in DefRtg.

Strong point-of-attack defense begins with aggressive defenders who can pressure the ball and slow down the ball handler without fouling. Steals by guards are a good measure of how well a perimeter defense is working.
VanVleet averages 1.5 steals and Trent, Jr. 1.8 steals per game, for 3.3 total steals per game. Schröder averages just 0.7 steals and Beverley just 0.8 steals, for 1.5 total steals per game. VanVleet and Trent, Jr. play better D.

Steals are the result of increased activity by defenders, stealing the ball from dribblers, making interceptions by jumping the passing lanes, and doing whatever they can to disrupt and derail the other team’s offense.
Toronto ranked 1st out of 30 NBA teams by averaging 9.6 steals per game and VanVleet’s and Trent, Jr.’s 3.3 steals per game were a big part of that. The Lakers ranked 23rd in the league with just 4.7 steals per game.

The Los Angeles Lakers replacing Dennis Schröder and Patrick Beverley with Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent, Jr. as their starting backcourt would upgrade their perimeter defense to be among the best in the league.

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Lakers fanatic since 1971 when team traded for Wilt Chamberlain. Founder, editor, and publisher of Lakerholics.com, a community for smart informed Lakers fans.

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Lakers fanatic since 1971 when team traded for Wilt Chamberlain. Founder, editor, and publisher of Lakerholics.com, a community for smart informed Lakers fans.