Why the Evolution of the Lakers May Not Include Frank Vogel as the Coach
While Frank Vogel may have been the right coach to lead the Lakers to the championship in the bubble, he might not be the right man for the job since LA traded for Russ, which forced them to go small with AD at the five.
Concerns Vogel might not be the right coach to guide the Lakers through a metamorphosis from an old school two-bigs team to a modern small-ball team were likely the reason the Lakers only gave Frank a 1-year extension. While injuries and a roster imbalance have been issues, we’re now seeing how Frank Vogel’s ‘old school’ philosophies and strong defensive bias could ultimately make him a poor fit as head coach of an evolving Lakers team.
The Lakers front office made specific decisions the last two offseasons to upgrade the team’s offense, especially prioritizing 3-point shooting. It was understood this would inevitably involve swapping defense for offense. While Vogel’s a defensive genius, he’s never been known for his expertise as an offensive guru or innovative coach who knows how to fix offenses. Unfortunately, he’s going to have to rapidly evolve offensively to survive.
This is the modern NBA and Vogel’s unapologetic bias on defense may not be what this Lakers team needs after the Russell Westbrook trade. They need a coach who creates lineups based on net ratings not just defensive ratings.
How Vogel Went From NBA Championship to Coaching Hot Seat
It seems patently unfair and surprising that Frank Vogel could be on the coaching hot seat a little over a year after his Lakers won the championship in the bubble in Orlando but the trade for Russ changed everything for Frank.
The Westbrook trade essentially forced the Lakers to commit to small ball with Anthony Davis at the five. Just as trading for Russ required AD to sacrifice and move to the five, it also required Vogel to evolve as a coach. Evolving to embrace a more modern style of play with a balance between offense and defense has not been an easy challenge for Frank to make, especially when injuries have ravaged his rotations and size at the three.
After getting killed on the boards and outscored in the paint playing small to start games and halves, Vogel reverting to starting two bigs like he did in the Lakers championship season. Unfortunately, the two-big lineups struggled. Vogel’s fascination with two-big lineups and reluctance to play shooters over defenders has become a major obstacle to the Lakers winning on the court. The earlier concerns Frank might not be the right coach now seem prescient.
This is not the same team that won the 2020 Championship and the path to NBA Finals is more difficult than their gold paved road in the bubble. Vogel’s stubborn refusal to start Anthony Davis at the five has derailed the Lakers. The Lakers don’t have the time for any more senseless experiments at center like the quarter of a season it took Vogel to finally bench DeAndre Jordan or another 10 games to confirm starting Dwight Howard is not the answer.
The Westbrook trade was made knowing Anthony Davis would have to move to the five and the Lakers would have to acquire and play multiple 3-point shooters for the LeBron, AD, and Russ superstar big three to be successful. For Frank Vogel to revert back to two-big lineups rather than working to improve the rebounding and points-in-the-paint differential of the small ball lineups threw a massive monkey wrench into the Lakers post-Russ strategies.
What Vogel does the next few weeks could determine whether he remains as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. For certain, he cannot survive putting out starting lineups with no 3-point shooters like he did against the Clippers.
What Vogel Needs to Do to Save His Job as Lakers’ Head Coach?
As the Lakers evolve into a more offensive oriented small ball team, Frank Vogel is also going to have to evolve as a basketball coach and embrace modern basketball if he wants to save his job as the Lakers head coach.
There’s a formula for winning with LeBron James, which is to surround him with elite 3-point shooters so he has space on the court to attack the basket. It’s a proven formula Frank Vogel seems to have completely forgotten about. The Lakers’ offense has been so handicapped all season long by Vogel’s inane starting lineups that lack shooters to create spacing and play right into the hands of the opposing teams’ defenses by making it easy to pack the paint.
Specifically, Frank Vogel needs to make the following five major adjustments to his coaching philosophy and offensive and defensive strategies to evolve as a basketball coach and prove he is still the right coach for the LA Lakers:
- Embrace the roster you have and the direction the Lakers have to go due to the Westbrook trade. You surely agreed to the trade. Now it’s time to stop trying to figure out how to play two bigs and embrace AD at the five.
- Prioritize starting and rotation lineups with a balance between offense and defense. Defense only lineups won’t work. Instead build lineups based on players’ net ratings instead of just their defensive ratings.
- Stagger shooters in the same way as you stagger playmakers and superstars. The goal should be to always have two shooters, two playmakers, and two superstars on the court 48 minutes per game.
- Adjust your defensive philosophy to match the skillsets of your personnel. Switch everything whenever Monk, Melo, and Ellington are involved. Fight over picks whenever it’s Westbrook, Bradley, or THT.
- Realize you need to evolve as a coach as the Lakers evolve as a team to continue to be their best option as a head coach. And for the Westbrook trade to work, you need to adjust rather than resist as the head coach.
If Vogel is going to save his job as Lakers’ head coach, he’s going to have evolve his coaching philosophy and embrace a balance between offense and defense that is a better fit not only for this roster but also the modern game. It’s actually a blessing that the Lakers have three full days before they play the Celtics next Tuesday night at what will by then be Crypto.Com Arena as it will give Frank and his coaching staff a chance to rethink what they’re doing.
Whom Vogel starts against the Celtics may tell us where this season is headed. If Vogel starts the same Russ, THT, LeBron, AD, and Dwight lineup with no quality 3-point shooters, calls for the Lakers to replace him will grow.
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