Lessons and trends the Orlando Magic must learn from the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers

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Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers, Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
Anthony Davis’ defensive versatility made him extremely valuable to the Los Angeles Lakers’ title hopes. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Lesson 3: Defensive Versatility

Both the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers proved adaptability is key when it comes to the playoffs. You have to be able to play any way matchups dictate throughout the course of the playoffs — and have the coach willing to shift as the matchup requires.

The Lakers were one of the best defensive teams in the league throughout the season — they finished third in the league in defensive rating.

Their team is full of strong individual defenders from Defensive Player of the Year finalist Anthony Davis, LeBron James (when he wants to be), Avery Bradley (who sat out the bubble), Alex Caruso, Rajon Rondo and the like.

Coach Frank Vogel, with actual defensive players at his disposal, implemented the same devastating defense he did with the Indiana Pacers and locked out the paint. Even with JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, he was able to play with two bigs because Davis was so adept at playing on the perimeter.

The Heat were not the same defensive team their reputation has created this year. But they dialed it up in the postseason. Their ability to throw zone defenses at teams often threw them off and they could nimbly transition between the two to keep offenses off balance.

In either case, their defensive versatility was key. The Heat could play a number of different defenses and still keep their core identity on that end. So too could the Lakers as they nixed their two-big starting lineups for the Finals going with Caruso over Howard in Game 6 to clinch the title.

Miami Heat
Miami Heat /

Miami Heat

Here, the Magic have at least one thing that seems to be on the right track. Orlando has collected several versatile defenders who can help the team play bigger or smaller as needed or in multiple ways.

Jonathan Isaac is obviously the prized defensive player who can probably defend all five positions. The Magic would love to employ him like the Lakers used Davis, able to slide between the post and the perimeter with ease. Isaac is more of a wing player than Davis, but the model is there.

Orlando also has versatile wing defenders like Aaron Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and (potentially) Chuma Okeke to help lock down the perimeter. Michael Carter-Williams is a versatile defender who can guard point guards too. Mohamed Bamba still projects as a potentially elite rim protector.

The Magic are building their program and franchise on defense. They have been fairly successful on that end in the regular season. The playoffs have still been a different story as the Magic try to tie all the pieces together.

Here too, coach Steve Clifford has sometimes not been quick enough to adjust on the fly and fully use the versatility of the roster.

Orlando should still put an emphasis on this defensive versatility even as they look to fill other needs and skills on the roster. This is one thing the Magic have right.