The Los Angeles Lakers were in excellent form before the start of the season – on paper and according to the Oatsmakers they were considered a favorite to win the NBA title.
Once the games started, the Lakers were average, and until the end of the season week, they weren’t doing well – a $ 150 million list with big names and nothing to show for it.
The Lockers were eliminated from the postseason last season after losing 121-110 to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, a fitting and disappointing decision for the 2021-22 season.
The association of harmful factors is empty in the sea of trouble: injuries; Bad list construction, including Russell Westbrook’s trade; Inability to update inventory before the February trading deadline; A strong and advanced Western conference.
All of this creates another problem: next season may be less promising than the current season.
The Lockers will end the season with a defeat, and for the seventh time in nine seasons they were under 500. With that run, the Lakers had four coaches, and it would be the fifth time in 2020 that they have decided to switch from Frank Vocal, who led the title to a title.
That championship was significant, with the Lakers equaling Boston with the most titles (17) in NBA history. There are teams that want to have a title in the last four seasons, including teams that have not won a single title or won in five decades.
But most lockers are not owners. When they signed LeBron James four years ago and bought Anthony Davis three years ago, they were expected to compete for several championships. The Lakers did it once. They missed the playoffs in James’ first season, won his second title at the Orlando Bubble, lost in the first round last season and missed the postseason again in 2021-22.
Regardless of how it is designed from the Lockers’ point of view, much has been expected over the past four seasons.
Injuries hurt the lockers without question. Davis missed 38 games, James 21, full season based on Kendrick Nun, Dylan Horton-Tucker 18, and Trevor Arisa 30.
Healthy Davis and James certainly elevate the Lakers to the playoffs but are not sure what makes them a title contender. Sustainability is also an issue. Davis has played half of Los Angeles’ games this season and half last season, and James has missed a third of all potential games in the last two seasons.
If this continues to be a problem, list changes may not be enough. The Lakers need healthy James and Davis to compete in the West.
If James and Davis are healthy, they need a better list. Bad and misleading advice, the trade for Westbrook lost a gamble. Westbrook did not have his best season and he struggled to find the role that would allow him to thrive. His shooting percentages and turnover were similar to other seasons, and he was not expected to match his scoring, resilience and assist numbers on a team with James and Davis.
In 21 games, James, Davis and Westbrook played together, the Lakers just 11-10. Westbrook does not fit exactly. He was part of the problem, but he was not the problem. The Lakers wanted more players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Alex Caruso – precisely the players who allowed them to trade to Westbrook or walk for free agency.
After capturing Westbrook, the Lakers had no way of signing the type of players who would provide the skill and depth needed to win in the West.
The Lakers were not so good from the start and recorded a few wins in the season – 6-5 to 8-6; 14-13 to 16-13 to 16-15; 20-19 to 21-19 to 21-20.
Since 22-22 on Jan. 17, the Lockers are not back at the .500 and went 9-26 after appearing to the Suns on Tuesday.. All three teams had a poor winning percentage, and the Lakers were unable to make its impact before the February trading deadline.
Even at the All-Star break, Los Angeles was 27-31 and ninth – a run-getter in seventh place, 20 games ahead of Portland and 4½ ahead of New Orleans and San Antonio. When the Lockers needed to win games at the end of February, March and April, they went 4-17.. As the San Antonio and New Orleans play-in game moved into conflict, the win percentage was only bad in Portland.
The Lakers were not enough – 23rd offensive and defensive. The Lakers gave up more points in the paint (27th in the league) and did not have enough on the outside shooting. Malik Monk, who was signed by the Lakers as the best free-agent in 2021, was not deep enough, and his performance this season earned him the best deal of the season with another team.
This season is over. What about next season? This does not seem promising.
In the short term, look at what the Lockers are doing with Vogue. Sometimes, someone has to pick up the fall. With limited list flexibility, it is not uncommon to try a new voice.
NBA Draft? Well, here’s a tasty stalk. If the choice of lockers falls between 1-10, it goes to New Orleans, a by-product of the 2019 trade, which sent Davis to the Pelicans along with Lockers and Lonzo Paul, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart.
After that, the responsibility rests with Rob Belinga, vice president of basketball operations. He designed this list and it is his job to improve it. It will not be easy. There is no salary limit for the lockers until he rejects the Westbrook players’ options of the $ 47 million he owes in 2022-23. Between James, Westbrook and Davis, they will eat $ 129.45 million next season, which is more than the $ 122 million salary limit for a team.
Taxpayers’ interim exemption ($ 6.4 million per season) and senior player minimum ($ 953,000- $ 2.72 million) should build around their margins. This is not a great way to recreate a competitor. Their margin for error is narrow, and there is competition from the best teams to contract the same players. If you are a player looking for a title and want to sign up for a discount, would you sign up with Phoenix or Lockers? Nuggets or lockers? Celtics or Lakers? Sixers or Lakers?
Trading for Westbrook is not impossible. A year ago, the Wizards pulled it off and discovered they were eager to make a move. The same frustration is hard to imagine this season, especially the $ 47 million for 2022-23.
Lockers can take the extreme option and try to trade Davis. That seems unlikely given James’ relationship with Davis, and James and Davis are represented by the same agent, Rich Paul, of Clutch Sports.
Any team with James and Davis provides a solid starting point even at the Deep Western Conference, which will be even better next season.
But Pelinka – if lockers owners Jeanie Buss decides to hold him accountable – will have to make quick fixes in a situation where quick fixes are unrealistic.
There is another summary of the Lockers’ pre-office maneuvers, and it is the influence of former Lockers forward Kurt Rambis who has a bad title: Director, Basketball Affairs. Rambis and his wife Linda, who is the group’s managing director of social relations and special events, are close to Bus. Their influence, especially Kurt’s influence, should not be underestimated when it comes to basketball affairs.
The Lakers were rocked following the departure of Bill Jackson and in the middle of Kobe Bryant’s final seasons. They rediscovered the magic with James and Davis in 2020, but this seems to be the exception to the last decade of the Lakers ball.
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