It pains me to write this, it really does. But, it’s impossible to ignore the facts. The Los Angeles Lakers have three of the top 75 players to ever play the game in LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. Between them that trio have five MVP trophies, 36 All-Star appearances and three scoring championships. The trio collectively have led the Association in assists four times, blocks three times and have won five NBA Finals. Sure, you can point to their collective age (average is 33.67 years) and their health (looking at you AD), but it is undeniable that these are three of the best to ever play the game.
Yet, despite all that greatness, their combined record as teammates over the last two seasons is 58-79. That’s a winning percentage of .423. Yuck.
Frank Vogel led his 2021-22 team to a 33-49 record (.402) and Darvin Ham has only improved on that a bit. Ham’s 2022-23 team is 25-30 (.455) so far this season. So, it’s not the coach. It’s time to admit what has been evident for some time, this team, as constructed, just doesn’t work. The pieces don’t fit together. Ketchup is amazing, so is vanilla ice cream. But, you don’t want to combine those two – do you? The 2021-22 and 2022-23 Los Angeles Lakers are vanilla ice cream with a healthy dose of ketchup all mushed together.
It’s Not Just This Season
In fact, in the last 10 seasons going back to 2013-14, the Lakers have only finished above .500 twice. Coincidentally, those were the shortened 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. If you account for only a full 82-game season, the Lakers are 221-408 (.351) over their last 8 seasons. Now, I am not purposefully glossing over the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. I realize the Lakers won it all in 2020. But, when you look at the whole picture, it’s not hard to tell that those seasons were an aberration. They were a mirage, an oasis in a long, hot, water-less desert. The 2020 Championship was legitimate, but the franchise clearly couldn’t sustain it.
Instead of building on that success, the franchise reverted back to sub .500.
The worst thing that can happen to a poor 3-point shooter is when he or she makes their first 3-point shot. Confidence is up at that moment and they chuck up another long range heat check and end the game with 7 points on 1-4 from deep. The Lakers won it all and instead of building on that success, which was largely due to one of the best defenses in the Association, they passed on defensive stalwarts like Alex Caruso and built what now looks to be a dysfunctional team. Sure, it’s shiny, it’s new, it comes with all the accolades, but it just doesn’t work together.
Making matters all the worse, this dysfunction is coming while the team employs the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. Interestingly, the woes started for the Lakers in the 2013-14 season and continue today. That means the bookends of this horrible Lakers run are the final seasons of Kobe Bryant‘s career and now LeBron James’. Of course, LeBron has a few seasons left, so there is time for the Lakers to right the ship, but will they?
The Best Way Out Is Something the Franchise Won’t Do
The only realistic path forward is to rebuild. Unfortunately, the franchise doesn’t like to rebuild, they prefer to reload. They do have two great trade assets in Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. Davis is only 29 and one of the best to do it, when he is healthy. Teams would absolutely trade for him. In fact, there have been reports of inquiries for Davis. Westbrook’s appeal, despite his recent success off the bench, is that he is on an expiring contract. A really large expiring contract! So yes, the team has assets and I’m not even including their draft picks.
Could they turn those assets into a player who could make a difference? Possibly. The only player that may be available and might move the needle is Kevin Durant. I think we can all agree that the chances of that happening are pretty slim. So, a more realistic route would be to bring in more role players or stars on the downside of their career. Doing that would likely doom the franchise to more sub .500 seasons. A better option would be to not repeat the mistakes of the past and start over. Trade those assets for picks, lots of them, and let the Lakers faithful fall in love with a young, energetic and passionate team.
You know, like the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team that rained on LeBron’s parade last night.
That is the best move. That is the right move. But, that is not what this Lakers franchise will do. Which means that baring a miracle, Lakers faithful are in for another few seasons of hoping instead of celebrating.
Lakers fans and this franchise deserve better.