The NBA Report: Can anyone fix the Lakers?


Coming into the 2022 NBA season, expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers were sky-high.
After a disappointing playoff loss to the Phoenix Suns, L.A.’s most storied franchise was set to pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis with newcomer Russell Westbrook, forming a daunting triumvirate. 

Through it all, LeBron has remained dominant, another testament to his remarkable period of sustained greatness. Malik Monk, too, has been a bright spot, though his play this year has likely vaulted him out of the Lakers’ price range next summer. 

But something just hasn’t clicked. Davis missed a chunk of the first half of the season and Westbrook has been an awkward, if not completely mismatched, fit for the majority of the year. 

The trade deadline has passed and the Lakers stayed put, neither adding nor subtracting anyone from their deeply flawed roster.

Now, the question is: What can the Lakers do? With a 27-33 record, L.A. is in ninth-place in the Western Conference. If the NBA season ended today, the Lakers would be in the play-in tournament, which means they would need to win two consecutive add-on games at the end of the season just to make the playoffs. 

LeBron famously once criticized the creation of the play-in tournament, saying that its creator should be fired.

Once in the playoffs, they would face off with the best team in the conference, likely either the Phoenix Suns (a rematch of last year’s first round), the Golden State Warriors or the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Lakers are already fighting an uphill battle, which is not to mention the fact that they face the hardest remaining schedule in the league in the coming months.

Though, it is not the only one, the most obvious issue with the Lakers is Westbrook’s performance this season. At times his deficiencies have rewired the entire organization, like the stretch of games in which LeBron was playing at the center position so that Westbrook could have the ball in his hands more. 

Not only is LeBron not big enough to guard opposing centers, but placing that amount of physical stress on a 37-year-old playing in his 19th NBA season adds significant wear-and-tear to his body.  

Westbrook has struggled so mightily that Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has opted to sit him during the end of games, choosing to close with Avery Bradley or Talen Horton-Tucker in his place. 

I cannot remember a time in which a former NBA superstar, set to receive $44 million under contract in a season, has been unable to finish games, with a coach opting for far less talented and experienced players instead.

I almost feel bad for LeBron—as a basketball fan, I hate to see, arguably, the greatest player of all time have a season like his while his team flounders—until I remember that LeBron met with Westbrook in the preseason and was surely an integral part of the decision that brought him to L.A.

Though the fit was ostensibly awkward, this is a star-driven league, and stars get what they want. 

Unfortunately for Lakers fans, Westbrook will be on this team for at least the rest of the season until the summer when the Lakers’ front office can gauge Westbrook’s value as a trade piece.

After this season, I find it hard to see any team taking on his enormous contract given his decline as a player. 

The Lakers can potentially add a player or two via the buy-out market (in which a player sacrifices a certain amount of their salary to their current team in return for that team releasing them from their contract), but none of the available players are likely to make much of an impact. 

They could, alternatively, just move forward with the roster as constructed, but that team will not make it far in the playoffs (if they even make the playoffs).

Letting a fantastic season like this from LeBron go to waste would be a shameful and inexcusable mistake from the Lakers’ management, but after the trade deadline’s passing, they might not have many options left. 

If the plan is to be reevaluated after this season ends, LeBron should rest through a considerable amount of games this spring. There is no reason to add any more mileage to his career in a throw-away season.

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    I like your analysis but I don’t care if anyone fixes the Lakers. I’m still upset from a long ago playoff game that the refs took away from Sacramento because people would rather see the Lakers. I would rather not. Listening to Lehigh – Army, Brown & White up at half. I would rather watch or listen to them than the Lakers any day.

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