It has been two years since the Los Angeles Lakers lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy in Orlando. Bettors on OKBET and other legal betting sites thought it would start a new Lakers dynasty with Anthony Davis and LeBron James at the center.
However, any hopes of a championship quickly dissipated when the Purple and Gold failed to follow up on their performance in the NBA bubble. They were forced to watch from the sidelines as the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors reaped all the glory.
After a horrible 1-9 start to the season, the Lakers will face an uphill climb to reach the pinnacle of professional basketball. The question on everyone’s mind is whether LA can save their season and prepare for a deep playoff run.
This piece will try to pinpoint why the Lakers failed to meet the lofty standards they set for themselves after their 2020 triumph. We’ll also try to predict what the Lakers will do next.
King James was the epitome of health for much of his Hall Of Fame career. He never missed more than 20 games in a season in his first 17 years in the league. He was also on the floor, averaging an incredible 38 minutes per game until his first championship with the Lakers.
His body finally felt the signs of wear after he won his fourth ring with the Lakers. The Brow only played 45 games during the 2020-21 season, and the subsequent year saw him play 56. He averaged 36 MPG during these two seasons. He also missed six of the 21 games the Purple and Gold played this season.
We can expect the Lakers to manage his minutes more to keep him fresh for their playoff push later this season. Given James’s importance to the team’s success, this problem will continue to hurt their chances of making a deep playoff run.
Another glaring issue that stopped the Lakers from getting more wins is Davis’ poor health. Davis missed 88 games over the past two years due to injury, effectively sitting out an entire season’s worth of regular season games.
His absence hurt the team’s chances because no one could take over his solid production: he averaged 22.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 2.0 blocks a game during that span.
The Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 Finals despite failing to chase after a third star during the summer. While the extraordinary circumstances of the Orlando bubble played a factor, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did enough to push over the Miami Heat in six.
They felt the lack of a third star immediately after, though. With Davis out for half of the 2020-21 season, teams could focus on James and limit his production on the floor. Dennis Schroeder and Montrezl Harrel weren’t enough to get the Lakers past the Phoenix Suns in the first round.
The following season didn’t fare much better. Russell Westbrook was a good addition, but his lack of three-point shooting and poor defense was a poor fit for the Lakers. While his play is improving this season, he and Patrick Beverley can be argued as terrible fits for the style of basketball the Lakers will want to play.
There are various routes the Lakers could take, which will require a lot from their players. While these possibilities have varying effects on the current roster, they will completely change how the Lakers approach this season and the coming years.
One of the possible routes they can pursue is to exchange Davis for a pool of talented players. They gave up picks and young talent to get Davis, which rooted out their roster. While the Brow is a talented player, his injury-prone body may not be the best option for LA moving forward.
Given Davis’ performances this season, there are plenty of possible trade destinations where they can get a lot in exchange for his services. The Toronto Raptors have plenty of young talent to entice Rob Pelinka with. Organizations that may want to reset their teams in the Suns and the Brooklyn Nets are also possible destinations.
The team is centered around LeBron James, and Davis has been more than happy to play Robin to his Batman. However, the King only has a few years left, and his eventual departure or retirement may leave the team a hollow shell without him.
Davis is phenomenal this season (he’s had five 30-point games since mid-November), so making him the primary focal point of the team is also a viable option. Slowly transitioning James into the second option will instantly make LA one of the more dangerous teams in the league.
However, James may react negatively to this change. Given how well he’s still performing at year 20, it may take some convincing from Darvin Ham to make him accept the role.
This is the unlikeliest scenario for the Lakers. They cannot win a chip without either LeBron or Davis, and Westbrook’s value as a player significantly diminished compared to two years ago.
It will take a lot of work for Pelinka to pull a masterstroke of a trade similar to the Kevin Love trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015. But suppose he manages to make something out of trading Westbrook and Beverley. In that case, they can have one more shot at a championship for the City of Angels.
Should the situation become too untenable, it may be a great idea to trade both James and Davis to focus on rebuilding the roster. They could try to join the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, but it’s more likely they’ll pull off what the Utah Jazz did this past offseason.
Given how hot the Jazz started the year, trading for quality players in exchange for their two stars is looking better by the minute for the disgruntled Los Angeles Lakers.