This season in the NBA we’ve seen the rise of the Los Angeles Lakers, who are finally back in a firm playoff position with a team that can compete for a championship. Many people have concentrated their focus on the dominance of the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as they have proved to be a lethal partnership this season.
Another thing that people have focused on is the emergence of Dwight Howard, who is back with Lakers and has been able to give them great minutes off the bench with his shot-blocking abilities, rebounding, and efficiency on offense.
The one aspect of this Lakers team that nobody seems to be talking about is the job that first-year head coach Frank Vogel has done for the Lakers this year. Especially when you think about how heavily scrutinized the Lakers were for hiring him.
Last season was a tough one for the Lakers, as expectations were high since they had just signed LeBron James over the summer to complement the talented young players that they currently had on the roster. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma along with James were expected to elevate the Lakers back into the playoffs.
With a plethora of veterans like JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, and Lance Stephenson as well as young Head Coach Luke Walton going into his third year with the team, it would be interesting to see how the Lakers would perform with the addition of Lebron.
The Lakers started off the season in playoff contention as James, Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma were starting to all play well together, and then on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers were looking good against the defending champions, but then LeBron James hurt his groin, and the Lakers were not the same for the rest of the season.
With James being out, the Lakers’ young core was not able to fill the void left in James’ absence. It also didn’t help that the Lakers were trying very hard to acquire star power forward Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans.
The biggest problem with this was how public the trade proposals had been as we saw the Lakers were willing to give up almost half of their team for Anthony Davis, and that did not sit well with young players like Ingram, Kuzma, and Ball.
This trade not going through, the injuries that the Lakers suffered, and the lack of cohesion were just a few of the reasons why the Lakers ultimately missed out on the playoffs.
As a result of the underwhelming season, Head Coach Luke Walton was fired, and before that, Magic Johnson stepped down as the President of Basketball Operation. It was a shocking move that came completely out of nowhere at the time.
It would later be revealed that Johnson was not happy with his role, as there was a reported power struggle between him and General Manager Rob Pelinka. With all that being said, the Lakers had to attend to the pressing issue at hand which was, who will be their next head coach?
The Lakers interviewed Monty Williams, who was a Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach and former head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, Tyronn Lue, who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first championship in 2017, and Frank Vogel, who was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers for 6 years and was a year removed from two years as the head coach of the Orlando Magic.
Most people thought that the Lakers would go with Lue because of his connection with LeBron James in Cleveland, as many people have been under the impression for years that James is difficult to coach.
First, the Lakers would interview Monty Williams for the job, but he ultimately decided to go and take the Phoenix Suns coaching job instead. They would then interview Lue, who seemed like the favorite at the time. They did not go in this direction, as it was reported that the Lakers were only willing to offer Lue a three-year deal when he wanted a five-year deal, because that tends to be the standard for incoming head coaches.
After that, the Lakers hired Frank Vogel as their next head coach, which was HEAVILY SCRUTINIZED by many especially because Vogel was coming off two seasons in Orlando where he won just 29 games and 25 games in two seasons. On top of that, the year after Vogel was fired in Orlando, Steve Clifford helped the Magic win 42 games, which secured a playoff spot with many of the same players that Vogel had.
The big move that the Lakers made over the summer was finally acquiring Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, as the Lakers would trade Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks in the deal.
Also during the summer, the Lakers would add to their roster as they would sign some good veterans like Avery Bradley, Danny Green, and Dwight Howard, as they looked to bolster their roster hoping for a big bounce-back season.
This year the Lakers have been simply fantastic in so many different ways, and they have definitely proved that they will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time. The duo of James and Davis has been simply unstoppable, as they have both been able to feed off each other’s rhythm.
James this season has been the de facto point guard for the Laker, which was a tough decision for Coach Vogel to make, but it has paid dividends, as James is leading the league in assists with 10.7 a game, and he is still averaging 25 points a game in his 17th NBA season at the age of 35.
This is another example of James’ greatness. The impact that Anthony Davis has made on this Lakers team cannot be understated, as he is currently averaging 26.7 points a game along with 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, as he has been an enforcer on defense.
In the midst of all this, people forget that Frank Vogel, in his first year as the coach of a team that last year missed the playoffs, is now first in the Western Conference with a record of 42-12, and just clinched their first playoff birth since the 2012-13 season.
Under Vogel, the Lakers have made huge strides offensive and defensively. Last year, the Lakers were 24th in offensive rating and 12th in defensive rating. This year, they have jumped to 4th in offensive rating and 3rd in defensive rating according to Basketball-Reference.
Another tough decision that Vogel made was having Kyle Kuzma, who many consider being a rising young star, come off the bench. This has caused Kuzma to have fewer minutes and not put up the same kind of numbers he had in his first two years in the league, but he has still been able to accept his role and make an impact off the bench.
With all of that being said, it will be interesting to see how far the Lakers go this year, as despite all the success they’ve had this season, they have also dealt with some tragedy. When on January 26th, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, along with 7 other people, died in a helicopter crash that would put the whole world in a very sad state of mind.
It would be amazing if the Lakers did win a championship this year, because it would be a great way to honor the legacy of Kobe Bryant. Something that would also be very interesting would be Frank Vogel leading the Lakers to a championship.
That’s something that not a lot of people would think would happen especially when you think about how much of a mess the Lakers seemed to be a year ago.
A turnaround like that would be one incredible story to tell for years to come, and for everyone thinking before the season that the Lakers made the wrong choice in picking Frank Vogel as their next head coach, you might want to reconsider your stance on that.