Coming into the new year after a disappointing exit in the first round of the playoffs last season, all the buzz surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers was positive. It seemed as if they had reloaded the roster to a point that could compete with the elite teams in the NBA and make another run at an NBA title. Now equipped with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook the Lakers had the “big three” they so highly coveted since James came to Los Angeles in 2018. The team proceeded to sign shooters and veteran players to pair with the stars in order to create a roster filled with depth and experience. Players such as Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington, and Trevor Ariza were supposed to help the team space the floor while allowing the stars to play their role while on the court. In addition, the Lakers added guards Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn to bring some youthful energy to a team full of older, veteran players.
However, thus far, fate has had different plans for this Lakers team in the form of injuries, missed games, and inconsistent play. The center of the entire puzzle, LeBron James, has missed almost half of the teams’ games due to injury, suspension, and one covid-related issue. Ellington, Howard, Ariza and a few others have missed games due to injury while Nunn has yet to even suit up for Los Angeles. Head coach Frank Vogel said that Nunn most likely won’t take the court until at least early 2022. The roster that the Lakers front office put together during the offseason really hasn’t had a chance to play together and build up the necessary chemistry needed to go after a championship.
— TWSN (@TWSN___) September 17, 2021
Their defense has been a major issue this season, looking extremely slow on that side of the ball. The retirement home team sentiment that was placed on them prior to the season has really shown on defense with players consistently missing their spots and allowing open shots or drives to the basket. Vogel and the Lakers, since his arrival, have prided themselves on being a defensive first kind of a team but through the season so far, they have been anything but that. They’ll need to show they can improve in that area as the season goes along if they want to meet the goals that they set out for themselves.
Another issue that has hurt the Lakers this season has been pure effort shown from the players. With as such a heavy veteran team, it is expected that sometimes players may take some plays off or be a little slow since they know how to save energy for when it’s truly needed. However, as we have often seen with this Lakers team, they tend to play with a sense of “casualness” that causes a high turnover rate. Inconsistent effort has led this team to a middle of the pack record in the standings, somewhere they didn’t expect to be at this point in the season.
These issues won’t be solved overnight but if it continues somebody will need to take the fall for the struggles. Most likely that will be in the form of Vogel, fair or not. Yet I’d argue that some of the roster construction has left Vogel making the most of what he has had to work with. The decisions to let guard Alex Caruso walk out of town and trading away a good wing player in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were questionable at best. The defense has clearly suffered from the departures, and they didn’t really bring in players who could help fill the voids. Rookie Austin Reaves has been a nice find for Los Angeles and has given them somewhat of a replacement for Caruso. Reaves has shown the ability to play hard defense and even showed he may have the clutch gene after hitting a game winning three against the Dallas Mavericks in a game. The front office created what they believed to be a championship caliber roster and all the early signs point to the roster construction being an issue.
— TWSN (@TWSN___) December 16, 2021
Injuries and inconsistent play happen all the time, to all teams, but the Lakers aren’t just another NBA team. They are most storied franchise in the history of the NBA and were one of the favorites to win it all coming into the season thus scrutiny will be higher when they lose. Additionally, LeBron James won’t be around forever so the urgency to get things fixed must take place soon. Despite everything that has gone wrong for the Lakers, they have still shown flashes of the team many people envisioned them to be prior to the season. However, consistency is key, and they need to establish a true identity of what type of team they want to be and play with that strong mindset day in and day out. With Anthony Davis now scheduled to be out of the lineup due to injury for a few weeks, the Lakers will need to rely on the next man up mindset and if they don’t, they could find themselves once again sitting at home when the NBA Finals tip off next June.