Their Los Angeles Lakers got off to such a brutally awful 3-10 start while looking so under-talented that they already look like a lost prize for the 2022-23 NBA season, despite fielding a roster with two NBA 75 honorees in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both of whom remain All-Star talents when healthy.
After the team’s 33-49 2021-22 season, vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka put championship head coach Frank Vogel out of the can and traded most of his role players for younger, more athletic depth to help James, Davis and extremely supportive. overpaid ex-All-Star Russell Westbrook while working under the tutelage of new head coach Darvin Ham.
It’s pretty clear now (if it wasn’t already) that the problem isn’t coaching, it’s Pelinka’s roster selection. It all starts with the team’s decision to switch from solid, deep role players to Westbrook, who even in his prime on the pitch would have been an awkward match with James as both players are at their best with the ball and their hands.
Heavy’s Steve Bulpett reports that the Lakers are grappling with an uncertain present, but executives in the league seem to think the team deserves not to bet on its future (i.e. its two pretty valuable first-round draft picks in 2027 and to act in 2029). ) to placate James or Davis and help the team improve slightly this year.
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“I think the Lakers are going to hold out for a while,” said a team general manager who has been actively exploring the trade market lately, Bulpet. “I don’t know what else they can do. You have to keep in mind that they’re going to have a lot of room for salary caps, and do they really want to take that away by now spending money on a team that’s going nowhere?”
“I’ve heard the names being thrown around but I don’t see anything that gives them a real chance of winning anything. You’re better off letting Russell’s (Westbrook) $47 million get off the books and see where they are then. If they were to find someone to take him now, they would have to accept a salary that lasts into next year and probably beyond. It’ll just put her in the dirt for years to come. The important thing is to get out of the mud and not look a little better when you’re in it.”
That makes tactical sense, but at the same time, it sure is a waste of James’ Year 37 season. Outside of a Davis trade, it’s unclear what could be moving LA that could really take this team past, say, a .500 record and a play-in tournament finish (i.e., a 7-10 seed). Several moves were discussed for Westbrook, but due to his bloated expiring contract, the general expectation is that the Lakers would have to give up draft equity on any deal and that the team would add non-All-Star role players who would improve the team, without necessarily making them competitors
LA is caught between a rock and a hard spot.