The 2021-22 NBA season was meant to be when the Los Angeles Lakers returned to the dazzling form every basketball fan knows they are capable of, but it simply has not happened. The Lakers were poor last year, finishing seventh overall with a .583 win percentage and losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Phoenix Suns. Lakers fans are preparing themselves for the prospect of not being involved in the playoffs at all.
All the California sports betting sites has the Lakers among the favorites to go all the way and become the NBA champions for the 18th time in the franchise’s history. However, through 58 games of the 82 game schedule, the Lakers are languishing in ninth place in the Western Conference with a .466 win percentage, some 21 games behind the Suns, and six games behind securing a playoff spot without the lottery of the wild card games.
The Lakers’ away form has been miserable with the team 9-18 on the road. Only the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets, who both have seven away victories, have won less when they didn’t have home-court advantage.
LeBron James is having one of the best seasons of his career despite being 38-years-old. James averages 29.0 points, 6.5 assists, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. Who knows where the Lakers would be if James were not defying the laws of nature and performing to such a high level at his age.
The Lakers Got Recruitment Completely Wrong
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The biggest problem lies in the recruitment by the Lakers’ front office. A number of the signing were questionable at best. Carmelo Anthony (37), Dwight Howard (36), Trevor Ariza (36), DeAndre Jordan (33), and Russell Westbrook (33) were favored over the league-wide trend of investing in youth. Those signings pushed the Lakers roster’s average age to 30.0, which is by far the oldest in the league. Only the Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets, with an average age of 28.1, come close to the aging Lakers.
Packing your team full of veterans is all well and good if they hit the ground running, but that has not been the case, especially when it comes to defensive duties. Lakers’ opponents average 112.4 points per game, ranking the Lakers defense 26th out of the league’s 30 franchises. That figure is nowhere near good enough, pure and simple.
Re-singing the promising yet unproven Talen Horton-Tucker to a three-year $31 million contract instead of keeping hold of Alex Caruso looks to be another significant misstep in the Lakers roster management. Horton-Tucker has bags of ability, but he has been chiefly ineffective on the court this season. In contrast, Caruso has been a vital component of the Chicago Bulls’ rise up the Eastern Conference.
However, going all out for Westbrook could be one of the worst moves the Lakers have made in recent history. Lakers gave up a number 22 pick in the 2021 draft plus traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and Kyle Kusma to the Washington Wizards for Westbrook. It was a vast, unnecessary gamble that has not paid off. Westbrook was the 2017 NBA MVP, but he needs the ball in his hands to be effective. Why would you take the ball out of James’ hands to accommodate Westbrook? In addition, Westbrook’s massive wages make the Lakers financially inflexible, which is one of the reasons they have signed several other “stars” reaching the ends of their careers.
What Next For The Lakers?
The Lakers beat the Utah Jazz 106-101 on February 16 and do not play again until February 25, giving their aging squad a much-needed rest. They take on local rivals L.A. Clippers at home before ending February by hosting the struggling New Orleans Pelicans. Both those games are winnable, on paper at least. Should they win those two games, it will be only the third time Lakers have won more than two consecutive fixtures this season. Two wins would push the Lakers up to eighth in the Western Conference and give them confidence going into the season’s final stretch.