The Los Angeles Lakers are officially out of the postseason picture after falling 121-110 to the Phoenix Suns Tuesday evening.
Predictions today look far different from how they did during the offseason, for despite their deplorable regular season, the oddsmakers had earmarked the Lakers as the top choice to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals during the offseason.
The only way to go for Lakers fans is up, but that does not change the despair that they are facing today.
What Went Wrong?
The Los Angeles Lakers were doomed from day one; their roster was constructed with aging veterans everywhere on the roster, and the ramifications were felt nearly instantly.
The once-defensive-minded Lakers have not played a lick of D this season and are now closer to the bottom than they are to the top in defensive rating. Head coach Frank Vogel never settled on a consistent rotation either, intermingling nearly every player on the roster in the opening and closing lineups— and seemingly not by plan either, but out of desperation.
The Lakers were also forced to turn to unsuspecting characters— namely Austin Reaves and mid-season signing Stanley Johnson— to play large chunks of minutes after their household names began to falter.
The only real defense the Lakers have was their overall lack of health; Anthony Davis missed over half of the season with multiple injuries, LeBron James also missed different periods with ailments, and free-agent acquisition Kendrick Nunn will finish the season without playing a single minute on the court.
It was only fitting that the Suns were the team that eliminated the Lakers after Davis stated that they would have beaten the same Phoenix team in the first round of last year’s playoffs had they been healthy. Devin Booker and the rest of the Suns’ roster took exception to the Lakers star’s criticism and unleashed their fury on Tuesday night.
Looking Ahead to Next Year
Changes are brewing in Los Angeles.
Frank Vogel is all but guaranteed to be released from his active duty as head coach of the Lakers. Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers and Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder have been floated around as potential replacements for the soon-to-be-vacant spot, but each comes with question marks.
Snyder has found mild success in Utah, leading them up the Western Conference ladder and revolutionizing the way they play basketball, but he has not found any real postseason success. On the flip side, Rivers is a former NBA champion but has a multi-year deal with Philadelphia. If he does end up being available this summer, it will only be because his team underachieved in the playoffs and would mark the second straight season that he has been fired.
Russell Westbrook, a common source of Lakers troubles, had also been speculated to be on his way out this summer, but comments after the Phoenix game indicate that he plans on reuniting with James and Davis in LA next season and giving the “360” trio another go, much to the disappointment of many purple and gold fans.
The Lakers also face a tough task rebuilding their roster, with many of their current players being older veterans on expiring deals. They will also have to try to re-sign Malik Monk and figure out whether they want to keep or trade Talen Horton-Tucker, who they infamously kept over Alex Caruso.
Even more concerning is the fact that the Lakers will likely have to enter the luxury tax to attract any impact players on the open market, which they have not been completely open to doing in recent years. If they want to maximize LeBron’s championship window, which, despite his scoring, is closing quickly because of his inability to lock in defensively for four quarters.
It is a long road back to glory for the Lakers, so every move they make will be under the microscope until they return to championship contention.