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The Los Angeles Lakers were the championship pick of many, but they have done little to reaffirm those convictions. Due to questionable off-season moves and little flexibility, the current iteration of the Los Angeles Lakers is not a championship-caliber team.

By adding Russell Westbrook, the Lakers completely punted on depth (which kept them in the playoffs towards the end of last season), defense (the biggest reason they won the championship in 2020), and shooting (they shot 48.9% from the field in the 2020 playoff, first amongst all teams).

But besides that, and the fact that Westbrook makes terrible crunch time decisions, trading three rotational guys and a first-round pick for the 2nd worst contract in the NBA was a great idea. I won’t get super in-depth here, but almost every on/off-court stat and all the advanced analytics say that the Lakers are better without Westbrook.


Also, they added a huge group of older dudes that they knew couldn’t play defense. They traded their great defense to try to get a great offense, but they are only 20th in offensive rating and 15th in defensive rating. We all know Frank Vogel is a great defensive coach, but insisting that he turn Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony into good defenders is lunacy.



However, as we have seen with LeBron James’ teams in the past, they have no qualms with shaking up the entire roster to try to compete for a championship. For example, many have pointed to the 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers’ season as a template for this Lakers’ season, which is understandable but only on the surface. In 2018, the Cavs traded 7 players and 4 draft picks at the trade deadline, which resulted in them upgrading their team significantly and making the NBA Finals.

However… this year it will be immensely more difficult to trade everyone. In the 2017-18 season, the Cavs only had one player on a max contract – LeBron. Kevin Love was second on the payroll with 22M. They had seven players making between 5M and 20M before the trade deadline. They traded 4 of them. The Cavs that year had quite a few very tradeable contracts, making it easy for them to package that with a few picks and trade for a flurry of upgrades.

However, the same cannot be said for this Lakers’ team. They have only two players making between 5M and 20M this season. In fact, they have only two players making between 2M and 34M this season. They are extremely hard-capped because of the three max contracts on their books (Westbrook, LeBron, and Anthony Davis).

Speaking of Davis, they also traded their entire cupboard of assets to acquire him. Their current assets consist of Talen Horton-Tucker (who they didn’t want to trade for Kyle Lowry), Kendrick Nunn, and three first-round picks – two of which can only be traded as pick swaps. Only their 2027 first-round pick can be traded straight up. Not many teams are going to find that package interesting enough to trade for.

Obviously, Westbrook has quite a large contract and they might be able to turn that into depth and defense, which, ironically, is exactly what the Wizards-Lakers trade was a few months ago. However, Westbrook’s trade value has declined substantially over the past month and a half. Combine that with the fact that he has never won anything in his career and is making 44M this season and I seriously doubt if the Lakers can trade him at all.

And no, trading him for John Wall doesn’t make sense. Feel free to suggest Westbrook trade partners because I cannot find one for the life of me.

With all the above being said, what changes can they make? Well, since they are Los Angeles, they will be very active in the buyout market, but good luck finding a good defensive player that will be bought out. Maybe Thaddeus Young will be bought out, but why would he choose the Lakers over the Bucks, Nets, Heat, etc? Realistically, the only change they can make is to their coach.

I hate to say this. I believe Frank Vogel is a great coach in an impossible situation. But if the trade deadline goes by without any trades presenting themselves, and the buyout market is dry, and the Lakers are on the brink of missing the playoffs again, Vogel could be looking at unemployment. Again. Now, is David Fizdale or Marc Jackson or someone else going to turn this team around? Well… I’ll be nice and say it’s not very likely. However, it might be the only real change the Lakers will be able to make.

Oh, by the way, they have had the 2nd easiest strength of schedule and have played 64% of their games at home thus far. I also haven’t even mentioned them letting go of Alex Caruso, who is looking like an all-defensive player on the resurgent Bulls and would be the perfect player to have on the Lakers.

As much as it is fun watching this team struggle, the NBA is better when the Lakers are involved.

I hope a miracle is found that saves this atrocious team, but I am having serious doubts about their future as championship contenders.