Despite their formidable historical record and the fact that they managed to take home the championship in 2020, the Los Angeles Lakers have had an extremely disappointing 2021-2022 season. Performing below their usual standard and missing the playoffs altogether, as offseason training gets underway in earnest, do the once-mighty Lakers stand a better chance of making the grade in the approaching 2022-2023 season?
What Went Wrong in 2021/2022
Despite being considered the favorites to win the Western Conference, the LA Lakers had a rocky 2021/2022 campaign, finishing in 11th position with a 33-49 record and failing to make the NBA Play-In Tournament. As the Lakers’ worst performance since the 2016-2017 season, the franchise’s 74th NBA campaign alarmed fans to such an extent that it even led to the sacking of head coach Frank Vogel, in only his third year with the team. The Lakers’ underachievement is widely considered one of the greatest upsets in recent NBA memory, but what went wrong for the LA Lakers in 2021/2022?
It’s worth mentioning that the LA Lakers hired the now-sacked Vogel for his strategic defensive strength. However, this was not really demonstrated or put to good use on the court this year – the team failed to adequately defend the rim against shots and three-pointers, despite the presence of big-shot All-Stars DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard, two players renowned for their defensive prowess; Vogel failed to whip Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook into shape, while the bread-and-butter star LeBron James was assigned to offensive duties, with little strategic emphasis placed on the all-important defense.
While the Lakers’ roster did indeed feature big-name players such as Jordan, Howard, LeBron, Anthony Davis, and Rajon Rondo, the squad did not mesh as it should have. It was primarily focused on aging hoopers (aside from up-and-coming talent such as Talen Horton-Tucker). The Lakers’ willingness to let go of younger, versatile two-way players such as Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso in favor of older, more established front-heavy heavyweights like James and Westbrook seems to have backfired catastrophically.
Another major error in the last campaign was manifested in the team’s failure to acquire Buddy Hield and DeMar DeRozan (renowned for their shooting and three-pointer records) instead of going with Westbrook, apparently solely based on the recommendation of LeBron James. All in all, a combination of poor managerial decisions, an aging player roster, defensive weaknesses, and unexpected injury has led to a disastrous campaign for the LA Lakers franchise.
Win/Loss Totals & Betting This Season
With a predicted win/loss total of 44.5, the LA Lakers have plenty of ground to make up next season if they’re going to challenge other teams with more favorable odds at the playoffs. Major competitors for the 2023 NBA run include the Golden State Warriors (51.5), the Phoenix Suns, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Los Angeles Clippers (all with totals of 52.5).
While the Boston Celtics stand as the current favorites at the bookies with a win/loss total of 54.5 – the fact that the LA Lakers’ historical rivals have the best chance of taking the title next season will only add insult to injury for many fans. The Lakers would have to maintain a winning record and achieve 12 more wins than they did last season to make the grade next year – this is no mean feat, especially considering the last campaign’s injury woes and below-average performance on the court.
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Fitness and Injury
Last year’s LA Lakers campaign has been blighted by injury, with two of the team’s biggest stars (LeBron James and Anthony Davis) sitting out for 25 games of the season. Emerging Lakers hero Austin Reaves (who played in 61 games as a rookie in the 2021-2022 season) has emphasized a return to health and fitness as one of the main factors for the Lakers’ potential return to the playoffs in the next campaign. More unexpected injuries (especially those related to star players like James) could spell another brutal campaign for the LA Lakers.
The Big Three
As stated previously, injuries sustained by James and Davis (who make up the LA Lakers’ ‘big three’ along with Russell Westbrook) devastated the team’s performance last season. It’s thought that a new front bench in the coming campaign (boosted by Lonnie Walker IV, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Troy Brown Jr.) will work to cut the slack from last season.
There are rumors of Damian Jones being drafted alongside the big three, primarily to focus on shooting three-pointers for the team. Here’s hoping the LA Lakers can shape their roster and tactics to get back on the road to victory during the next NBA campaign.