Los Angeles Fakers: Biggest bust in NBA history


Dalton Hartmann

The LA Lakers have three of the league’s five oldest players and six of the league’s 12 oldest players. The team’s average age is 30.0, which is the sixth oldest roster in history.

Luke Lawhorn, Assistant Sports Editor

As of April 5, the Los Angeles Lakers are officially out of not just the playoffs, but the play-in tournament as well. The NBA playoffs start on April 16, where the top 10 teams in each conference make the tournament. Of the 30 teams in the NBA, 10 do not make the playoffs, meaning only five teams from each conference miss the postseason. The Lakers’ preseason odds to win the NBA title was +350, with the Brooklyn Nets being the only team ahead of them (+225). The Lakers went from being predicted to get into the NBA Finals, to not even making the play-in tournament, showing they were not only disappointing but genuinely a bad basketball team. 

The current state of NBA teams is a “win now” mode, meaning teams who believe they have a great player will go and spend all their draft picks and salary cap to build around said player to win the championship. Because the Lakers think that they are in “win now” mode, they made a bunch of moves in last year’s offseason, most notably acquiring Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Washington Wizards. The Lakers gave up Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who were key pieces to the team in previous seasons. The Lakers also signed Carmelo Anthony, Kendrick Nunn, Trevor Ariza and Malik Monk, changing nearly two-thirds of their roster. Though many experts and even the casual fan predicted the team to have an odd fit, or even be a tad overrated to be in the championship game, no one predicted the Lakers to be out of the playoffs entirely. 

With all of the new moves the Lakers made, the question was how long would it take for the team to develop chemistry? From the beginning of the season on Oct. 19, the Lakers just never looked right. They lost their first two games, then balanced around .500 until Jan. 17, when they were 22-22. Since then, LA has gone 10-27, with a record of 32-49, 17 games under .500. 

Besides the obvious new additions to the team, things just did not go in the Lakers’ favor. Russell Westbrook is aging poorly. He shoots 44.4% from the floor and 29.8% from the three-point line. Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ supposed second-best player, has only played 40 games this season due to injuries. Davis is also shooting a career-low 18.6% from three. LeBron James, who is currently second in the NBA in points per game with 30.3, has also missed time due to injuries. As a team, the Lakers are 19th overall in rebounds, 16th in assists and 23rd in defensive rating. The Lakers lost young players and their future by trading assets away, and their next first-round pick is not until 2027. So, unless they blow up the entire roster by trading players away, this problem will not go away anytime soon. 

This year’s Lakers are the biggest bust in sports history. The only other comparable teams who had high hopes but fell short are the 1996-97 Houston Rockets with Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler, but they still made the Western Conference Finals. The 2012-13 Lakers with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in their last years were not nearly as good as expected, but they still made the playoffs. The 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets, similarly to the ’13 Lakers, had a bunch of older players trying to win in their final seasons with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. They still went to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In all these instances, the playoffs were only an eight-team per conference layout. But as mentioned earlier, it is now 10 teams. The Lakers did not just miss the championship game, or not win a series in the playoffs, or not even miss the playoffs; they missed the 10 seed. This is an all-time low for the Los Angeles Lakers, who are historically one of the two greatest organizations in all of basketball alongside the Boston Celtics. 

From being the second-highest favored team to win it all to becoming one of the worst teams in the league is something that will never be lived down. Perhaps the Lakers can try again next season and hope for better luck with injuries and performance on the court. However, they now have extra time to think of ways to improve for next season with their extended vacation time.