After a successful off-season, the Lakers were predicted to come into the league strong as a brand new team. General Manager Magic Johnson had managed to acquire LeBron James, signing him to a four-year deal worth $153.3 million. In addition to signing one of the best players in the league, the Lakers happened to sign free agents Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, Lance Stephenson and Javale Mcgee, each with a one-year contract in hopes to sign another superstar after the 2019 season. These veteran players were brought in to support and guide the Lakers’ young core to better handle the intensity of the new “superteam” era in the NBA.
Analysts from around the league projected the Lakers to place in the high seeds of the Western conference just below the defending champions, Golden State Warriors and the James Harden-lead Houston Rockets. That however is not the case. Los Angeles currently just falls under the 8th seed in the Western Conference preventing them from making the playoffs. LeBron, along with the support of the Lakers’ young core and his new teammates peaked at 4th place early in the season fluctuating between the top 8 teams of their conference. That momentum would soon take a nosedive when Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans requested to be traded from his team.
With Anthony Davis on the market, the Lakers made a bold and ultimately disastrous attempt to secure Davis by offering up their entire young core in exchange. Per Brad Turner, the Lakers had offered Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram, which were the 3 best young players on the Lakers roster, along with Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, Lance Stephenson and two 1st round draft picks. We’re talking about 75% of the typical starting line up and yet even after that absurd offer, the Pelicans kept Davis. As games went by, the players were noticeably not playing up to their potential and it was fair to assume that it was all because of the pursuit of the six-time all-star. The team would soon kiss their playoff spot goodbye and drop below the 8th seed. The eagerness of the Lakers ended up destroying the team chemistry they had, ruining their chances at a playoff spot and coming out with nothing but a losing team.
It wasn’t only the Anthony Davis pursuit that would cause the misfortune of the team. The Lakers are currently struggling on the defensive end with a rating of 108.9–13th in the entire league in the past 77 games. The Lakers’ defensive rating significantly dropped when starting point guard Lonzo Ball was diagnosed with a grade-3 ankle sprain. This second year guard makes a huge impact on the court despite his scoring abilities. Even though the 2nd-overall draft pick is widely considered a bust, his ability to create scoring chances and defend have made Lonzo Ball a key player for the Lakers. Losing him definitely shows the defensive struggles the Lakers need to solve before the upcoming season begins.
Lonzo’s was one of a number of injuries that put bumps on the road after the season’s smooth beginning. The Lakers have also just been informed by their medical staff that both Brandon Ingram, the 3rd year forward, and Lonzo Ball will be out of the lineup for the remainder of the season. That was a huge blow for all the fans out there, knowing their starting point guard and starting forward who put up at least 18 points per night would not see the floor for the rest of the season. The team have only gone to 4 games with a complete squad. In a sport where a single player can make a huge impact, losing two of the most essential players on the court devastated the team.
Even though they picked up LeBron James, this is one season to forget. The highly-praised “new era” Lakers have shocked the league. This will be the first time in thirteen years that LeBron will miss the NBA playoffs. It’s obvious that the team will need to improve on numerous aspects of the game. However the future remains bright for the Lakers. With a margin of young players who have a lot of potential to become superstars, we can say that the franchise is in good hands. Everyone is left wondering what’s next: Will there be any management change? And will LeBron, after a disappointing experience with the team that he knew had potential, decide to stay for another season?
Image by: Flickr/Michael Tipton