As turnovers and poor performances plague Los Angeles, where do Lebron’s Lakers turn now?
After a 28-point loss at Crypto.com Arena on Sunday night to the New Orleans Pelicans and a close loss to the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night, Laker fans are increasingly more frustrated. As the playoffs draw nearer, the likelihood of a Lakers championship grows bleaker by the day.
Not even Lebron James is safe from the Laker faithful’s criticism. Despite a 32-point performance, James was showered with boo’s following one of his seven turnovers. The four-time MVP is not entirely to blame, however.
Coming into the season, Los Angeles was considered to be title contenders. The offseason acquisition of Russell Westbrook was thought to elevate the Lakers to championship status. Unfortunately, the Westbrook-era has not been the best.
The former MVP, averaging 18 points per game, has become the scapegoat for the Lakers’ struggles. Westbrook is blamed for a poor shot selection and careless turnovers.
However, Lakers fans should not be surprised. Westbrook, who averaged a triple double three times in his career, has always been plagued with these issues. Westbrook’s electrifying performances come with errant passes and questionable shots.
Like Lebron, Westbrook is not the sole culprit for the Lakers struggles. The absence of bigman Anthony Davis is also to blame. Davis, who has only seen action in 37 games this season, has battled a variety of injuries. Most recently, he suffered a mid-foot sprain which will sideline him for four to five weeks — missing most of the regular season.
Even Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has been the subject of discussion around the Lakers flaws. Vogel, who coached the Lakers to a championship in 2020, has been questioned about lineup decisions. Fans have questioned Vogel’s use of Russell Westbrook in late-game situations.
By deciding not to make a move before the NBA trade deadline, Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka placed his faith in the current roster to overcome their struggles. Many NBA fans expected that a trade would be imminent to reshape the roster ahead of the playoff push. Pelinka declined a trade for Houston Rockets point guard John Wall which reportedly angered Lebron James’ management team.
As it stands, at 27-34 the Lakers are currently ninth in the Western Conference overall and fourth in the Pacific division. Their current standing slots them in the play-in tournament. If the play-in started today, they would face the Pelicans in the first round.
The key to the Lakers shot at the playoffs is valuing the ball. Turnovers are any basketball coach’s worst nightmare. Taking care of the ball on offense must be a priority for Lebron and company. In addition to the turnover issue, the shot selection must improve. The Lakers must utilize players where they are most effective; Westbrook in the fastbreak and Lebron in an isolation. One issue cannot be solved without the other.
The clock may be ticking for another Lakers championship. At 37 years old, Lebron James only has one more year left in his current deal. James has already expressed interest in playing with his son, Lebron “Bronny” James Jr., when he becomes eligible for the NBA draft in 2024. Westbrook also has only one year remaining in his deal with Los Angeles.
After trading away young talent like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram in recent years, the Lakers championship window appears to be getting smaller. Currently, they have the oldest average age in the NBA at 30 years old. The Lakers are built to win now with little regard for the future — which is why the current struggles are so concerning.