Any way you twist or turn it, the Los Angeles Lakers have had a disappointing season.
They were one of the preseason favorites to win the title yet will not even finish the year as a .500 ball club.
Anthony Davis missing most of the season did not help, but their issues went far deeper than that.
Even LeBron James averaging 30 points per game in his 19th year in the league could not save the Lakers.
But even still, Los Angeles seemed like they were still in good shape to make the playoffs.
LA was 31-41 after dismantling the Cleveland Cavaliers behind a masterclass by James.
LeBron James put on a MASTERFUL triple-double performance in the Lakers' rout of the Cavs 🔥
4-of-4 FT pic.twitter.com/woSbnISxuS
— LakeShow (@LakeShowCP) March 22, 2022
They were a game up on the 10th-place New Orleans Pelicans and three games ahead of the 11th-place San Antonio Spurs with 10 games left.
Fast forward to the present day, and any momentum built by that Cavs win is gone.
Philadelphia beat them on their home court with James sitting out last Wednesday.
LA had three days off before squaring off against the Pelicans on Sunday.
And after building up a 20-point lead at the half, they squandered it away, losing 116-108.
The loss drops Los Angeles to 31-43 – a half-game behind New Orleans and a half-game up on San Antonio.
It may be time for the Lakers to consider missing out on the playoffs this year.
Lakers Need To Heal Up
As bad as this season was, this isn’t the Lakers’ last shot at a title.
Davis, though injury-prone, is only 29 and should still be in his prime next season.
LeBron is getting older (37) but does not have a major injury history.
He also is currently averaging 30.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game in his 19th season.
James should still be playing at an elite level next year.
At this point, LA’s priority should be making sure their stars are healthy for next season.
Davis missed 17 games due to a sprained MCL he suffered in mid-December.
And has missed the past 16 games due to a mid-foot sprain he suffered in mid-February.
James, on the other hand, reportedly twisted his ankle during the Pelicans game and felt “horrible” afterward.
LeBron said his left ankle felt "horrible" following the Lakers' loss last night.
— ESPN (@espn) March 28, 2022
While it is malpractice to waste a year of James at this stage of his career, it would be even worse to waste the remainder of his career.
Realistically, the Lakers will not make any noise this year even if they do make the playoffs.
They will need to win two play-in games just to make the playoffs.
And even after that, they would need to beat the Phoenix Suns four times in the first round.
A team that only has 14 losses on the season.
History has taught us never say never with a LeBron-led team.
But at this point, the Lakers are better off getting their stars healthy for another crack next year.
Outside of getting additional rest for their stars, there is no draft-related reason for the Lakers to waive the white flag on the 2022 season.
Los Angeles does not own its first-round draft pick this year, so it does not stand to better their draft position.
But missing out on the playoffs this year will give them a head start on next season.
The front office would have extra time to build a plan moving forward.
James and Davis are the centerpieces, but the supporting cast needs work.
Kendrick Nunn never touched the court.
And most of the remaining roster was too old or too slow.
The Lakers need to completely reshape the supporting cast to complement James and Davis.
That means more shooting, secondary ball-handling, and on-ball defense.
And it definitely means less Westbrook.
Westbrook is a future Hall of Famer and talented basketball player, but he is a horrible fit next to James and Davis.
Missing the playoffs would give their stars some extra rest to heal from current ailments.
And give the front office a jump start on building next year’s roster.NEXT: Russell Westbrook Made NBA History Of His Own On Sunday