Tuesday night finally put an end to the Los Angeles Lakers’ disastrous season.
A 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns, paired with a 116-97 San Antonio Spurs win, officially eliminated Los Angeles from playoff contention.
It was the Lakers’ seventh straight loss after a March 21 win put them three games up on the then-11th-place Spurs.
It also adds to a putrid 7-24 stretch that started after a 106-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets that had LA at 24-24.
There is a laundry list of things to blame this horrible season on.
Injuries, poor coaching, underperforming talent, and simply bad basketball are all major culprits.
But most of these can be tied back to one thing: the front office.
The Lakers struggled mightily this season because the front office failed to put together a championship-caliber roster.
When LeBron James is on your team, that is simply unacceptable.
Lakers Started With Poor Offseason
Most of the Lakers’ struggles this season were predictable.
They had the oldest average age of any franchise and a severe lack of perimeter shooting and defense.
In their place, the Lakers opted to bring in almost exclusively veteran players.
The Lakers' biggest mistake this offseason wasn't passing on DeRozan.
It was not prioritizing the winning formula in 2020 and 2021 (when healthy).
Acquire 3-D wings (trade for Harrison Barnes), athletic bigs (draft Isaiah Jackson), & guards who can score off the dribble (Monk)
— Josh Toussaint (@josh2saint) April 5, 2022
But Nunn has yet to play this season and Monk can only provide so much impact.
From the vets, Carmelo, Bradley, and Ellington were fairly consistent and provided some outside shooting.
But nobody from that group replaced the defense lost by trading away KCP and letting Caruso walk.
The Lakers were banking on Davis to cover up any defensive shortcomings on the perimeter.
However, Davis has only appeared in 40 games this season.
From the very beginning, the Lakers roster had a large hill to climb.
The Westbrook Debacle
Roster construction as a whole was an issue, but acquiring Westbrook is the most glaring misstep.
James and Davis deserve part of the blame if they did instruct the front office to acquire him.
But the front office pulled the trigger, and the rest is technically speculation.
Westbrook came over from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kuzma, KCP, Harrell, and last year’s first-round pick.
In theory, Westbrook’s relentless energy and ability to carry an offense would help the Lakers stay afloat during minutes when James rested.
His poor perimeter shooting was a potential issue, but James and Davis had the ability to stretch the floor.
The potential was there for three stars to bring another title to the purple and gold.
It turned out to be worse than what some predicted.
While Westbrook has played better as of late, his start to the season was horrendous.
It reached a point where he didn’t seem comfortable shooting any jump shot, much less a three-pointer.
[Westbrook's] hitting the side of backboards, he’s hitting airballs, he’s turning the ball over no rhyme or reason whatsoever. He is broken.”
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 10, 2022
Defenses invited him to shoot, opting to play five on four with the rest of the Lakers’ lineup.
And Westbrook could not make them pay.
On the season, he is shooting 44% from the field and 30% from deep.
These are numbers in line with his career averages, but they are exaggerated when on a team already devoid of shooting.
That deal would have reportedly sent Kuzma and Harrell to Sacramento in return for Hield.
A marksman of his caliber next to James and Davis would have been a much better fit.
And would have allowed them to keep KCP and potentially Caruso.
The offseason was bad, but the trouble started at the 2020-21 trade deadline.
The proposed deal would have sent Schroder, Caldwell-Pope, and some draft compensation.
However, the Raptors also wanted Talen Horton-Tucker included in the deal – a player Rob Pelinka was not willing to include.
Last year the Lakers refused to trade Talen Horton-Tucker for Kyle Lowry.
Instead, they signed THT to an extension and he's averaged 9 PPG this year. pic.twitter.com/87rIgg5alD
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) April 5, 2022
No trade ended up happening and Lowry was eventually sent to the Miami Heat over the offseason.
Horton-Tucker, meanwhile, has not shown any further growth this season.
The 21-year-old combo guard has shot just 42% from the field and 27% from three this year.
This comes immediately after signing a three-year, $30.8 million contract in August 2021.
His contract is the main reason why Caruso was not brought back.
THT has provided little help to the Lakers this year while Lowry is the starting point guard on the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Los Angeles’ front office has made blunder after blunder since their title two years ago.