The NBA playoffs are back and in full force. What a time to be a basketball fan. Well, except if you are a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. You won’t be seeing the purple and gold anytime soon. The closest thing to it will be any former Lakers who are currently in the playoffs with other teams. The likes of Brandon Ingram, Alex Caruso, Danny Green and JaVale McGee have been gracing our screens with a decent amount of success already with their new teams. We will admire from afar like a proud parent who went through an ugly divorce. We would much rather see the Lakers competing for another NBA title, but the front office and Rob Pelinka failed to put together a competitive roster.
Was that too direct? No, it’s a fair assessment of the disaster that was the 2021-22 season. Granted, injuries played a part in the failures of this season, but even when healthy the Lakers didn’t look right. You won’t have to go far in the Lakers front office to find someone that agrees. Pelinka himself has taken accountability for the roster construction.
Rob Pelinka: "At the end of the day, the roster decisions ultimately rest on my shoulders … I'm the one who leads the basketball operations department and will take ultimate accountability"
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 11, 2022
It is admirable that Pelinka can take accountability for the results of this season. However, some might wonder if the blame rests on Pelinka’s shoulders, why was Frank Vogel fired and not him? It’s a fair question after all that has transpired in the front office.
To this day, the Russell Westbrook decision will be mind-boggling. Reports indicate LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on board, but it did not make any sense given the lack of shooters on the roster. The experiment failed, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. The way they let Alex Caruso walk was blasphemous. How is one of the most valuable franchises in all of sports worried about the luxury tax when they have one of the greatest players currently on the roster. Championship windows are valuable and not guaranteed and the front office decided to be frugal instead of going for it.
There are also rumors that the Lakers could have DeMar Derozan or Buddy Hield. It is important to take those reports with a grain of salt given the impact they would have had on the team’s ability to build around them via the cap, but those two options would have been more impactful than Westbrook. It’s also important to note that the bad front office decisions not only apply to this year, but years prior as well. The Lakers gave up a first-round pick for Dennis Schröder and ultimately let him walk for nothing. Eric Pincus had a great piece where he detailed all of the mistakes committed by Pelinka and the front office. Yes, the Lakers won the 2020 NBA Championship, but the rest of the Pelinka tenure has been problematic.
There is belief that the front office is heavily influenced by Kurt and Linda Rambis, so maybe Pelinka does not deserve all the blame, but there is plenty to go around. To his credit he has owned it, but with one year left in LeBron’s contract, time is running out.