The Los Angeles Lakers‘ season is over. While they may still be mathematically alive in the playoff race, no one is kidding themselves. Key players like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are done for the season, LeBron James is on a minutes restriction and they just signed folk hero and G-League legend Andre Ingram to a 10-day contract in what unfortunately seems more like a public relations decision than a basketball one.
And with the end of meaningful games for the Lakers, they will be back in action against the Bulls on Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET — Watch on FuboTV with NBA League Pass add-on), it’s time to start looking back at how it all went wrong for the Purple and Gold this season. One of the main reasons, which everyone has been talking about since last summer, was the poor roster construction. Aside from signing LeBron James, most of the Lakers’ moves just didn’t make sense to people on the outside. And as it turned out, the feeling was the same inside the organization.
According to a report from Bill Oram, the Lakers’ coaching staff pleaded with Magic Johnson to bring back key frontcourt players like Brook Lopez and Julius Randle. Instead, of course, Johnson signed the likes of JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley. Via The Athletic:
While Buss has been an ardent backer of Walton, she has also empowered Johnson, who has been less resolute in his support. His efforts have all worked against his coach rather than with him. After delivering James in July, Johnson ignored the pleas of the coaching staff that he retain Brook Lopez and Julius Randle. Instead, he signed controversial and limited journeymen JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson.
Beasley is no longer on the team, dumped to the Clippers — who immediately released him — in a trade where the Lakers also gave up Ivica Zubac for some reason, Stephenson’s biggest contribution to the team has been his air guitar celebration and McGee is well, McGee.
Lopez, meanwhile, has turned into a 3-point specialist and helped turn the Milwaukee Bucks into a title contender, while Randle is putting up career numbers with the New Orleans Pelicans. This isn’t fantasy basketball, and there were other factors at play besides simply choosing between the duo of Lopez and Randle and the Lakers’ other signings.
Still, it was clear back in the summer that the Lakers made the wrong choices in which players they prioritized in free agency, and it’s only become more obvious as the season has gone along. There’s usually a good reason to separate the coaching staff from having final say on personnel decisions, but in this case, the Lakers’ coaches were certainly correct.