When it comes to recent disappointments in sport, few have been bigger than this season’s Los Angeles Lakers.
A collection of superstars were billed as superheroes when they were labelled ‘Basketball’s Avengers’ but they have been anything but that so far this term.
The summer saw future Hall of Famers Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony join the superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It should have been a recipe for relentless wins, but things just have not clicked at all.
The Los Angeles Lakers have not lived up to the hype surrounding their star-studded squad
Russell Westbrook isn’t the type of player that the team needed to bring in in the summer
The NBA’s biggest franchise currently sit seventh in the Western Conference, beginning their campaign with an extremely disappointing 16 wins and 16 losses.
Quite frankly, they just haven’t looked like a good basketball team.
Sportsmail looks at the reasons for this, many of which really should have been foreseen.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK FLOPS
The big story of the summer was the arrival of nine-time All-Star and 2017 MVP Westbrook.
One of the more popular and polarising players in the league, the acquisition certainly got people talking.
Many thought this was a move the Lakers would ultimately come to regret. And you have to wonder if they already are.
Westbrook is a ball dominant point guard renowned for his competitiveness and athleticism.
Was the summer acquisition of Westbrook really what the Lakers needed to stay competitive?
The Lakers opted for Westbrook over Buddy Hield (pictured) who seems to be what they need
The question was whether this was what the team really needed and if he could fit on the court with his good friends James and Davis, two players who also like to see a lot of the ball and drive to the basket.
In acquiring Westbrook, the Lakers opted against signing Buddy Hield, the kind of three-point specialist floor spacer they had been desperate for over the past couple of seasons.
Westbrook is no three-point shooter, as the nickname ‘Westbrick’ suggests.
The argument for was that James would ultimately find a way for the three stars to compliment each other, while Westbrook could also help win games when he or Davis were out.
The 33-year-old’s performances and numbers have certainly improved as the season has gone on but his poor shooting and turnovers continue to cost them at crucial moments. Ultimately he just wasn’t the type of player they needed.
Fans have given the point guard the nickname ‘Westbrick’ due to his poor shooting
AN AGING SQUAD
While there was a lot of excitement surrounding this team in the summer, there were also a lot of jokes being made about one of the oldest locker rooms we have seen assembled.
The average age of the Lakers is 30. The second highest in the league is the Nets at 28.1.
The roster is built around a 36-year-old James. He is joined by a late-prime Westbrook at 33, and veterans Carmelo Anthony (37), Trevor Ariza (36), Dwight Howard (35), Rajon Rondo (35), Wayne Ellington (34), DeAndre Jordan (33), and Kent Bazemore (32).
Carmelo Anthony (right) and Rajon Rondo (left) are just two of a number of veterans
DeAndre Jordan is another Lakers player in the squad setup who is the wrong side of 30
If this was 2013, the title would be pretty much a forgone conclusion. However, now the Staples Center turned Crypto.com Arena has now been labelled a retirement home.
These players still have quality but their best years are clearly behind them.
The experience is valuable but lack of athleticism is clear on both ends of the floor in a fast and aggressive league.
The biggest issue with older players is that they’re far more susceptible to injuries and this leads us on to our next point.
It’s nearly January and we are yet to see the purple and gold at full strength.
Kendrick Nunn is yet to play a single game while fellow exciting addition Trevor Ariza only took to the court for the first time this week.
More importantly James has missed a chunk of the campaign and the Lakers are a significantly weaker proposition without his greatness.
LeBron James has already been forced to miss a number of games so far this season
Trevor Ariza only recently made his first appearance of the season due to fitness issues
And there was more bad news over the weekend as it was announced that the perennially injured Davis would be out for a month after suffering an MCL sprain against the Timberwolves on Friday.
The Lakers have already used 15 different starting lineups this season, more than coach Frank Vogel used en route to the 2020 NBA championship.
VOID OF CHEMISTRY
In the words of Lakers legend James Worthy, it just hasn’t been good ‘team basketball.’
Vogel is a defensively minded coach and the Lakers have had the No 1 ranked defence over the past two seasons.
Head coach Frank Vogel is under mounting pressure following the poor start to the season
None of that has been evident lately. The Lakers have been poor on defence so far in the first 21 games of the 2021-2022 season and that is purely a matter of effort.
As for offence, it isn’t much better either. Since the team has hardly spent any time playing together – each possession is basically just isolation for a different player.
There’s a disturbing lack of diversity in the plays, nor are there really any half court sets. It’s either a pick and roll or pass to one guy and let him sink a three.