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The Lakers 2022 Offseason

Michael Reaves / Getty Images


Since their 2020 championship, the Lakers have experienced a precipitous decline. In 2021, they lost in the 1st round of the playoffs, and this past year, they missed the playoffs / “play in” tournament altogether.

Many of the struggles associated with the Lakers recent decline, particularly in the 2022 season, can be attributed to their own doing. There is a laundry list of actions that include but are not limited to some of the following. Rather than running back a 2021 roster that was marred by injuries and a shortened offseason ( like the Miami Heat did ), the Lakers decimated their team continuity in order to chase a third star. This pursuit of a third star deviated from the championship architect that helped them in 2020.

In chasing for that third star, the Lakers chose Russell Westbrook over Demar Derozan, and paid a heavy price to do so. They sacrificed 3 rotational players and a first round pick to attain Westbrook, who to date, has been a conspicuous downgrade to Demar Derozan. While Westbrook struggled in his first year in Los Angeles, Derozan had a premier year in Chicago where he averaged 28 points per game on 50% shooting en route to 2nd team all NBA.

(Per House of Highlights YouTube, Derozan reminding the Lakers of what they missed out on)

It is important to note that the immediate price that the Lakers would have paid to acquire Derozan, would have been significantly cheaper than what was given up for Westbrook. (One can assume that the Lakers were trying to stay under the hard cap by passing on Derozan).

Derozan also recently confirmed on JJ Redick’s podcast that he was intent on joining the team during the summer of 2021. His strong play mixed with the uneven returns of Westbrook thus far have underscored the steep opportunity cost of the Lakers' decision to pass on him.

Over the last 2 years, the Lakers have also loosely squandered some of their draft capital. For example, they gave up 2 total second round picks to move off of Javale Mcgee, a pivotal role player during the Suns playoff run, and Marc Gasol. They also exemplified that they did not fully value the services of key role player Alex Caruso, who they let walk in free agency in order to keep Talen Horton Tucker, who is now on the Utah Jazz and no longer a part of LA's plans. Like Derozan, Caruso also has performed well in Chicago, and he has contributed to the team’s success and first playoff appearance in 5 years.

Jeff Haynes / NBAE via Getty Images


Finally, in replacing role players, the Lakers prioritized many over the hill veterans like Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, and Dwight Howard. Doing so resulted in the team having the oldest average age at 30.0. In my opinion, many of these erroneous decisions contributed to an environment that was not conducive to success, as evidenced by the Lakers 2022 season.

It follows then that the Lakers had an assortment of issues to rectify during the 2022 offseason. For example, they did not have any draft capital or a head coach, they had limited salary cap space to improve their roster, they were dealing with the looming free agency of Lebron James in 2023, and the arduous task of deciding whether to keep Russell Westbrook, or to find an equitable deal to trade him.

As alluded to earlier, many of these issues were of the Lakers own doing. With that being said, and given these issues, I believe that the Lakers did a sufficient job to address some of the areas that plagued their roster last season. The focus today will be to note and discuss some of the favorable decisions made, while also making it known that this roster, as currently constructed, still does not meet the championship expectations that the Lakers organization and their fans have for the team.

The Lakers were able to improve the youth on their roster this offseason through both the draft and free agency. They were able to trade cash and a future second round pick to Orlando, to secure the 35th pick in the draft and select Max Christie out of Michigan State. Though he only shot 31.7% from 3 in college, he shot 82.4% from the free throw line, which is often a good indicator for shooting success in the pros. While Christie may prove to be a long term project, his presence infuses youth to the Lakers, a team in dire need of such.

Through the draft (undrafted free agents), the Lakers also added 2x all SEC player Scotty Pippen Jr. and Syracuse sharpshooter Cole Swider. Both have shown promise in the summer league and could be of value to the Lakers down the road. The Lakers ability to procure overlooked talent in the latter part of the draft and free agency in recent years (e.g., Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Thomas Bryant), gives me confidence in the potential upside of Pippen Jr., Swider, and Christie.

I believe that the Lakers trading for Patrick Beverly indicated their awareness at the need to increase shooting and defense on the roster, and the acknowledgement of the mistake they made letting Alex Caruso walk. Detractors of this trade have noted that Beverly is a shorter, older, and less versatile version of Caruso. In recent playoff series against Dallas and Phoenix, he has been rendered irrelevant at times due to his size. While Beverly's limitations against bigger guards / wings like Doncic and Devin Booker are true, I think it is also important to recognize the upside that Beverly presents to this Lakers roster. He is already the Lakers best perimeter defender, he has made 38.1% of his 3 pointers on 4 attempts per game over the last 5 seasons, and infuses a mindset of culture and winning. The effect of having Beverly on a roster can be seen through his consistent playoff appearances and the impact he has had on team culture. I believe that the value Beverly brings outpaces some of his size limitations and adds an additional dimension to the Lakers roster.

Nick Wosika / USA Today Sports

(Beverly valiantly celebrating the Timberwolves play in tournament victory over the Clippers)

The Lakers have been able to properly address the age issues that plagued last year's roster. Averly Bradley, DJ Augustin, and Isaiah Thomas have now become Lonnie Walker IV and Dennis Schroeder. Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazemore have morphed themselves into Troy Brown Jr. and Juan Tascano Anderson. In the backcourt, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan now take on the form of Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant. Though there are some redundancies that exist amongst the different skill sets of these players, I believe that they are clear upgrades to the team that the Lakers netted last season.

The Lakers were able to address their head coaching vacancy by hiring Darvin Ham. Ham is an NBA champion as both a player and a coach, and was a top assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks the last 4 years. He brings a new defensive regime that will involve less switching and more drop coverage akin to how Milwaukee has played in recent years. He also brings a fresh perspective and a culture reset that is presumed to be more digestible to players. From different public commentaries throughout the offseason, it is apparent that Ham has already been able to positively connect with Russell Westbrook. During media day, Lebron noted that the team “finally [has] a great coach.” In this regard, I think it is fair to assume that internally, the year has already started on better footing.

Jevone Moore/AP Images

(Coach Darvin Ham being introduced)

This offseason, there was also speculation that Lebron could potentially leave the Lakers to return to Cleveland and finish his career. That type of cloud looming over the Lakers during the season would be a distraction and could also impact LA’s leverage in potential trade negotiations. Fortunately for the Lakers, Lebron reaffirmed his commitment to the organization, and signed a 2 year extension.

Throughout the offseason, Russell Westbrook has been mired in trade rumors. There was rumor about a package being developed for Kyrie Irving or Donovan Mitchell, but LA lacked the bargaining power and requisite trade assets to secure those players. There was speculation that there could be a deal with Utah that involved a combination of LA receiving Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasly, and Bojan Bogdanovic for Westbrook, but those deals also fell through as Utah’s asking price was too steep.

Finally, there was / has been a potential deal with Indiana that would send Westbrook and 2 unprotected first round picks in return for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. Reports have confirmed that the Lakers have seriously considered this option. However, the inclusion of their two tradeable first round draft picks remains the bottleneck to this deal being completed. As Rob Pelinka alluded to on media day, the team will only have one shot to successfully trade their draft picks to upgrade their roster and leap into title contention. It is presumed that the deal with Indiana will continue to be an option as the season starts, and as LA hopes for the Pacers asking price to decrease.

It follows then that for now, the Lakers roster is what fans should expect as the season begins. Though they could not address all their areas of need, particularly in shooting and wing depth, I believe that the team did a sufficient job to upgrade the roster around Lebron James and Anthony Davis.

With all of that being said, the Lakers are still the Lakers, and with that comes championship expectations. Externally, the Western conference is retooled and looking even more dominant than in years past. The Golden State Warriors at their apex could prove to be even better than their championship team last year. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return healthy with a very interchangeable supporting cast that can play big or small. The Denver Nuggets have the league’s reigning MVP, and return the services of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. The Dallas Mavericks have been able to shore up their frontcourt with the additions of Javale McGee and Christian Wood. Those are just 4 of many teams with a strong claim to being a top tier team in the West this season. Even with the roster adjustments that the Lakers have made, I struggle to see them supplanting those teams for two of the following reasons.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

(In my view, and as of October 2022, the Warriors and Clippers are the favorites to win the West)

Roster redundancies and deficiencies are the first reason why I struggle to see a clear path to the Lakers returning to their 2020 championship form. There continue to be fit questions that remain about how Westbrook and Lebron James can mesh on the court. Westbrook, to date, has continued to show an unwillingness to be an active player playing off the ball. The value he brings on the court with Lebron is minimized when he is unyielding towards cutting, and being an on and off ball screener. The redundancies that exist when he and James share the court will continue to be realized until that is changed.

The Lakers roster is also deficient in quality wings. Troy Brown Jr. and JTA could prove to be valuable assets there, but they both lack size (both stand at 6'6) and experience to give me confidence as of October 2022. Even if the Lakers elect to trade Westbrook to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, both of those players do not address the shortage of wings that currently plagues the Lakers roster.

Health is the second reason that I remain noncommittal to the Lakers supplanting the top tier teams in the West. In 2021, Lebron James was in the driver's seat of the MVP race until Solomon Hill dove into his leg. Last season, Lebron averaged 30.3 points per game, but he also missed 26 games on the season. His counterpart Anthony Davis, has missed 78 games over the last 2 seasons, and has struggled to regain the form that he displayed throughout the 2020 playoffs. It is crystal clear that if Lebron James and Anthony Davis cannot stay healthy, the Lakers have no chance at competing. While his play continues to age smoothly, it can no longer be assumed that Lebron will remain healthy at this stage of his career. Anthony Davis, on the other hand, has never proven himself to be an "iron man" which add to the health concerns for the Lakers.

Overall, roster limitations and health influence how myself and others see the Lakers. Vegas currently projects them to be an 8 seed with a 45.5 over/under win total. Given all the factors that I have considered, I find that projection fair.

On the other hand, I continue to maintain the standing that if Lebron James and Anthony Davis remain healthy, one cannot count the Lakers out. Health is not the only thing that would need to go well for that to happen. Proper roster management among many things is another confounding variable. Nonetheless, I, along with many Laker fans, would love to see the team return to their 2020 form. Time will tell, but even at age 38 and going on season 20, I find it difficult to count out a roster led by Lebron James. That alone is enough of a reason to maintain a sliver of hope.

2021 Nic Antaya / Getty Images


Work Cited:

Cunningham, Thom. “2022-23 NBA Win Totals Odds - Find Win Totals Future Odds.” 2022-23

NBA Win Totals Odds - Find Win Totals Future Odds, VegasInsider, 4 Oct. 2022,

Clemgold. “Cavaliers Acquire JaVale McGee from Los Angeles Lakers.” NBA.com, NBA, 29

Services, From NBA.com News. “Lakers Trade Marc Gasol to Memphis Grizzlies, Will

Reportedly Be Waived.” NBA.com, NBA.com, 11 Sept. 2021,

Greg Beacham | The Associated Press. “Lakers Get in Draft, Acquire 35th Pick in Trade with

Magic.” NBA.com, NBA.com, 23 June 2022,

House of Highlights. “DeMar DeRozan Destorys the Lakers with 38 Pts Full Highlights.”

YouTube, YouTube, 19 Dec. 2021,

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