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Who's To Blame For the Lakers' Failure?

The Lakers 2021-22 season so far has been a disaster. Whose fault is it?

The 2021-22 Lakers are currently sitting at a 22-23 record. They're eighth in the Western Conference standings and have been as inconsistent as they have been disappointing. Laker fans are notoriously entitled. The torches are starting to get lit, and the masses are out for blood. How did the Lakers get here? Who is to blame? The questions are endless and LA is short on answers.

Avengers Assembled

We're in the age of super-teams and top-heavy rosters. The Brooklyn Nets look like the roster you assemble on a video game that everybody hates you for using. The Lakers followed suit by trading a lot of good depth and young players for Russell Westbrook. Eyebrows were raised for acquiring Westbrook, a high-usage point guard known for amassing triple-doubles but not winning a lot of playoff rounds. Still, with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Westbrook--surely they could at least amble their way into a mid-level playoff team, right? 

So far the answer is an emphatic, "no." Davis has been injured. This has not been a terrible surprise. James has managed to defy father time and played at an MVP level. Westbrook has struggled. In every quantifiable advanced metric, Westbrook is playing at his lowest level in his career. His VORP (value over replacement player) has cratered down to a near 0.0 number. He has the lowest win shares of his career. I could pile on here, but is this truly all on Westbrook? 

Russell Hustle

According to Marc Stein's substack, both Davis and James were big proponents of a trade for Westbrook instead of a trade that was on the table for Sacramento Kings star Buddy Hield. Most NBA experts would have chosen the trade for Hield over Westbrook in a heartbeat, but the Lakers went after Westbrook. Especially after the insistence of the Lakers two stars, Davis and James. 

"If the Westbrook move were fundamentally flawed, who is to blame? Rob Pelinka is the team’s vice president of basketball operations and general manager. The decision ultimately falls on his resume. But sources also say that James was a significant proponent for getting Westbrook. Does he bear any responsibility if he and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, applied significant pressure on the team to get it done?"

Pointing Fingers

GM: At this point, it becomes a question of where the power is. Did the players usurp the control away from the front office? James commands power on every team he goes to, especially when you consider the power of his agency, Klutch Sports (run by Rich Paul) is given. In a traditional power line, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka would hold the blame. If we're to believe the news that the Westbrook trade was essentially pushed into fruition by James and Davis, perhaps Pelinka has a pass.

Coach: Unfortunately, Lakers coach Frank Vogel is probably going to get fired. He doesn't deserve to. In sports, coaches tend to exist in a binary state; meaning coaches are either the GOAT or the scapegoats. Vogel inherited a broken roster with a myriad of injuries and disastrous performances. Vogel's time as the Lakers coach is probably going to end soon, but it shouldn't.

Westbrook: Nope. Westbrook is playing his game the way he always had, and his attitude (other than his mercurial way of dealing with reporters) has been that of a team player all season.

Everyone: The last option is the best one. It's a combination of the Lakers front office (who should have perhaps pushed harder on acquiring a better fit than Westbrook) and James and Anthony. 

They pushed for the Westbrook trade, and they should live with the roster they have. If they're going to transcend having to take the blame for a poor season, they need to remember Al Davis' advice. Just win, baby. 

There is still time for the Lakers to improve their season, but not much.