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Far-Fetched Friday: The Lakers’ “Big 3” Returns Next Season
By: Ryan Stein
As far as disappointments in sports go, few teams in history can match how impressively awful the 2021-2022 Lakers managed to finish. After acquiring Russell Westbrook via trade, takes on how the Lakers would perform this season were all over the place. To many, the Lakers were seen as title favorites; to others, while not necessarily title favorites, they were still seen as a surefire playoff team in the Western Conference. I think it is safe to say there was not anybody who realistically thought the Lakers would fail to even qualify for the play-in tournament. The star trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Westbrook showed a complete inability to work together, whether it be due to injuries or just having skillsets that are not complementary with each other. However, despite the team's immense struggles, I do believe Los Angeles will run it back with the same core players next year.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday we look at the struggle of the Los Angeles Lakers.
A major reason why the Lakers core will remain intact next season is because head coach Frank Vogel will likely end up being the scapegoat for the team, at least in the eyes of management. I personally do not believe he deserves the brunt of the blame, considering the weak, old, and uninspiring roster he had to work with all season (outside of LeBron), but it certainly would not be the first time a head coach fell on the sword so a franchise can save face. Another factor to consider is how difficult it would be to move any of the team's top 3 salary earners. LeBron is too valuable of a player to trade. Unless they were to get a top 5 player or an absurd package of young talent with potential and draft picks, there is no trade that would be worth sending him away from the team. In the case of Anthony Davis, his value has taken a tremendous hit, as he has been unable to remain healthy for an extended period of time.
The days of Anthony Davis being a top 10 player are likely over, and you would be hard-pressed to find a team willing to take on the risk of an injury-prone big who is likely starting to enter his decline as a player. The only way he gets moved is if the Lakers sell low on him, and at that point they might as well just keep him and hope he can be healthier next year. Lastly, Westbrook is surely the player the Lakers would most like to move; He is also probably the most impossible player for them to move. He has no real value on the trade market at this point, and the Lakers would have to attach significant draft capital to any Westbrook trade to get a team to bite. The problem with that is the Lakers have already traded away their draft picks for the near future. Unless they can send him back home to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team with love for him and a love for draft picks, there is no real option to cut him loose. Outside of perhaps replacing some rotation pieces (hopefully for some younger, more two-way players), the Los Angeles Lakers will not only be stuck with the same Big 3 as this year's historically bad season, but they will potentially be doomed to similar results.
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