The Los Angeles Lakers have been eliminated from the playoffs after a disastrous season. Head coach Frank Vogel is almost certain to be fired, but after what has been nothing short of a train wreck campaign, Vogel can't be the only one who loses his job in LA.
This season was going to be a mess the minute the Lakers decided to trade for Russell Westbrook. Rather than finding players who could complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis well, they chose to add Westbrook, who was a horrendous fit. The Lakers badly needed 3-and-D types to spread the floor and instead chose to trade for a lane-clogging ball-stopper who has become a horrible defender.
Perhaps worse, the Lakers gave up a ton to bring Westbrook on. They sent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and the 22nd pick in the 2021 NBA Draft to the Washington Wizards for Westbrook and second-rounders in 2024 and 2028. They also imported Westbrook's awful contract paying him $44.2 million this season and $47.1 million next year. It's essentially an untradeable albatross at this point.
How has Westbrook rewarded the Lakers for that trade? By having the worst and most inefficient season of his career. His PER is a career-low 15.07, his true shooting percentage is a woeful 51.0, and he's shooting 44.4 percent form the field, 29.4 percent from 3-point range and 66.5 percent from the free-throw line. Oh sure, he's put some some counting stats (18.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.1 assists per game) but he's wasting tons of possessions to get there. And he's not making anyone around him better.
A lot of blame can be spread around for the Westbrook deal. We know from multiple reports that James and Davis pushed for the Lakers to acquire Westbrook, while general manager Rob Pelinka's preferred option was a much less costly deal for Buddy Hield. Hield certainly fit LA's roster better, and would have come much cheaper salary- and traded asset-wise. The fact that Pelinka allowed himself to get bullied into a move he didn't want means he shouldn't keep his job.
Along with Pelinka and Vogel, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has to stop allowing Kurt Rambis to have such influence over the franchise. Buss is best friends with Rambis' wife, Linda, and through that relationship she's allowed Rambis to wield enormous influence over the franchise as a "senior basketball advisor." I think it's worth remembering here that Rambis coached parts of four seasons in the NBA and put together a sparkling record of 65-164 (.284). What the hell does he know about running a successful basketball team?
Anyone who was involved in the process of bringing in Westbrook or approving that deal needs to either be fired or moved to a non-basketball operations role. No one who knows anything about basketball thought that would work out. And now the Lakers have hamstrung themselves for the future by taking on his enormous contract. Things won't be getting any better next season because it'll be almost impossible to trade him.
While I get that Vogel has to be fired after such a terrible season, anyone who thinks he is the problem is delusional. He was saddled with a terrible roster thanks to the people in charge.
Jeanie Buss has had LeBron James on her franchise's roster for four seasons and the Lakers have now missed the playoffs twice and were out in the first round last year. Yes, they won a title in the fourth, but those returns are awful considering what they have in James. If Buss wants her franchise to stop being a league-wide laughingstock, she needs to fire a ton of people before the offseason begins.