One, two, three, Cancun. The unthinkable happened; the Los Angeles Lakers and Lebron James lost in the first round. It was the King’s first-ever first-round loss in his 18-year career. James is now 14-1 in the first round. Derek Fisher and Robert Horry are the only players in history to never lose in the first round with 16-0 records. But this season had many layers to understand what went wrong.
First, the Lakers and Miami Heat had the quickest turnaround coming out of the bubble. Second, the team had numerous injuries from stars to role players and Covid-19 protocols. The team was riding high in the first half of the season. They were a top seed, and James was an MVP candidate. Then came the spiral of the season that landed them the seventh seed. The Lakers were on a path to play the seventh seed instead of being the seventh seed. Seven players are under contract to return next season. These are the three top moves the Lakers must make to return to title contenders.
Trade Kyle Kuzma
Kuzma has talent; there is no denying that. But he has failed to show the consistency that the Lakers were hoping to see by now. The Lakers are in win-now mode and no longer can have the patience for Kuzma to live up to his potential. Kuzma signed a $39 million 3 year extension. Kuzma is 25, entering his prime, and still has All-Star level potential if in the right situation. That extension was signed because the worst thing to do in the NBA with an asset is let him walk away for nothing. Instead of Kuzma leaving in free agency, the Lakers have an asset to trade for improvements.
Find Another Star
The Lakers didn’t pull the trigger for a Kyle Lowry trade. There’s a reason every NBA team with win-now intentions are racing to construct basketball’s next Big Three. Besides the 2011 Mavericks, every NBA Champion team has had a Big 3 in the last decade. Even the Lakers had Rondo. Rondo was a champion, former All-Star, and fringe Hall of Famer. If anything, the Lakers need a better insurance policy next season. L.A. was 23-13 with Davis and 19-17 without Davis. When it comes to James, the team was 30-15 when he played and just 12-15 when he didn’t. James is old (in NBA years), and Davis is injury-prone.
Bring in a Three-Point Specialist
James is at his best when he can drive and kick. This roster was awful at shooting. The Lakers ranked 25th in three-point makes, 24th in attempts, and 21st in percentage. In Miami, James had Ray Allen. The second time with the Cavs, he had Kyle Korver, and last year he had Danny Green. Drummond may return, and Davis is back. They give you the size and rebounding, but the Lakers need a pure shooter to contend.