It has become cool to blame LeBron James for the Lakers’ struggles. His lack of leadership, his disregard for the defensive side of the ball, his inability to propel this team to the playoffs despite being the self-proclaimed GOAT. Well, the GOAT has turned into the scapegoat.
The formula for LeBron James’ teams for years has been to surround the King with shooters across the board. The Heat had Ray Allen and Mike Miller, the Cavs had Kyrie, Kevin Love, and Kyle Korver, and the Lakers have … no one.
Out of the five players with at least 3 three-point attempts per game, the only one of LeBron’s teammates shooting over 34% is Reggie Bullock, who was acquired just a few weeks ago at the trade deadline. 34%. The league average this season is 35.4%, so basically none of the volume perimeter shooters on the Lakers are even average.
LMAOOO rajon rondo just attempted 7 threes in the first 5 minutes of this game pic.twitter.com/p8BgM7B8S0
— Nathan Marzion (@natemar3i0n) March 2, 2019
Here’s the thing, though. You can call LeBron “LeGM” all you want, but Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka didn’t have to make the signings they did after James was already signed for four years. When the Lakers followed up the LeBron signing with Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, and Javale McGee, everyone laughed. Everyone knew that the Lakers had just assembled a smorgasbord of the memeiest players in the NBA, all of which can’t shoot a lick.
So, what changed in expectations? The Lakers are 28th in the league at 33.8% from deep, which was completely expected and simply disregards what made LeBron’s old teams so successful. Before getting injured, LeBron had the Lakers sitting pretty in the West and things looked as good as one could hope. LeBron went down and the team imploded, much like any other team who loses their superstar for a long time, and their recovery since his return has been rough in a highly competitive conference.
LeBron is not without blame, though. We’ve seen some of the most lackadaisical effort of his career and moments where it seems like he’s thrown in the towel this season. Last night’s loss to the now 13-51 Phoenix Suns featured one of the most significant lapses in focus we’ve seen, where he managed to hit the backboard on an inbound pass and turning it over.
LeBron throws the ball of the backboard on the inbound, this man just doesn’t care anymore. pic.twitter.com/tPqHdC7aJV
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) March 3, 2019
Yes, that’s terrible.
But where is the outcry for the ineptitude of Pelinka and Magic?
We’re giving the benefit of the doubt to the guy who once tweeted that he loves the “incredible insight and expert analysis you’ll always find on First Take with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith“? The guy who has proven on Twitter that his scouting could use some work, claiming he would have taken Brandon Knight number one overall and that Jimmer Fredette was “the real deal”?
THE GUY WHO ONCE TWEETED THIS?
The only way San Antonio or Miami don't win the championship is if neither team makes the finals.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) March 7, 2014
Then, to follow up the awe-inspiring free-agent frenzy, the trade deadline concluded just as comically. The Lakers parted ways with Ivica Zubac, a 21 year old big man averaging eight points and five boards and showed signs of becoming a decent piece for the Lakers’ front-court in the long-term.
For Mike Muscala.
With the Sixers, Muscala averaged one less point and one less rebound in seven more minutes than Zubac. If the idea was to add another shooter, well they didn’t get that either as he’s shooting just 28% from deep since joining the Lakers.
Did Rob Pelinka, Kobe’s former agent, become GM of the Lakers so he could sabotage LeBron’s Lakers tenure and make Kobe look better? Probably not on purpose, but he’s doing a damn good job at accomplishing it.
This year has been a wash from the start, seeing as LeBron signed the longest deal of any of his contracts since The Decision, and he and the team have played like it.
The Lakers are a poorly constructed team playing in a brutal Western conference and their struggles are not very shocking. The franchise will likely retool with a possible superstar acquisition in Anthony Davis and some ring chasers next season and the claims of LeDecline will have been completely overstated.
There are so many sides to blame for the Lakers’ disgraceful season. Solely blaming the greatest player of the last 15 years who is averaging 27 points, nine boards, and eight assists coming off the worst injury of his career is a very weird hill to die on.