Is Shaquille O'Neal's critique of the Lakers accurate?
The Lakers are couldn't be in a worse position, but that hasn't stopped former star Shaquille O'Neal from giving his two cents on just how bad they are.
If their current situation wasn't bad enough, the Lakers just had their efforts brutally critiqued by a former star. The question now is 'where do they go from here?'
The Los Angeles Lakers are in bad shape
Unbelievable though it is, The Los Angeles Lakers are on the verge of missing out on the 2022 NBA playoffs entirely. Indeed, after yet another loss on Sunday, this time against the Denver Nuggets by a score of 129-118, the Lakers collapsed in what was their their sixth defeat in a row, and 16th in 20 games since the All-Star break. With that result LA now sits two games behind the San Antonio Spurs who currently hold on to 10th place in the Western Conference.
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Of course the very idea that the Lakers are in such a position at this stage in the season is shocking given that just two seasons ago they were NBA champions, but it becomes downright inconceivable when one considers the kind of roster that the Lakers entered the season with. Indeed, the Lakers were one of the favorites to win it all when this season began. Here and now, it would take nothing short of a miracle to get into the play in tournament and then in turn the playoffs themselves. Either way, it is now clear that major changes are needed if they are to do better next season.
Shaquille O'Neal lays into the Los Angeles Lakers
Never one to mix words, former Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal gave a very frank take on where the franchise is and what they should do in order to improve, as they close out what has simply been a disastrous season. O'Neal actually went as far as to call names as he insinuated that the 'project' had simply failed. "Gotta get rid of expiring contract, gotta get rid of the projects that didn't work and we gotta try to get younger and more athletic around LeBron. Because paper wise, when everybody did the deals it was like, 'ooh Westbrook, ooh this and that.' But age is a factor. AD was hurt all year. I think he played last year but gotta keep him healthy. Still keep LeBron and AD, and prolly gotta make moves for everybody else."
Does Shaquille O'Neal have a point?
It would be unfair not to acknowledge the role that injuries have played in the Lakers' disappointing season. Where LeBron James is concerned, the star has been limited to just 56 games, while Anthony Davis has featured in just 39. Regardless, even when both were fit and ready to go, it was evidently clear that there were significant roster issues. Russell Westbrook - who Shaq referred to - was meant to be a major offensive signing for the franchise, but in reality turned out to be less than what they hoped for. For perspective, the Lakers went 11-10 across the 21 games in which the 'big three' played. At that point, is there any need to mention the free agency acquisition of Alex Caruso, which Lakers fans are still waiting on to bare fruit?
At this stage the major problem now becomes Westbrook himself. Quite frankly, if the Lakers are unable to find a team willing to trade for the former Washington Wizard, they will have no room to maneuver. That's right, with just LeBron, Davis, Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker and possibly Kendrick Nunn (player option) on the roster, LA's payroll is already almost $150 million, which is to say significantly over the salary cap.
What can the Lakers do?
While it sounds all well and good to say "get younger and more athletic around LeBron and Davis," the reality is that as was just mentioned, the Lakers essentially no salary cap room to play with. In addition there are no no draft picks this year and to top it off, they only have two first-rounders (2027 and 2029) available for trading for the rest of this decade. Bleak is perhaps not the word. They can - if they're creative - seek to maneuver on the fringes, but it goes without saying that they won't come close to addressing the central issue which is simply that their 'big three' is getting old and has never clicked. Where then do the Lakers go from here?