The Los Angeles Lakers are on the verge of a disastrous season, even despite all the buzz surrounding the team when they announced they’ve made a deal with top-tier free agent LeBron James in the summer.
A 34-year-old James is showing signs of slowing down after dominating the league for 16 seasons straight, and the team’s young core failed to step up once again and couldn’t help the King carry the load.
Furthermore, it looks like Magic Johnson made several mistakes when putting together the team’s roster, but gladly for him, he’ll still have another chance to fix this mess, even if that means firing Luke Walton. But who should stay? Who should leave? Let’s break it down.
Who Should Go
Surprise, surprise: Lance Stephenson wasn’t good for the Lakers, who would’ve guessed it?. The shooting guard is no longer committed on defense and is one of the least efficient scorers in the team as well. Other than his infamous air guitar celebration, he didn’t do much to help them win.
The Lakers gambled and picked up Tyson Chandler off waivers, something that looked like a bit of a question mark at the time given his age. The veteran big man was solid early on, but father time eventually catch up with him and injuries and nagging pains took a toll on his ability to make an impact.
Mike Muscala has drawn a lot of criticism all year long and truth to be told, I can’t figure out why on earth the Lakers traded for him after seeing him struggle so badly, even if it was purely to clear cap space. Muscala is not the stretch big man they hoped him to be, and he looks careless and lost on defense.
While I actually think Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a solid player, he’s likely to be a bit overpaid next season, and the Lakers would be wise to let him go. He’s a solid defender and a willing passer, but his three-point shooting has really regressed after slightly improving earlier in the year.
Rajon Rondo has been vastly inconsistent all year long. He’s a terrific playmaker but just doesn’t want to play any kind of defense anymore. He’s a terrible three-point shooter, and the Lakers already have one of those on Lonzo Ball, who's also younger and with a higher ceiling, by the way.
Brandon Ingram is not going to be the next Kevin Durant as we all expected him to be, and the Lakers would be wise to just give up on him already. He has enough upside to entice a team to trade for him, and if he could help bring some nice value like a top-10 pick or a superstar to Los Angeles, they should let him go.
Kyle Kuzma is my favorite Laker prospect, but let’s face facts: they’re not going to be able to get a superstar via trade unless they part ways with Kuzma. The Lakers are desperate to bring Anthony Davis to the Staples Center in the summer, and I just don’t see a way to do so and keep Kuzma as well.
Who Should Stay
The Lakers need more depth at the big man spot and JaVale McGee is no Shaquille O’Neal, but he’s been one of the few bright spots for the team this season. He’s really improved as a rim-running big man, and he was a top-tier rim protector for them. At the right price, they should keep him.
Josh Hart vastly regressed this season, but he’s still worthy of another chance in Los Angeles. He’s on an extremely affordable deal, he’s young, and has a lot of upsides. He works hard in both ends of the hardwood, and could really make some strides on defense in the summer. Don’t sleep on him.
Only if Lakers can land Anthony Davis, then they should trade Josh Hart.
Surprisingly, Lonzo Ball’s defense has been the best part of his game. His impact was really felt by the Lakers and they’ve struggled mightily with him out of the lineup. He’s one of the best playmakers in the league, and while his shooting still has a lot of room for improvement, they should definitely hold on to him.
And, obviously, they must keep the King even amid all of the insiders stating they should try and explore the market for him. Magic Johnson can’t go down as the GM who traded LeBron away, but he needs to do a lot of work this offseason if he wants to surround him with a roster capable of making the Finals.