Game 82. The final game of the regular season. After their final home game ended in a win, the Los Angeles Lakers traveled to Denver to take on the Nuggets.
Nikola Jokić, Denver’s star center, was ruled out of this game. But, with the team locked into the sixth seed in the West, there was no point to put him onto the court.
The Lakers also ruled out Russell Westbrook along with their other veterans. After all, there was nothing to play for.
With that said, Los Angeles rolled out a starting lineup with young players at all positions. Denver started their reserves, and this game looked to be a boring one.
Except that it was not. In fact, four quarters were not enough to settle this game. Overtime was needed in Denver, but the Lakers got the 146-141 win.
One player stole the show, and it was LA’s very own Austin Reaves. He showed why the team needs to have him on their roster next season.
Austin Reaves joins Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Lonzo Ball as the only rookies with a triple-double in Lakers history. pic.twitter.com/ZcnTjRNBU5— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 11, 2022
The former Oklahoma product finished with 31 points, 10 assists, and a whopping 16 rebounds in 42 minutes. His energy and effort are something the Lakers need next year.
Teammate Malik Monk finished with 41 points, ending a season where he was the team’s third scoring option on a nightly basis.
The Lakers end their miserable season with a record of 33-49. But, at least they won back-to-back games for the first time since January.
This is the dirty play @WayneEllington’s referring to where he was blindly cheap shotted in the back.— Cyrus Saatsaz (@DogSurfRoadshow) April 11, 2022
Keep your head on a swivel @warriors players. This little turd @facucampazzo could do the same thing to one of you during the opening round series.pic.twitter.com/UvelTdzol1 https://t.co/kxSwLRx148
Lakers fans, our misery has come to an end. It’s been a tough year watching the Purple & Gold play the required 82 games. But, there are a few things that stand out.
For one, Malik Monk needs to be given a blank check by Lakers brass. His shooting performances this season are what they need next year.
Austin Reaves showed what he can do against Denver, and the 23-year-old was one of the few young players on this team. If the Lakers want to compete next season, young guys like Reaves are necessary on the team.
This was coach Frank Vogel’s last game. No matter what he said to the media, you can tell he knew what was coming.
“I’m going to enjoy tonight, celebrate what these young guys did, and we’ll deal with tomorrow tomorrow.” Frank Vogel addresses the media regarding reports about his future with the Lakers. pic.twitter.com/bZ61Rerpqp— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) April 11, 2022
You have to feel for Vogel. A coach who won a championship two years ago is now on the chopping block.
But, we can’t entirely blame this season on him. Having to work with the NBA’s oldest roster is no easy task. Especially when LeBron and Anthony Davis suffered through injuries that led to the team’s downfall.
Russell Westbrook was brought in to be the third star for the Lakers. That experiment failed. Nice job, LeBron the GM.
Vogel failed. But, he tried to work with the players he had and we have to give him some credit for trying.
Heading into the Offseason
However, I will not let Rob Pelinka off the hook. He had the power to get a DeMar DeRozan and/or a Buddy Hield onto this team. He was encouraged by the King to get Westbrook, no matter the cost. Look at the result of that decision.
Pelinka is the one who makes the final personnel decisions. That’s his job, and he failed to perform this season.
The team has no first-round picks until 2027. There is barely any cap space. Pelinka needs to figure things out, or else this team is going to continue to lose games next year.
In my opinion, the only good thing Pelinka has done is trade for Anthony Davis. Even that move is questionable, no matter the fact that it led to a championship.
There are a few things the Lakers should do.
Saying Goodbye to The Brow and Brodie
It may sound outrageous, but this team needs to find a way to trade Anthony Davis.
He’s a great player when healthy, but his inability to stay on the court consistently is a red flag. LeBron does not have a lot of years left. If this team wants to win a championship, giving away Davis for other quality players must be considered.
Imagine the package the Lakers could get. A player of Davis’s caliber should return some first-round picks and a few quality players.
Trading/buying out Russell Westbrook is the next step. Returning home to Los Angeles was not the best thing for the UCLA product, as he struggled to find a consistent role all year. He needs the ball in his hands, and playing with LeBron has him standing in the corners every time down the floor.
Unless the new coach can make the Russ/LeBron pairing work, I do not see Russ on this team next year.
Getting rid of these two will open up about $80 million in cap space.
Also, whether it’s through a trade or a release, Kendrick Nunn should not be on the team next season. The man sat and watched all season long. Regardless of his injury, it was a waste of a signing. Doesn’t it seem suspicious guys like Klay Thompson and even Davis returned from more brutal injuries before Nunn?
In The End…
It’s been a crazy season for the Lakers. But, whether you’re a diehard fan or a casual one, the NBA is better when the Purple & Gold succeeds.
We can only hope that the Lakers’ front office makes some magic happen and build a competitive roster for next year. The goal is always the same: to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Thank you for reading my articles about the Lakers this season. I hope you enjoy the playoffs, and I’ll make sure to keep you updated on any offseason moves when they happen.