Purple and Gold No More: Why the Lakers SHOULD NOT be NBA Title Favorites

There is no doubt about how prominent The Los Angeles Lakers are.

They have 16 NBA Championships, 31 Western Conference titles and 23 division titles in their history.

They hold the record for the longest winning streak in NBA history with 33 wins in a row.

They’ve had a multitude of Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers under the Purple and Gold from Elgin Baylor and Jerry West to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal as well as being coached by legendary Bulls coach Phil Jackson bringing multiple titles to the city.

Since Jackson retired in 2011 and Kobe retired in 2015, The Lakers have been in severe rebuilding mode. They have missed the playoffs for several years in a row and even in Kobe’s last season, won only 17 games that season. They have gone through a plethora of coaches from Byron Scott to Mike Brown to recently fired Luke Walton.

As the Lakers try to rebuild, a few things have transpired to now put the Lakers in title contention again, but I do not believe that they are championship material at least not yet. Here’s why.

Anarchy and Disarray:

Due to years of misfortune, the Lakers tried to rebuild. They were able to acquire young stud Brandon Ingram in 2016 as well as enlisted the services of Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle and Lonzo Ball. Didn’t seem to help much because the Lakers became the second most relevant team in LA behind the Clippers. In 2017, the Lakers front office made some changes firing general manager Mitch Kupchak and hired on Lakers legend Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations. Then the head of the Lakers organization Jeanie Buss fired her brother, Jim Buss as Vice President of basketball operations and hired former sports agent Rob Pelinka. That turned out to be a very bad move but more on that later. The Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell and Timothy Mozgov for Brook Lopez.

Mar 23, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) and guard D’Angelo Russell (1) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Lakers 119-107. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Then in July 2018, the Lakers won the lottery. Not the Draft Lottery, the talent lottery. The Lakers acquired the services of arguably the best player in the last 40 years of basketball, multi-time MVP and NBA Champion LeBron James. James, who has redefined the NBA in ways, it hadn’t been since the days of Kobe Bryant and GOAT Michael Jordan, is the “unofficial” leader of the NBA. He started in Cleveland then made The Decision to go to Miami where he won 2 championships and then came back to Cleveland to bring the city its first championship in 50 years. Now LeBron is with the Lakers for the next 4 years and he heads a team full of young stars. Maybe he did it in Cleveland and Miami, but he couldn’t do it at least in the first season in L.A.

Injuries plagued LeBron and he was out most of the season which caused LeBron to be out of the playoffs for the first time in almost 10 years. Rumors swirled about LeBron leaving the Lakers after one season and even the Lakers trying to trade LeBron for someone else. Obviously neither of those things were going to happen.

After the Lakers missed the playoffs this past season, things unraveled. On April 9th of this year, Magic Johnson resigned from his position as president of basketball operations. Now this shook the NBA community to the core. Johnson promised to bring winning basketball and championship to the Lakers so why did he step down? One word…politics.

According to an ESPN interview on First Take, Johnson labeled vice president Rob Pelinka as a backstabber and a snake. So what happened was that apparently Pelinka was making damning accusations and statements about Johnson behind his back and friends and associates of Johnson reported this back to Magic which caused the relationship between Magic and Pelinka to sour quickly. It was clear that Pelinka wanted Magic’s job and combined with the pushback and unwillingness by Jeanie Buss to make the changes that Johnson wanted; he wasn’t about to stay in that toxic environment. So now Pelinka is GM and LeBron missed the playoffs. The Purple And Gold is in trouble.

Not A Favorite:

So when the Lakers fired Luke Walton, they hired former Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel. They failed to bring in the coach LeBron won his last championship with, Ty Lue. They couldn’t bring in any coach that was sufficient enough to coach LeBron. Let’s be honest…Frank Vogel is not a splash when it comes to NBA Head Coaches. To be perfectly honest, he’s probably in the middle or near the bottom of the list of desirable coaches to head an NBA team.

But everything isn’t so bad.

Last week, the Lakers set the NBA world on fire. They did what no one thought they could do after this season. They got their second All-Star. They traded for star Power Forward/Center and multi-time All-Star Anthony Davis. Unfortunately though, they gave up the whole kit and caboodle to get Davis. Reported by NBA reporting wizard Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers will be sending Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and THREE first round picks to New Orleans for Davis. Now the trade officially isn’t official until July 6th which is roughly two weeks from now but I’m sure and NBA beat reporters are sure that this deal is done.

Here is the problem with this trade though…you gave away so much for this one player. Yes Anthony Davis is a stud. He is an All-Star. He is a primetime player. But was this worth it? Yes and No.

Yes because if there’s one thing LeBron has made clear over the last 16 years of his NBA career, it’s that he wants elite players to his side. He left Cleveland the first time to join two elite players in Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. He came back to Cleveland to play alongside elite point guard Kyrie Irving and elite power forward/center Kevin Love. LeBron wants the best talent around him and that’s what Davis is.

SACRAMENTO, CA – NOVEMBER 22: Lonzo Ball #2 and Brandon Ingram #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on November 22, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

This was not a good deal because you’re giving up most of your young nucleus for a 26-year-old stud. Three players and draft picks all for one player is WAY too much. Now if the Lakers win a championship then this whole article will go up in flames, but I don’t see it going that way.

Now since word of this trade has come out, the Lakers have become an NBA Title favorite. This hasn’t happened since Kobe retired and while it is warranted that LeBron and Davis is a powerful threat, it doesn’t mean that they are going to win the NBA Title.

Here’s why I say this…

LeBron has done more with less and won championships because of it…when he was a part of the weak Eastern Conference. This is the Western Conference that has been brutally competitive for years. Besides, two all-stars doesn’t always equate to a championship but there are exceptions. Look at the Toronto Raptors. They won the championship this past season against all odds with Kyle Lowry and elite player Kawhi Leonard. But again, they came out of a somewhat weak Eastern Conference and had guys like Pascal Siakim and Serge Ibaka play huge roles in making this happen.

And why does this make the Lakers the favorite to win at +300? I know you can never fully bet against a LeBron led team but this team as of right now is NOT a championship team. If they do sign Jimmy Butler like the rumor mill suggests and maybe even Kemba Walker, then maybe those odds are warranted but until that time, the Lakers should not be the favorites.

With the landscape of the NBA right now and free agency looming, it doesn’t seem like Kawhi Leonard is leaving Toronto after winning a title in his only season with the Raptors. Kevin Durant may or may not be leaving the Golden State Warriors, Kyrie Irving may or may not be leaving Boston, there’s too many pieces that have to put into this confusing puzzle.

Two biggest reasons why I say the Lakers aren’t the favorites are their two biggest threats in the West, the Houston Rockets and the three time NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. When it comes to the Rockets, that team is still prevalent. With MVP James Harden and Chris Paul on that team, it’s very hard to see them backing down to the Lakers especially if they increased their talent load.

As for the Warriors, they still have two of the best shooters in the NBA, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson even though Thompson was rumored to leave Golden State, but his father says he’s staying in Golden State. They also have Draymond Green and other talents as well, but I believe it’s fair to say in my opinion, the Warriors only won two of their titles because of Kevin Durant. They were a 73-win team in 2016 but still lost to LeBron and the Cavs but it still doesn’t mean the Warriors couldn’t beat a LeBron-led Lakers team.

Unless the Lakers have something else up their sleeves to increase their super team to reclaim dominance of the Western Conference and the NBA this offseason, the Lakers are not the favorite and shouldn’t be the favorite at least not right now.

We’ll have to wait and see.

J.D Phillips