The Los Angeles Lakers’ season came to a bitter end on Thursday night as the Phoenix Suns knocked them out of the playoffs in six games. LeBron James’ spotless record in the first round was also tainted as Devin Booker and the Suns hammered the final nail to the coffin in Los Angeles’ hopes to win back-to-back championships.
A lot of things went wrong for the recently dethroned NBA champions in this series. Obviously, injuries were the biggest factor with superstar forward Anthony Davis sidelined due to a strained groin for practically the Lakers’ final three losses and LeBron still not at full strength with his bum ankle. Sure, a ton of credit goes to Phoenix for playing magnificently to take down the Purple and Gold. Nevertheless, with a roster supposedly as deep as they had, there was no excuse for the Lakers to get blown off the floor like they did in Games 5 and 6.
Los Angeles’ front office will have their work cut out for them this off-season with majority of their roster hitting free agency. Rob Pelinka and company will have a lot of decision-making to do in order to re-tool this tesm ahead of a redemption campaign in 2021-22. Surely, The King will put on his LeGM hat to provide his input on personnel decisions. With that, here are three current Lakers that LeBron James would not want to see at their practice facility when training camp begins next season.
1. Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma was supposedly going to be the third star for the Lakers when this LeBron James and Anthony Davis era started. The 4th year forward has so far failed to live up to the billing as a consistent and reliable option for the Purple and Gold through two seasons and his performance in this series could have been his final straw.
LeBron James certainly looked like he’s had enough of Kuzma after the latter made this bone-headed play right here.
Lakers fans have also fired up the memes of Kuzma getting shipped out of Los Angeles. So, it’s safe to say it isn’t just LeBron who has had enough of the 25-year old. Kuzma played horrible in these playoffs, especially in this all-important Game 6. He failed to provide the scoring spark the Lakers needed especially when Anthony Davis went down. Kuzma averaged just 6.3 points on 29.2 percent shooting through six games and had a couple of 2-point outings to go along with a goose egg night in their Game 1 loss to start the series.
The former Utah standout is just one of the five Lakers on a guaranteed deal in 2021-22 after they inked him to a 3-year, $39 million contract that kicks in next season. If Los Angeles wants to improve its roster, the 6-foot-10 forward is arguably their most expendable asset.
Kuzma was once viewed as a promising prospect, especially after he put up 18.7 points in his sophomore campaign. Sure, his value may be down due to his inconsistent play and the stinker he had throughout this series, but rebuilding teams may still want to take a flier on the 25-year old.
2. Andre Drummond
The Purple and Gold got Andre Drummond through the buyout market and Lakers fans envisioned him to be an imposing presence for their squad down low. Things, however, did not go the way they planned. In fact, the Lakers finally admitted the Drummond experiment had failed when they completely left him out of the rotation in their most important game of the year.
After starting all 21 regular season games and the first five contests of the postseason with the Lakers, not only did Drummond not start, he didn’t even sniff a single second on the floor for them in Game 6. While Drummond still gobbled up the boards in this series, averaging 11.0 rebounds in five games, he was thoroughly outplayed by Suns budding big man Deandre Ayton.
Drummond’s inability to extend out in the perimeter became a problem alongside LeBron James. Sure, he thrives as an elite rim runner and an option down low when James attracts defenses with his drives. However, when the opposing team packs the paint, LeBron would not be able to go downhill with Drummond clogging up the lane. It became easy for the Suns to do this without Anthony Davis’ presence alongside Drummond in the front court. This became even more glaring in Los Angeles’ final three losses, with the two-time All-Star struggling to find his place in the James-run Lakers offense.
The 6-foot-10 center will enter this summer as an unrestricted free agent. With the way his season ended with the Lakers, it’s likely that we’ve seen the last of Andre Drummond donning the Purple and Gold.
3. Montrezl Harrell
Montrezl Harrell was a regular fixture in Los Angeles’ rotation throughout the majority of the 2020-21 season. However, his role eventually diminished as the campaign winded down and into the postseason. In fact, the 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year averaged just 9.8 minutes and appeared in just four games in their 6-game series loss to the Suns. He did not play in Games 2 and 3 and mostly saw just garbage time for the former champions.
Harrell certainly has his strengths as an energizer and spark off the bench. However, like Drummond, his inability to space floor limits the ways he can help the Lakers on the offensive end. Furthermore, Harrell isn’t a plus defender. So, if he doesn’t provide any significant positives on either side of the ball, he won’t see much time on the floor much like he did through this series against the Suns.
The Lakers surprisingly inked Harrell to a 2-year, $19-million deal, with the latter season being a player option. With the season just recently concluding, it’s still unknown what the 6-foot-7 big man’s plans are this summer. Likewise, it’s worth wondering if there are other interested teams in signing him to a more massive deal this off-season considering how he ended his campaign with the Lakers essentially riding the bench.
If it were up to LeBron, however, he would probably prefer Trez to decline that PO and go find his greener grass elsewhere.