Any way you cut it, this year’s Lakers team has been one of the most disappointing in Laker history. Whether it be one of the seven unsuccessful trips to the Finals between 1962 and 1970 or the more recent struggles in ’04 and ’13 the Lakers have had their share of struggles. Today, we compare the 2013 Lakers led by Kobe Bryant to this seasons’ Lakers led by LeBron James.
To acutely depict the agony Laker fans have dealt with between these two embarrassing seasons, you first have to look at “hype” surrounding them beforehand.
In 2013, the Lakers were coming off a semi-finals loss to the Finals-bound Oklahoma City Thunder. LA resorted to old ways to create a spark as they picked up a telephone to make a splash. They orchestrated a three-team deal that landed future Hall of Famer Dwight Howard.
The Lakers also went out and traded for Steve Nash. His ability to run an offense was needed for a team with plenty of scoring options.
On opening night the Lakers had a team that consisted of Nash, Howard, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, and Pau Gasol. Potentially, five future Hall of Famers were wearing the purple and gold for the first time since 2004.
Speaking of 2004, that was a year that will live in infamy for Los Angeles. Championship or bust, yet this team fell short.
They were led by Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal, but they added other guys. The front office added a pair of future Hall of Famers in Gary Payton and Karl Malone. This created a video game lineup. Fans and media members then didn’t understand why it didn’t work, same with 2013.
Enough with the past as now we focus on the current roster.
It always surprises me that fans and media members never learned from their past columns/rants/podcast segments that these type of teams don’t work, especially in LA. While this year’s Laker team has one surefire HOFer in LeBron James (and you could *really* do some gymnastics and argue Rajon Rondo), the team is made up of castoffs from other teams and young guys.
The 2013 Lakers were by no means young, with the youngest starter being Howard at age 27. The team was set up to “win now.” Also, they were billed as the team that was supposed to play LeBron and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
This year’s Lakers, going into opening night, were billed as a team that might contend for a Western Conference title shot. A chance to share the court with the Golden State Warriors, who by everyone’s account were the favorites to not only win the West but the title.
This season’s Lakers don’t have 10 players on their roster over the age of 27. They have three starters who are in their second or third season. It’s really hard for any serious NBA writers or fan to make the case that the expectations for this year were as high as they were almost five years ago.
Recently, guys like Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram have played better. Ingram has been on a tear for the past month averaging 22-3-6 before being shut down for the season with an injury to his right shoulder. Fans also forget that he did little to help the Lakers after LeBron went down with an injury in late December.
If you want, you could go position by position.
PG: Nash vs. Ball
While Lonzo Ball was a top two pick the draft a few seasons ago, Nash was a two-time MVP and was the most explosive point guard in the game for a five-year stretch. If you even want to do it by the season stats, Nash was a better shooter. Nash was able to shoot at almost a 50% clip from the floor in his first season with the Lakers, almost a full ten percent better than Ball is now. Even at age 38, Nash was scoring 12 points and almost seven assits per game. Ball at 21 is still figuring out how to play in the NBA and is averaging 10 points and five assists.
SG: Bryant vs. Ingram
Ingram is a little out of position here. However, he’s a starter in 2019 where positions don’t matter so this is where he’s staying. This isn’t even a debate.
SF: LeBron vs. World Peace.
Again, not really a debate. LeBron, even dealing with the first real injury of his career, is head and shoulders better than MWP.
PF: Gasol vs. Kuzma
I love Kuz as much as the next year, but come on now. *see Gasol For HOF article*
C: Howard vs. McGee.
While guys like Rondo and Tyson Chandler are playing well in their roles and young players like Josh Hart are getting ready to play bigger roles, the ’13 bench had established vets who knew how to win games when put in the right situation.
In the End…
The 2013 Lakers are a much bigger disappointment. They were a team that was loaded with talent (and egos). Also, couldn’t find a way to win because of injuries to key pieces (see: Kobe, Nash, Howard and Gasol) and infighting (see: Kobe vs. Everyone on this team).
Jeff Van Gundy says the Lakers should consider trading LeBron over the summer 🤔 pic.twitter.com/yVPGmujBs8— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 10, 2019
While this year’s Lakers team is a disappointment, no serious basketball fan looked at the Lakers and thought they were a title contender.
Historically, when the Lakers make these types of moves one of two things happen. It’s either a Shaq move. This means they acquire a star for all their assets then compete for a title in two to four years. On the other hand, it’s a Karl Malone move. That’s when there is too much ego and not enough ball to go around.
The jury is still out on which this Lakers team is.