For the Los Angeles Lakers, the 2021-2022 NBA season has been one of the most disastrous in recent memory. There are a number of reasons why the Lakers fell short of their preseason expectations, but their key decision-makers appear ready to place the blame on the shoulders of one man, and it’s not Russell Westbrook. Instead, head coach Frank Vogel is likely to be let go at the end of the season according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.
It’s not an unexpected development. There have been rumors about his future in L.A. all season despite having won the NBA Finals in his first season as a Laker during the bubble season in 2019-20.
After experiencing success each of the past two seasons, the Lakers entered the year with high expectations. Consider that preseason betting odds had the Lakers with the second-best chance to win the NBA Finals, with an over/under line set at 52.5 wins and it’s easy to say the LeBron James-led squad has fallen drastically short of their ceiling. With just one more loss, should the Spurs beat the Nuggets later tonight, the Lakers are eliminated from even having a chance to reach the Play-In Tournament
While moving on from Vogel feels inevitable at this point, he didn’t get enough production out of a roster filled with recognizable names, but let’s be fair, coach was doomed from the very beginning.
Where did it all go wrong for Frank Vogel, Lakers?
Obviously the Lakers did have some success under coach Vogel. It’s not like the game suddenly has passed him by, or that he’s lost his ability to coach and make adjustments from one season to the next. He’s already won with a roster led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Unfortunately, their biggest stars rarely played together this season as they both battled individual injuries that kept them sidelined. LBJ and AD have played just 22 games together this season, roughly a quarter of their scheduled amount.
This is likely the largest reason for their struggles, but there have been other contributors to their demise.
For one, Russell Westbrook was a bad roster fit from the start. He likes playing iso ball, yet he can’t shoot and takes bad shots, all while being a very poor defender. All of these negatives are only exacerbated by the fact that Westbrook’s contract is an albatross so bad they couldn’t trade it if they wanted to at the deadline.
- Russell Westbrook contract: $44.2 million in 2021-22, player option for $47 million in 2022-23
To be fair, this isn’t all on Westbrook either. In the right situation the nine-time All-Star can still be effective, but not on a roster that also features LeBron James. Westbrook needs to play with several other players who can space the floor, defend at a high level and don’t need to have the ball in their hands to be effective. For the Lakers, Westbrook was a bad fit from the start, but that’s on general manager Rob Pelinka (or LeBron James, depending on your beliefs).
Building around James and Davis, the Lakers should have prioritized finding shooters, two-way players who can defend and score, but don’t demand the ball. Instead they have a mixed group of shooters that don’t play top-notch defense and it shows, allowing the fourth-most points per game in the NBA. In the end, the Lakers beat themselves turning the ball over way too much and not playing as a team. Is that really all on Vogel? Part of it maybe, but he was set up to fail before the year even began.
Los Angeles Lakers coaching candidates for 2022
As always, any team that has King James and The Brow on their roster will generate plenty of head coaching interest. Westbrook may not be around in 2022 as they likely will try harder to find a trade partner this offseason, which will probably only intrigue potential coaches even more.
We’ve heard rumors of current Jazz coach Quin Snyder being a potential Lakers coach replacement should Utah fall short once again. Another name Fischer’s report links is current 76ers coach and Celtics legend Doc Rivers. Another name who has ties to the organization is Mike Brown, who’s currently an assistant with the Warriors.
The current thinking for the Lakers is to search for coaches with previous experience, which could even include Steve Clifford, who also was an assistant with L.A. While these are the initial names, once the regular season ends next week, there could be several other job openings across the industry, which could prompt the Lakers to make a change of their own.