After yet another embarrassing loss for the Los Angeles Lakers, this time against the New York Knicks who have the worst record in the NBA, they now have a 31-39 record. After signing LeBron James over the off-season, the Lakers came into the 2018-2019 season ranked as the 10th best team in the NBA according to Sports Illustrated. Obviously, that ranking has proved to not hold up.
Injuries, trade rumors, and expectations have all contributed to the turmoil arounds the Lakers this season. In particular, LeBron James suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for 19 games. In his absence, the Lakers went a dismal 6-13 which plummeted them down the standings. Even after LeBron’s return, the Lakers have lost 13-of-17 games due to other injuries to other key players like Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball.
Injuries aside, there have been clear issues with team chemistry ever since the Anthony Davis debacle in which trade rumors between the Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans were as public as could be. Since then, there has been a division between the young Lakers core (Ball, Kuzma, and Ingram) and James, as well as Lakers management and coaching staff. The Lakers hope to acquire Davis would have required them to trade away their entire young core and seemingly, management was open to the idea which has possibly permanently damaged the relationships between the players and management.
Now looking at next year, although the Lakers have enough cap space to acquire top-caliber talent, it might be possible that free agents will be hesitant to join up with the Lakers, given the chaos and turmoil that has surrounded the team this year. Last off-season, even before this year’s turmoil, All-Stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard decided against joining up with James in LA with George re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kawhi reportedly not wanting to play on the Lakers with LeBron there.
For the Los Angeles Clippers, they have traded away their entire team over the course of the past two seasons, going into complete rebuilds twice. However, despite that, the Clippers currently hold the eighth seed at 40-30 while being led by a young core, going so far as to start two rookies in Landry Shamet and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. While a 40-30 record might not be all that impressive, considering this team traded away their only star in Tobias Harris in order to acquire assets for the future while also clearing cap space, the fact they are still in playoff contention is certainly a feat.
Going into the off-season, the Clippers have the opportunity to sign several top-caliber players to include into their system, led by coach Doc Rivers and President Jerry West.
As things stand right now, the Clippers future is much brighter than the Lakers. The Clippers have a solid core in Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Patrick Beverly, as well as young guns in Ivica Zubac, Shamet, and Alexander. The head coach position is secure for the Clippers while it is expected that the Lakers Coach, Luke Walton, will be fired. And free agents are seemingly more interested in coming to the Clippers rather than the Lakers, likely the first time in the NBA’s history that that has been the case considering the Lakers have always overshadowed the Clippers as the more successful franchise.
Perhaps next year is when everything changes and the torch is passed to the Clippers as the team to beat in LA.