Now that the season is officially over, I'm going to post my final grades. As before this an absolute grading scale based on the average NBA player:
A - elite performers
B - legit starter on most teams in the league
C - solid top-8 rotation guy
D - end of the rotation guy
F - Luol Deng
As before, people will be shocked, nay, insulted that I would dare give low grades to players on a team that has isn't very good and hasn't been very good all year long, but here they are:
A - Best of the Best
Lebron James - No change here. He's taken some heat for his (lack of) defensive effort, but, given his age and how much he had to carry on the offensive side, that's understandable imo. It would be different if they were winning games and he was dogging it, but, obviously, that's just not the case. And no, I'm not evaluating anything he may or may not have done off-the-court that may or may not have impacted the team this year....this is strictly about his performance.
B - Pretty Darn Good
Anthony Davis - My grading scale is absolute, not relative. That philosophy protects a guy like Anthony Davis whose Lakers career at this point can only be described as a disappointment. Too many games missed at too high a cap figure. Still, he looked pretty good when he came back - even though he was still clearly hobbled. I would probably struggle to name 10 guys better than Anthony Davis right now, but the idea that the Lakers could build around him after LBJ retires should finally be put to rest.
Russell Westbrook - No. Really. It's not that he can't play, it's that he's a bad fit (not to mention that the trade robbed the Lakers of what little depth they had). His on-court performance has been pretty good and consistent with how he's performed his entire career. He may not be a top-20 player any more, but he's certainly a top-20 PG, and that makes him a starter in this league. Another case where an absolute scale protects the player. If I were grading him relative to what he's produced and what was needed of him, he'd probably get a C....maybe even a D.
C - Good Enough
Carmelo Anthony - No, he's not a game breaker any more, but he's a solid rotation guy and bench scorer. Probably better served on a contender, but I'd be happy to bring him back next year.
Malik Monk - Give Monk a lot of credit for taking advantage of this opportunity to prove that he can be an everyday player in this league. Defensive lapses and the occasional disappearing act may keep him from being a starter, but he's looking at a $10-12m per year pay raise this offseason and will have earned it. Hate to lose him, but happy to see him get paid.
D - Warm Bodies
Talen Horton-Tucker - Some people were arguing that THT regressed this season, but I disagreed, simply because I felt like he was over-valued previously (in fact, I thought he should have started in the g-league and only be used for call-ups). For most of the year, I felt like he was the same player he was before, meaning he "stagnated" more than he "regressed". No, his shot (still) wasn't falling, but he was playing functional defense and serving as a tertiary ball handler. Then came March....it was brutal enough that I'm starting to lean towards "regressed". THT is an outside shot from being an every day player right now and he's still really young, but he really needs to start showing signs of improvement by the end of next season.
Austin Reaves - He has been one of the few bright spots this year...undrafted rookie forced into the rotation due to injuries and holds his own. Great energy, good basketball instincts and creativity on offense. Needs to shore up his handles and demonstrate he can stretch the floor - doesn't have to drain 3s, but he has to be a legitimate threat. Here's a guy who gets hurt by an absolute grading scale - if it were relative, he'd probably get a B. But this isn't a relative scale, it's an absolute one and Reaves simply isn't a top-8 rotation player right now. That would put him on the level of guys like Gary Harris, Kelly Oubre Jr., Luke Kennard, Pat Connaughton...or even Monk. He may get there one day, but, right now, he's a pleasant surprise. If I were giving out +/-, he'd get a D+....still not a C- yet.
Dwight Howard - I'm actually not mad at Howard. He's fine for 10-15mpg or situational matchups but that's it. Wouldn't be upset if they brought him back on a minimum deal.
Stanley Johnson - Another guy I'm not mad at, but there's a reason he was available and it becomes more and more clear the more you watch him play. It's not that he that bad, but rather that the NBA is that good. Keep him around as an end-of-the-rotation guy but he's not filling any holes on the roster.
Avery Bradley - Avery Bradley takes an inordinate amount of heat. Don't forget: he was without a team until injuries forced him into a starting role with the Lakers. Nobody disputes that he sucks as a starter - after all, he's an aging player with a history of injury issues. As Popeye once said, "He yam what he yam". I think he can still fill out the end of your rotation and mentor younger players, but he can't play big minutes. Ever. Again.
D.J. Augustin - Avery Bradley without the injury issues....I'm not mad at D.J. but he's an end-of-the-rotation guy right now. And wasn't that the Lakers problem this year? They had too many "end of your rotation" guys playing "regular rotation" minutes.
F - ZOINKS!!!
Kent Bazemore - I actually like Baze: great attitude and always plays hard when he's in. But, yeah, he's done.
Trevor Ariza - Thought he might have a little gas left in the tank. Thought wrong.
Wayne Ellington - Why do I feel like Ellington will go to a different team next year and be pretty good?
All those other guys - Gabriel, Thomas, Collison, Rondo (remember that?), et al.....just show how bad this roster was constructed. I'm not mad at any of them. But to paraphrase former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians: "They're [probably] great guys, but but their [basketball] sucks".
Rob Pelinka - My first ever Front Office grade goes to the guy responsible for managing the team. Yeah, I know there are other "factors" influencing his performance, but, at the end of the day, it's his job. I'm sure he's a real smart guy, but he seems to be a poor evaluator of talent and that's a huge deficit to overcome in this role. I don't mean finding good players - that's pretty easy - I mean finding good players who fit your system and compliment each other's skill sets - that's really hard and it's not something he ever had to do as an agent. The media leaks, lack of coherent/consistent messaging and cap mismanagement don't help either. I don't know that it's necessary to fire him, but the Lakers don't currently have a President of Basketball Operations: the first thing Jeanie needs to do this offseason is find one who knows what they're doing and put them over Rob.
Kendrick Nunn - can't forget him! He would have helped. A LOT. Might not have made this team a contender but it would have been nice to see a proven veteran who's still in his 20s.
Jeanie Buss - My second ever Front Office grade goes to the one who put the wheels in motion. In the corporate world, you are accountable for those you empower and Jeanie is the one who has empowered everyone...including Klutch Sports. It hasn't been a failure, but the team's successes seem to be based more on fortune than competence and that's a bit concerning. This is her first management team and it's only been 5 years - you'd expect a few slip-ups at this stage, that's why she gets the "I". She'll have to make some real tough decisions in the next few years. Those will ultimately establish her legacy.