It’s been said many times in the past few offseasons, but this time... it’s probably true. This is the most important offseason in recent Los Angeles Lakers history.
Important moves and decisions still have to be made surrounding the coaching staff, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and, well... everything.
There are a lot of ways that it can all go wrong. There are also a lot of ways that it can go very right. When it comes to expectations, I try to never get too high or too low. But for fun, and to maybe give ourselves a little laugh and stress relief as we continue into this offseason, I wanted to think of what could be the worst and best possible scenarios for this Lakers offseason.
First, I’ll use the depths of my imagination to try and predict what string of poor decisions could result in the worst offseason scenario possible, starting with...
The Lakers trade the 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and Russell Westbrook to the Rockets for John Wall
You can never have too many Klutch Sports clients on your roster, right? Russell Westbrook has a long list of flaws, and in this scenario, the Lakers’ front office decides — with a little convincing from LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Rich Paul, of course — that Westbrook’s representation is one of them.
So instead of having a Big Three that is only 66.7% represented by Klutch, what if they decided that there was no better way to try and make peace with their most powerful agency ally and to get back to championship-contending status than making that a nice, even 100%?
As a result of that thinking (that totally wasn’t forced upon them under the threat of LeBron leaving after this upcoming season), the team trades not only one, but two first-round picks along with Westbrook to acquire Rockets guard and Klutch client John Wall.
It turned out that the Rockets were more than fine to keep Wall at home for another season, and raised their asking price by one first-rounder since the two teams first deliberated at the 2022 trade deadline. The Lakers, returning to their usual wonton disregard for first-round picks, agree. Other trade suitors such as the Hornets and Pacers catch wind of this continued distaste for assets before the Lakers even agree to the deal, taking their offers off the table now that they realize the Lakers have less-than-zero leverage.
And so falls the first domino in the worst possible 2022 offseason. But things, somehow, get worse, because...
Kurt Rambis is placed on Darvin Ham’s staff
People deceive. Rumors and reports are not always meant to be trusted. In this scenario, a recent story is revealed to be misleading. Because while Ham was reportedly promised that Rambis “will not be a regular presence in coaching meetings like he was with Vogel,” that’s because Rambis is going to be there as more than just a regular presence: He’s going to be there as lead assistant.
Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka wanted to make sure Rambis felt totally empowered to bring his impressive coaching experience to Ham’s staff, a history of work that has amounted to a lifetime 65-164 record. That record has molded Rambis’s mind into one of the great ones in the NBA, a true galaxy brain that willfully wants more DeAndre Jordan for his basketball team.
After the power play from LeBron and Co. to secure more sway by swapping out Westbrook for Wall, the Lakers’ front office realizes that they were taken advantage of despite having the most power. Their aggressive response to retake control comes in the form of forcefully putting Rambis on Ham’s staff.
In the future, Ham and Rambis reportedly trade blows after the Lakers’ third straight loss of the season, with the two and LeBron James recreating the infamous Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Mike D’Antoni picture from a 2012-13 season we naively thought was rock bottom.
But before that, the Lakers had to handle free agency, and after those first two subheads... well, you can probably guess it didn’t go well in this universe, either.
The Lakers receive little interest in free agency, use exception on Hassan Whiteside
Trading Russell Westbrook could have been the Lakers’ best way of making a positive impact on their roster by way of collecting two, maybe three role players whose contracts amount to something close to the $47 million owed to Westbrook after he opts into the final year of his contract.
With that not possible anymore, the team only has the taxpayer mid-level exception of around $6.3 million, and another litter of veteran minimum contracts to attract people to the team.
Expectations were that Malik Monk would be the most likely recipient of this exception, returning to the team with a slight raise after being one of the few bright spots of last season. However, he ends up commanding more money via the non-taxpayer mid-level exception of $10.3 million from a team looking for some offensive firepower in the form of the New York Knicks.
Enter... free-agent Hassan Whiteside?
You’d hope that the Lakers would use the exception on any large wing if not Monk after watching a handful of those types of guys make huge impacts during the 2022 NBA Playoffs. But, of course, the only thing the Lakers’ front office loves more than breaking our hearts is big centers, so instead they use the mid-level on Whiteside while also, inexplicably, re-signing Rambis favorites DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard. They help form a Mount Rushmore of 7-foot bigs who can’t really shoot (sorry, AD), with AD eventually starting at small-forward in Kurt’s stint as interim head coach after his and Ham’s power struggle.
But before the season can get underway, the Lakers try to re-sign their biggest star, which, as you may have guessed, also doesn’t go well...
LeBron James doesn’t sign extension, says they will discuss again in offseason, leaks report that he will test free agency with the intention of leaving
In what is probably the most normal part of the 2022 offseason thus far, LeBron does what some were sort of expecting him to do by declining an extension proposed by the Lakers.
But why? Aside from putting Rambis on the bench, the Lakers succumbed to LeBron’s bidding by dealing Russ with some of the worst asset management imaginable? Why isn’t he happy?
It turns out that he was planning this all along and that the push to acquire Wall was just a LePrank on the Lakers franchise, accelerating the timing of their rebuild period and making it much, much worse than it was originally going to be.
LeBron misses every two out of three games during the season with mysterious “load management” as he exhibits the NBA’s version of “senioritis.”
Now see! Despite what happens this offseason, things can be so much worse than what they will end up being. Even if Westbrook remains on the team.
The Lakers organization has seemingly already recognized some of their past mistakes by making what looks to be the right hire at head coach, further demonstrating an increased competence by reportedly giving him a proper deal and freedom to pick his staff.
With the team already out to a good start, it’s essentially a guarantee the doom and gloom of the above won’t happen, with enough hope to be had that the front office will be able to make the team much more competitive than what the 2021-22 Lakers had to offer. But this way, even if it doesn’t go how we want, it will still exceed the lowest possible expectations. You’re welcome.
Next week, we’ll have WAY MORE fun imagining what a best-case scenario for the Lakers’ offseason could look like.