The 2021-22 season has not begun how the Los Angeles Lakers were anticipating and nothing was more evident of that than the Lakers’ embarrassing loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. The 3-7 Timberwolves came into the Staples Center and routed the Lakers, 107-83.
The Lakers now have a 7-6 record on the season while other teams, such as the Golden State Warriors, are thriving. Yes, it is very early and there is a lot of basketball left to play but after falling short in last year’s playoffs there is some concern.
Some fans have turned that concern towards head coach Frank Vogel, whose seat appears to be heating up with the fanbase. While it is easy to be frustrated with Vogel and he is naturally the first target, he is not the person that Laker fans should be upset with.
That person should be Rob Pelinka.
Why Rob Pelinka, not Frank Vogel, should be on the hot seat on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Vogel has been far from perfect and this is by no means a piece that is meant to excuse all of his coaching errors. However, when you look at what is wrong with this team it has a lot more to do with what Pelinka did than what Vogel is doing.
First of all, the team is dealing with several injuries to start the season. That is neither Pelinka nor Vogel’s fault and it is definitely having an impact. For that reason, neither guy should have an extremely hot seat, but it should be warming up.
The main problem with this Los Angeles Lakers team is that the pieces don’t fit well together. Yes, we touted the depth of the Lakers rotation and how that would be a plus before the season. The depth isn’t the issue and once the team gets healthy it will be deep.
It is the fact that Pelinka sacrificed so much to get a guy in Russell Westbrook who a) has a play style that does not result in winning team basketball and b) does not fit well at all with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. We were optimistic that they would figure it out and they still have time to do so, but it is not looking pretty.
The worst part about the Westbrook trade is that there were other options. Several players were moved during the offseason for a reasonable price but Pelinka still felt like the team had to make this big splash move.
Not only does Westbrook not fit in LA but he handcuffs the team financially. He is making $44 million this season and $47 million next season. There are no outs for the Lakers. Pelinka has made the team’s bed and it has to sleep in it for the next two seasons.
The Lakers were successful in 2020 because LeBron and AD went nuclear in the playoffs but they also had several really talented wings that could play defense. All of those wings are gone. The team’s best wing defender thus far this season has been undrafted rookie Austin Reaves. While he has been solid, that is not a good thing!
And why did Pelinka feel the need to make a huge splash move in the offseason? Because last season did not work out at all. The Lakers were coming off of a title-winning team and Pelinka decided to change out some pieces for what we thought were improvements at the time. They weren’t.
Go back and look at the four big-name players that Pelinka brought in last offseason. Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol are all off of the Lakers and were all disappointments in LA.
The last two offseasons have been really bad for Pelinka and his resume. It is not normal for a title contender to completely have a new roster each season and that is what the Los Angeles Lakers have done. Perhaps that is because of LeBron’s influence on the decision-making but that still does not make it better for Pelinka.
That 2020 championship will naturally prolong his job and Pelinka should not be fired anytime soon. However, when you really think about it, he lucked out that LeBron wanted to come to LA to make movies and that Klutch Sports then forced Anthony Davis to LA to play with LeBron.
Because besides those two moves, Rob Pelinka might not be as great of a GM as Laker fans think he is.