The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a slow start this season that is made more painful by the success of former Lakers throughout the league. The likes of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram were already succeeding outside of LA, those are not the players that hurt to see succeed.
Instead, is the players that the Lakers decided to part ways with this past offseason. After a disappointing first-round loss in the playoffs, which arguably only happened because of injuries, Rob Pelinka decided to blow everything up and start anew. That resulted in only three players from last year’s team on this year’s roster.
The most infamous decision that Pelinka made was letting Alex Caruso walk when he wanted to be a Laker. The team could have signed him with Bird Rights and would have had to pay a higher luxury tax rate. This is a billion-dollar franchise. They can afford the extra tax.
While that was undoubtedly a mistake when it happened and continues to look like a massive mistake, Caruso is not the former Laker who is making the team look the most foolish. The Lakers didn’t part ways with Caruso because of his talent, they parted ways for monetary reasons.
The former Lakers who is most making the Lakers look foolish is Montrezl Harrell.
Montrezl Harrell accepted his player option for the 2021-22 season essentially so the Lakers could trade him in the Russell Westbrook trade. At the time, it seemed like Harrell was merely doing a favor to the Lakers as a Klutch client. However, in hindsight, this was the best decision that Harrell could have made.
If Harrell hit the open market he probably would have gotten an even smaller deal than he got the year prior from the Lakers as he was not great in LA last season. The counter-point is that he could have picked his team and could have tried to raise his value that way.
Instead of locking into a multi-year deal that would have underpaid him, Harrell took a gamble and bet on himself and it has worked. He now looks like a genius while making the Lakers look foolish for including him as a throwaway contract in the Westbrook deal, which has been terrible for the team.
Harrell is averaging 15.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 26.6 minutes per game. He is playing the best defense in his career, and quite frankly, is having the best season of his career coming off the bench for the Wizards. Harrell currently has a 5.8 Box Plus/Minus this season, which is the highest of his career and puts him up there with the elite players in the NBA.
No NBA stat is perfect but BPM is a good gauging tool as the best of the best typically rank high while the worse of the worse rank low. Out of the 154 players who have played 500 minutes this season, Harrell ranks sixth in BPM. The only players ahead of him are Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Quite the list.
Meanwhile, the purple and gold are dealing with a bit of a center issue themselves as DeAndre Jordan has been awful and even though Dwight Howard has been better, he does not help the floor-spacing problem. Harrell would not have helped the floor-spacing problem much but he would have been a better option than both Howard and Jordan, that is for sure.
Granted, the team needed to include Harrell in the Westbrook trade to even make it possible, so the team would look completely different if Harrell was still on the team as Westbrook would not be in the purple and gold.
But wouldn’t that be better for the Lakers overall? Probably, because this has not been working and the team has zero outs.