Ham vs. Pelinka: Who's most to blame for Lakers' disappointing finishes?

Many believe Ham's shortcomings as a coach are the main cause for the Lakers' lack of success, but how responsible is the front office?
Rob Pelinka, Darvin Ham, Los Angeles Lakers
Rob Pelinka, Darvin Ham, Los Angeles Lakers / Allen Berezovsky/GettyImages

In the 2023-24 season, the Los Angeles Lakers came up short of their preseason expectations. Heading into the year, many expected them to be vastly improved from the previous season and ready to make another run to the Western Conference Finals or potentially even beyond.

The Lakers were riding a hot streak to end the previous season and their only problem was that they ran into the eventual champions, who won four close games against them. In the eyes of LA's management, the upgrades they made over the summer of 2023 would give them a chance of usurping even Denver and making a run at the franchise's 18th championship.

But that dream came crashing down when the Lakers struggled to maintain consistency throughout this past season. Winnable games were dropped and piling up injuries forced lineup changes which further accentuated the team's struggles and difficulty to adapt to change. All in all, it was a disappointing season that failed to capitalize on one of Anthony Davis' best campaigns and another solid year from LeBron James as well.

With the season now over, a lot of fingers are being pointed as to who is most responsible for LA's lackluster year. The consensus opinion seems to be that Darvin Ham and his coaching are primarily responsible. It is safe to say that he absolutely made some mistakes this year, and he should be held accountable for them. But we should not get so hyperfixated on bashing Ham that we absolve everyone else of blame as well.

Let us not forget, Darvin Ham helped take a Lakers team that missed the playoffs in 2021-22 to the Western Conference Finals in his first year as Head Coach. That is no small achievement. As frustrating as it can be to have a disappointing season given such high expectations, we should be wary of scapegoating someone for a failure that is clearly on more than a single individual.

The blame placed on Darvin Ham is overblown

Pointing the finger at the Head Coach and telling them to pack their bags seems to be the knee jerk reaction to a failed experiment in the NBA these days, but it has rarely actually resulted in the changes a team was hoping for. Milwaukee fired Adrian Griffin earlier this season while holding a 30-13 record, and they went 19-20 the rest of the way with Doc Rivers as their new coach.

When we look at why the Lakers failed this season, have we considered the possibility that perhaps their roster was not all it had cracked up to be? Consistency matters, and while the pieces LA added in the offseason were solid in theory, perhaps there is something to be said for how those guys fit together on the court. Not to mention, we can not expect all of these new role players to come in and have instant chemistry the second they step on the court.

On Wednesday night, Charles Barkley went on a brief rant about this very topic. "[Darvin Ham and Suns Coach Frank Vogel] didn't just all of a sudden suck as coaches," Barkley said. "People who put those teams together should start packing up their stuff."

If you want to side with Charles, you could look at this being the fault of the Lakers' General Manager, Rob Pelinka. After all, he did opt not to make any moves at the trade deadline this year and let the team ride the year out without any major upgrades. But in reality, LA's disappointment is more than likely a multi-faceted failure.

Darvin Ham may very well not be the Lakers' coach in just a few short hours. But it is becoming increasingly obvious that the blame heaped on him is overblown, and if LA finds a replacement, there is no guarantee they will be a better fit.