The NBA season is almost halfway over, and the Los Angeles Lakers are unexpectedly sitting at .500, 10th place in the Western Conference. They are looking destined to be a play-in team for the second season in a row under the leadership of head coach Darvin Ham, and that shouldn't be the case with a young talented roster surrounding LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
This group is definitely underachieving considering they reached the Western Conference finals last year and have had LeBron and AD healthy for most of this season. Both of them are also playing at All-Star levels averaging at least 25 points per game.
Despite their efforts, the Lakers are ranked 24th in offensive rating, 17th in points per game, and have lacked any sort of offensive strategy that has been sustainable. In games that weren't a part of the In-Season tournament, they have not shown the sense of urgency needed to match the energy of their opponents.
Their last lost to New Orleans proves just how bad things have gotten over the past few weeks. After beating them by more than 40 points in the semi-finals of the in-season tournament, the Lakers were run off the floor by that same team losing by 20 points this past weekend.
The Lakers season has run off course, and it is time to question if Darvin Ham is the correct captain to right the ship. Motivating the team and having them prepared mentally on a nightly basis is a big part of his job and it seems as if the Lakers are team still searching for their identity and players do not have defined roles.
Darvin Ham has always been questioned as the head coach of the Lakers
There were questions if Ham was the right hire before he got this job at the beginning of last season because he was a first-time head coach. Longtime L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke even wrote a piece after he was hired that had the first line, Darvin who?
Ham had been an assistant around the league for a long time, but the Lakers normally go after seasoned and high-profile head coaches, something Ham obviously was not. He has shown his inexperience by his strange rotations and making questionable play calls after timeouts that even have LeBron looking confused.
Last regular season he lead the Lakers to the playoffs after squeaking in through the play-in tournament and was let off the hook for their poor play for most of the season because of scapegoat Russell Westbrook.
This year, Ham has no excuse for the Lakers to be where they are in the standings at this point, sitting at 17-17 and losing eight of their last 11 games since winning the In-Season tournament. The Lakers have had some injuries, but AD and LeBron have only missed five games combined all year.
The two previous Lakers' head coaches who got the boot arguably did more with worse rosters and had to deal with more significant injuries.
Surprisingly, in Luke Walton's last season as head coach the Lakers were 20-14 after 34 games, and LeBron was still surrounded by a young team that had not traded for Anthony Davis yet.
In Frank Vogel's last season as the head coach the Lakers were 16-18 at this point in their season, and he had to deal with bigger injuries with LeBron and AD missing a combined 19 games.
Since those two guys were fired after similar starts to the season it is a fair question to ask if this will be Ham's last year at the helm if he cannot turn it around.
He has had questionable rotations and starting lineups all season, and that has lead to bad on-court chemistry throughout the roster. Ham has essentially stayed away from the lineups that worked last season, which is baffling considering that this team has not looked like the team that won two series in the playoffs last year.
Both Austin Reaves and D'Angelo Russell have been relegated to the bench despite them both playing big roles last postseason. The starting five that led the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals last season of AD, LeBron, Reaves, Russell, and Jarred Vanderbilt has yet to start a game this season and has barely played any minutes at all together. He finally decided to put Rui Hachimura in the starting lineup after not playing him as much as he did in the playoffs.
This team has a ton of issues right now and might have the wrong guy trying to fix them. One thing that is clear is that if the Lakers do not improve quickly the criticism for their head coach will only get worse and he will most likely be on the hot seat by the end of the season if he is not already.