The 2021 Los Angeles Lakers In Review

July 18th, 2021

By Alan Lu

The Los Angeles Lakers were unable to meet their lofty expectations this past season.  After winning the NBA championship in 2020, the Lakers were expected to defend it to become repeat champions this year, or to least make another deep run in the playoffs.  The 2021 Lakers fell well short of those goals.

They immediately started making moves in the offseason, as they packaged Danny Green with their 2020 first round pick in a deal to land Dennis Schroder.  They later signed Marc Gasol, and they also signed Andre Drummond during the middle of the season.  However, their top players kept getting hurt as injuries negatively impacted the Lakers’ team, and they didn’t quite have the same chemistry that made them so effective last year.

Anthony Davis didn’t play nearly as well in the playoffs this year, as he looked lost at times with Andre Drummond in the lineup, and it really clogged up their floor spacing.  The Lakers had trouble knocking down shots at times, and their offense would often bog down into simple isolation and post-up sets.  Their head coach, Frank Vogel didn’t seem to make enough adjustments in the playoffs, and then Anthony Davis got hurt midway against the Suns, and they ended up losing their first round series to the Phoenix Suns in 6 games.

LeBron and the Lakers just couldn’t quite match the success they had last season. Injuries and chemistry issues took a toll on the Lakers, as they couldn’t quite maximize the most out of their roster this year, and they ended up losing their first round series to the Phoenix Suns in the 2021 NBA playoffs.
(Photo:
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press, via The Boston Globe)

G-F LeBron James
2021 (LAL): 45 GP, 25 PPG, 7.8 APG, 7.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 51 FG%, 36 3PT%, 70 FT%, 24.2 PER, 60 TS%, 5.6 WS, .179 WS48

LeBron still put up really good numbers, but it seems that he is starting to show a little bit of the signs of the aging process.  He missed a handful of games this year due to injury, and he wasn’t quite able to help his team get out of the first round, with Anthony Davis missing half of the series due to injury.  LeBron is still a great player and this season doesn’t take anything away from him historically.  Right now though, it seems that he’ll have to find ways to stay healthy in the meantime.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting forward on the Los Angeles Lakers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 4 stars

Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar big man, Anthony Davis wasn’t nearly as effective as he was last season, and he ended up getting injured in his team’s first round series in the 2021 NBA playoffs.
(Photo:
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press, via The Los Angeles Times)

F-C Anthony Davis
2021 (LAL): 36 GP, 21.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.6 BPG, 1.3 SPG, 49 FG%, 26 3PT%, 74 FT%, 22.1 PER, 56 TS%, 3.7 WS, .152 WS48

He played really well last season, but he wasn’t quite nearly as effective this year, as he struggled to consistently knock down jumpers, and he struggled to shoot the ball effectively when he played power forward rather than the center position.  Davis just couldn’t seem to capture the Durant-like magic he showed from last year, and he ended up getting hurt late in the first round series that caused him to miss the rest of the playoffs.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting big man on the Los Angeles Lakers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 4 stars

G-F Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
2021 (LAL): 67 GP, 9.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 43 FG%, 41 3PT%, 87 FT%, 10.7 PER, 59 TS%, 4.2 WS, .107 WS48

Caldwell-Pope excelled as a shooter and defender in the regular season, but he really struggled with his jump shot in the playoffs, and his team’s shooting woes may have made Laker fans wish that they hadn’t traded away Danny Green and that draft pick so soon.  At the same time, Anthony Davis did end up getting hurt in the playoffs, which really hurt the Lakers’ chances to make a deep run.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Los Angeles Lakers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

G Dennis Schröder
2021 (LAL): 61 GP, 15.4 PPG, 5.8 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 44 FG%, 33 3PT%, 85 FT%, 13.8 PER, 54 TS%, 3.8 WS, .093 WS48

Schroder provided scoring, playmaking skills, and plenty of speed in the regular season, but he struggled to shoot from the outside, especially in the playoffs.  Some of the Lakers’ fans weren’t happy with his play, and his penchant for chucking may have worn out his welcome.  If the Lakers bring him back, they could hope for him to have a bounce back year, or they could use his high salary to package him with another player in a blockbuster deal to acquire a high-end player in return.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Schröder will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

C Andre Drummond
2021 (CLE/LAL): 46 GP, 14.9 PPG, 12 RPG, 2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 49 FG%, 60 FT%, 19.4 PER, 52 TS%, 2 WS, .077 WS48

Drummond generally excelled as a rebounder and interior defender for his team, and he shot the ball a little better in less touches for the Lakers than he did for Cleveland this past season. 

However, he and Anthony Davis seemed to be a clunky fit on the floor as it really seemed to hurt Davis offensively, and Davis had to play much further away from the hoop, which magnified his weaknesses as a shooter.  The constant Drummond-AD lineups also seemed to magnify the Lakers’ shooting woes as there wasn’t nearly enough floor spacing on offense, but individually, Drummond had a fairly good season.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting center on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Drummond will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F-C Montrezl Harrell
2021 (LAL): 69 GP, 13.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 62 FG%, 71 FT%, 22.7 PER, 65 TS%, 7.3 WS, .221 WS48

It was a bit of a curious decision as to why he took drastically less than market value to sign with the Lakers, but the assumption was that he wanted to win, and get serious playing time on a winning team.  Harrell still played fairly well in the regular season, but he didn’t play much in the playoffs. 

When he did play in the playoffs, he was able to provide some rim running, but the Lakers couldn’t shoot or generate enough offense, and he really had trouble defensively against the Suns, so he wasn’t nearly as effective in the playoffs this year.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Harrell has a player option that he can exercise for next season.

G Alex Caruso
2021 (LAL): 58 GP, 6.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 44 FG%, 40 3PT%, 64 FT%, 11.1 PER, 55 TS%, 2.4 WS, .095 WS48

Caruso played very well in the regular season, as he shot the ball well, was a reliable distributor on offense, and he played very good, shutdown defense.  However, in the playoffs, he really struggled to shoot or score the basketball, and he didn’t get many assists either in the postseason.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Caruso will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

C Marc Gasol
2021 (LAL): 52 GP, 5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, 45 FG%, 41 3PT%, 72 FT%, 12.2 PER, 61 TS%, 2.8 WS, .133 WS48

Gasol excelled as a shooter, facilitator, and defender in his role for the Lakers, but when his team signed Drummond, Gasol saw his minutes decrease rapidly.  He did manage to get some playing time in the playoffs.  He struggled a bit defensively, but he more than made up for it by shooting and passing well for his team.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Los Angeles Lakers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

F Kyle Kuzma
2021 (LAL): 68 GP, 12.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 44 FG%, 36 3PT%, 69 FT%, 12.7 PER, 55 TS%, 3.3 WS, .080 WS48

Kuzma excelled as a shooter and scorer in the regular season, and he also showed off some rebounding and playmaking skills.  However, he really struggled in the playoffs as he shot the ball really poorly, and the Lakers will have to either get him to focus and regroup so that he can play better in the postseason, or they will have to trade him if he continues to struggle mightily in the playoffs.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Los Angeles Lakers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G-F Talen Horton-Tucker
2021 (LAL): 65 GP, 9 PPG, 2.8 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1 SPG, 46 FG%, 28 3PT%, 78 FT%, 12.9 PER, 54 TS%, 2.1 WS, .078 WS48

Horton-Tucker played much more this past season, and he was aggressive as a scorer and playmaker on offense.  He defended well, and he showed the potential to guard multiple positions.  He didn’t seem to play much in the playoffs, and he had some good moments, though he didn’t stand out overall in the postseason.  Horton-Tucker will really need to improve his jump shot, his three-point shot in particular in order to expand his game offensively.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Los Angeles Lakers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Horton-Tucker will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G-F Wesley Matthews
2021 (LAL): 58 GP, 4.8 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 35 FG%, 34 3PT%, 85 FT%, 7.2 PER, 52 TS%, 1.7 WS, .073 WS48

He signed with the Lakers in the offseason to be a defensive wing player for them, and Matthews is a veteran that is known both for his shooting and defense.

This year though, Matthews shot the ball very poorly for the Lakers in the regular season and postseason, and he was terrible as a shooter in the playoffs, so it’s not certain if the Lakers or their fan base would want him back.  Matthews may be capable of having a solid bounce back year next season, but he may need a change of scenery to be able to do so.

2021 Season Grade: D-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Matthews will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F-C Markieff Morris
2021 (LAL): 61 GP, 6.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 40 FG%, 31 3PT%, 72 FT%, 9.3 PER, 51 TS%, 1.6 WS, .062 WS48

After playing surprisingly well last season as he was a pivotal member of the Lakers’ championship run to help them get a title last year, Morris in terms of his season performance crashed back down to Earth this past season.  He didn’t shoot nor defend nearly as well, and he barely played in the playoffs this time around. 

While he didn’t play well during the regular season by any stretch of the imagination, some may wonder if he could have been more useful than some of the other rotation players they deployed in their first-round series loss to the Suns, but Morris didn’t play well in limited minutes in the postseason.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Morris will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G-F Ben McLemore
2021 (HOU/LAL): 53 GP, 7.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 37 FG%, 35 3PT%, 74 FT%, 8.5 PER, 52 TS%, 0.2 WS, .013 WS48

McLemore struggled to play well for the Houston Rockets, but it was still a bit of a surprise that the Rockets waived him.  He did a decent job of knocking down threes for the Lakers, but he didn’t do anything else that well in the regular season.  In the playoffs, he didn’t shoot the ball well at all in limited minutes, but he was able to rebound the basketball.

2021 Season Grade: D (F w/HOU, D+ w/LAL)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

McLemore will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F Alfonzo McKinnie
2021 (LAL): 39 GP, 3.1 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 52 FG%, 41 3PT%, 56 FT%, 15.5 PER, 60 TS%, 0.8 WS, .156 WS48

McKinnie played very well in limited minutes, and he excelled as a shooter and rebounder in his role for the team this past season.  He barely played in the playoffs, and he wasn’t able to score the basketball in the playoffs this year.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

McKinnie will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F-C Devontae Cacok (Two-Way)
2021 (LAL): 2 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 59 FG%, 45 FT%, 17.2 PER, 58 TS%, 0.3 WS, .142 WS48

He is a 6-7 power forward that can score and rebound in the paint, but he doesn’t shoot threes, has limited perimeter skills, and he hasn’t been able to get his footing into the team’s rotation in the two seasons that he has played for the Lakers.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.0 stars potential)

F-C Kostas Antetokounmpo (Two-Way)
2021 (LAL): 15 GP, 0.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 30 FG%, 46 FT%, 0 PER, 38 TS%, -0.2 WS, -0.174 WS48

He is Giannis’ younger brother, and he is an Antetokounmpo brother, but I’m really not sure what Kostas brings to the Lakers, aside from raw athleticism, as well as some rebounding and shot blocking skills, but he is very far behind offensively, and he has barely played in the NBA in the three seasons he’s played in this league.

2021 Season Grade: D-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1 star (2.0 stars potential)

F Jared Dudley
2021 (LAL): 12 GP, 0.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 22 FG%, 33 3PT%, 4.4 PER, 33 TS%, 0.1 WS, .053 WS48

He’s a veteran that was known for his shooting and defense, but at this stage, he’s more known for his veteran guidance more so than anything, and he hasn’t received substantial playing time since the 2018-19 NBA season.

2021 Season Grade: D-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1 star

Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Head Coach:
Frank Vogel
2021 (LAL): 42-30, 2-4 in the playoffs
Coaching Career: 398-340, 49-39 in his playoff career, won 1 NBA title with the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers

Following their wildly successful 2020 season in which they won the NBA title, the 2021 Los Angeles Lakers turned out to be a disappointing team that was riddled with injuries, but they also got bounced out of the first round by the Phoenix Suns this year.
(Photo:
Mike Ehrmann – Pool Photo via USA Today Sports, via Lakers Nation)

Big things were expected out of Vogel and the Lakers, but they fell well short of their goals.  The Lakers were hampered by injuries, most notably Anthony Davis ended up getting injured during the middle of their first round series, which essentially killed any chance for them to win the title this year.

That said, it didn’t help that Vogel stuck to convention almost to a tee.  He constantly went to a two-big men lineup, and the Drummond-AD lineups really seemed to hurt Anthony Davis’ offensive production, as Davis really struggled to knock down jumpers, and the Lakers looked to be slow defensively.

The Lakers also seemed to run too much iso-ball on offense, and they didn’t seem to incorporate creative schemes, as there was too much ball holding and one-on-one play.  The role players all seemed to defer to LeBron (in their hopes that he would bail them out), and perhaps too much so, and when the role players would be forced to shoot, they would often not want to or would end up missing.

This also serves as a management issue, and the Lakers will need to use more creativity on offense next year, but they will need different role players who can adapt to playing with LeBron and on the big stage in the playoffs.

2021 Season Grade: D+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Los Angeles Lakers’ Season:

The Lakers’ season was greatly disappointing.  They had title hopes entering the year, and getting bounced in the first round by the Phoenix Suns is certainly not what they had in mind.  Sure, they were dealt with injuries, but their role players didn’t step up, and their head coach didn’t adjust, as he kept sticking to conventional lineups and to the same schemes when they weren’t working.

The 2020-21 Los Angeles Lakers’ Season Grade: D

Los Angeles Lakers’ superstars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis star along with Don Cheadle and Bugs Bunny, along with many others in Space Jam 2. Michael B. Jordan is a special guest cameo in this movie. It’s in theaters in everywhere.
(Source:
YouTube/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Los Angeles Lakers’ Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation:

Projected Starters:
C Anthony Davis
F Kyle Kuzma
F LeBron James 
G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
G Dennis Schroder

Key Reserves:
F Montrezl Harrell
G Alex Caruso
G-F Talen Horton-Tucker
C Marc Gasol

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
F Markieff Morris
The 22nd Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

Impending Restricted Free Agents:
Talen Horton-Tucker – Expected Back

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
Andre Drummond – Not Expected Back
Dennis Schroder – Expected Back
Alex Caruso – Expected Back
Markieff Morris – Expected Back
Wesley Matthews – Not Expected Back
Ben McLemore – Not Expected Back
Jared Dudley – Not Expected Back

Players with an Impending Player Option:
Montrezl Harrell – Expected Back

Players on Non-guaranteed Contracts:
Alfonzo McKinnie – Not Expected Back

Projected Players Cut From Next Season’s Roster:
F-C Kostas Antetkounmpo (Two-Way)
F Devontae Cacok (Two-Way)

Potential Trade Bait Players (Players that could be dealt):
G Dennis Schroder
F Kyle Kuzma

Projected Offseason Plan for the Los Angeles Lakers:
They don’t have any cap space to sign big-time free agents that are not currently on their team, so the Lakers might plan on trying to keep the players they have in the meantime.

However, not all of their roster entirely fits together.  Andre Drummond didn’t seem to fit well with Anthony Davis when paired together on the floor, and it really hurt both Anthony Davis on offense and their overall floor spacing.  Dennis Schroder struggled to shoot this year, and he may be better suited to going back to the 6th man role that he was so effective in playing with Oklahoma City.

Some of their other additions really didn’t work, and Wes Matthews couldn’t shoot the ball very well at all in the playoffs.  However, neither could some of the players that were on the 2020 Lakers’ championship team, and Kyle Kuzma also didn’t shoot the ball very well at all, either.  The Lakers have some serious questions to answer, and the worst-case scenario is they may even have to consider moving on from head coach, Frank Vogel if the same problems continue to persist.

In the meantime, the Lakers should look to draft a player that can complement both LeBron and AD, and they could look to draft either a point guard or a wing player that can shoot, defend, and also play unselfish, team-oriented basketball.

The 2022 Los Angeles Lakers’ Expected Win-Loss Record, and Projected 2022 Season Finish:
46-36, 7th in the Western Conference in 2022

Expected 2022 Season Outcome: 
The Lakers are likely going to be somewhere between a top-tier and a mid-tier playoff team in the West next season.  With a healthy LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Lakers always will have a fighting chance to win a title, but injuries and the aging process may prevent them from being able to do so unless if they can add more offensive firepower and talent that better fits the talents of LeBron, AD, and their team.

I primarily went to Basketball-Reference and No Trade Clause for research purposes. For more information on my ratings scale and how I rate NBA players and coaches, you can find it here. Thanks for reading.

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