The 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers will forever be remembered as a disappointment. The roster is full of future hall of famers: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard. Even with all the star power in the world, this team has not only been eliminated from playoff contention but won't even play in the play-in tournament.
The expectations going into the season for the Lakers were all over the place. We had fans and pundits alike saying that this team might win 70 games. Asking the question, "Who can beat this team four times in seven games?"
On the other end, you had fans like myself, who had questions like, "Where is the space on the floor for LeBron to work?" "Can Anthony Davis stay healthy and be the best player on a championship team?" "Will this roster of aging veterans be able to play defense on a consistent basis?"
The second group asked the right questions, as Russell Westbrook's lack of shooting did effect the spacing on the floor. Anthony Davis played less than half of the season due to injuries. The Lakers are amongst the worse defenses in the NBA, giving up 114.8 points per game, which is the fourth most in the NBA.
The Lakers were disappointing even to the people who expected them to be a disappointment. I expected the team to struggle and maybe get the sixth seed and lose in the first round of the playoffs but for them to be damn near 20 games under .500 is crazy.
Are the 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers the most disappointing NBA team of all-time? What other teams are in the running?
2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers
The starting lineup for the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers (Photo via Trading Card Database)
In the 2011-12 season, the Los Angeles Lakers got beat in the second round of the playoffs by the OKC Thunder, in five games. So in response to that, the Lakers wanted to stack up talent for the next season. They picked up Dwight Howard who was in his prime coming off of one of the most dominants runs by a center in his time with the Orlando Magic. LA also picked up future hall of famer Steve Nash. So the roster had four future hall of famers: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard. Howard was in the position that Anthony Davis is in now, where he was picked up to be the guy who takes the torch as the legend gets older and eventually takes a back seat.
Steve Nash could not stay healthy as his back just didn't give him a chance to make a difference for this team. Dwight Howard played well but was not the Superman we had come accustomed to in Orlando as he battled through injuries as well. This was the last year of great Kobe Bryant as he put the team on his back and carried them to the playoffs. The weight was too much as he tore his achilles tendon towards the end of the season and was never the same player again. The Lakers would go on to get swept in the first round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs.
The domino effect of that season is what puts it in the running for most disappointing season of all time, as the Lakers would not make the playoffs for the next six years. We don't know the domino effect of this season from the Lakers yet but in a vacuum. I have to say, this year was more disappointing.
1998-99 Houston Rockets
Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Scottie Pippen (Photo provided by Chron)
After "The Last Dance" season of the Chicago Bulls. Scottie Pippen was looking for his best opportunity to win a ring without Michael Jordan. So he joined the Houston Rockets who had two aging superstars who were trying to make one last run at a ring, Hakeem Olajuwon who already had two championships on his resume and Charles Barkley who infamously still gets teased for never winning a ring.
All of these guys were past their prime but the team was able to use their veteran knowledge to build a good record in a strike shortened season. The Rockets finished the season with a record of 31-19 which placed them with the fifth seed in the western conference playoffs. They played against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. Olajuwon was extremely outplayed by a prime Shaquille O'Neal as Shaq averaged 29 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 52% from floor in the series compared to Olajuwon who averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds while shooting 42% from the floor in the series. This was after Olajuwon averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 51% from the floor during the season. Houston would go on to lose that series 3-1. This is back when the first round was a best of five series.
The 2021-22 Lakers were still more disappointing than the 98-99 Rockets because of the level of talent. The Rockets' three stars were all past their prime. LeBron is still a top 5-7 player in the league even at his advanced age and Anthony Davis just recently turned 29 years of age. Pippen was 33, Barkley was 35, and Olajuwon was 36 that season.
2006-07 Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard (Photo courtesy of Mavs Moneyball)
In the 2005-06 NBA season, the Dallas Mavericks made it to the NBA Finals and were up 2-0 in that series before eventually losing to the Miami Heat. So going into the 2006-07 season, they were one of the favorites. They lived up to all the expectations during the regular season.
Dallas was led by Dirk Nowitzki who won the Most Valuable Player award. Nowitzki averaged 24.6 points and 9 rebounds per game while shooting 50% from the field and 41% from behind the three point line. Nowitzki's MVP effort help lead the Mavericks to the best record in the NBA, 67-15.
In the first round of the playoffs, Dallas was matched up against the Golden State Warriors, who finished that season with a record of 42-40 but hit their stride at the end of the season, winning nine of their last 10 games to end the regular season.
The tone was set from the first game of the series as Golden State played a very physical brand of basketball and did not let Nowitzki get into a rhythm. Nowitzki after having his best season as a pro would only average 19.7 points per game while shooting 38% from the floor and 21% from three. Nowitzki's performance in the playoffs was night and day compared to what he did in the regular season. The Mavericks would go on to lose to the eight seed Warriors in six games.
There are so many teams that you can point to as big time disappointments, the 1993-94 Seattle SuperSonics, the 2010-11 San Antonio Spurs, who both were one seeds that lost to the number eight seed in the first round of the playoffs. The 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers, who made it to the NBA Finals but suffered the biggest upset in finals history losing to the Detroit Pistons. That Lakers team had Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone on the roster. The list goes on and on but no team in history had the expectations of the 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers while falling short by a country mile. So this year's Los Angeles Lakers are in fact, the most disappointing team of all time.