Lakers most disappointing team in NBA history

The 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers entered the NBA's diamond anniversary season as Western Conference favorites, officially boasting four of the 75 greatest players in league history and the list's biggest snub.

And they failed to make the play-in tournament, let alone the playoffs.

There should be a name for that. It's called the most disappointing team in NBA history.

In retrospect, LeBron James is 37 years old, Anthony Davis has been prone to injury throughout his career, Russell Westbrook is the lowest efficiency superstar of his generation, and the only other player further from his perennial All-Star prime than Carmelo Anthony is Dwight Howard. Some of us saw this season coming.

It is hard to make those excuses when (arguably) the second-greatest player ever warned Twitter skeptics before the season, "Keep talking about my squad, our personnel ages, the way he plays, he stays injured, we're past our time in this league, etc. etc etc. Do me one favor PLEASE!!!! And I mean PLEASE!!! Keep that same narrative ENERGY when it begins! That's all I ask." Even if he did delete the tweet soon afterwards.

Besides, oddsmakers installed the Lakers as heavy preseason favorites to win the West, second only to the Brooklyn Nets for the championship. Brooklyn is making its own run at the list of most disappointing teams in league history, still clinging to eighth place and a pair of chances to emerge from the play-in tournament.

The Nets lost Kyrie Irving for more than 50 games to COVID-19 vaccine denialism. James Harden quit on them midway through the season, and Ben Simmons has not played since the two All-Stars were traded for each other. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are shells of their former All-NBA selves. And still Brooklyn is three games above .500, because Kevin Durant has been good enough to win 34 of his 53 appearances.

The same cannot be said of the Lakers. They have had two of their three best players in all but five games this season, and they were barely .500 for a quarter of the season with James, Davis and Westbrook in the lineup. Anything but mediocrity from them as a collective would have put them on par with the eighth-place Los Angeles Clippers, who have been without Paul George for 50 games and Kawhi Leonard for all of them.

None of this will stop the Lakers from making excuses. They already laid the groundwork. Anonymous sources have blamed coach Frank Vogel at every turn and all but announced his firing before season's end. Davis said the Phoenix Suns "got away with one" in the first round of last year's playoffs, because his groin injury cost him the back half of the series, even though Chris Paul was playing with one arm and the Suns have beat the Lakers every which way ever since, regardless of how many of their stars are in the lineup.

The blame lies with whoever is running the Lakers. Rob Pelinka is their general manager, but former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson recently confirmed what Davis made clear three years ago: Stars run the Lakers. James and Davis preferred Westbrook to the sliding doors of DeMar DeRozan, Buddy Hield and Alex Caruso. LeBron called Carmelo. They recruited Howard, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore — a certifiable NBA 2K12 powerhouse.

They convinced themselves that their past successes would coalesce into a winning formula in 2022, haters and skeptics be damned. That was enough to convince their fans and the betting public of the same.

They sold a bill of goods. The Lakers became the only top-two favorite since preseason odds were first announced before the 1984-85 season to fail to make the playoffs, per StatMuse. They are on pace to fall short of their odds-on win total (52.5) by the widest margin of any team projected to win 50 games in the Basketball Reference archives, dating back to the 1999-2000 season, The Ringer's Zach Kram reported.

This year's Lakers are the most disappointing team in NBA history, and it is not even all that close.

Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James earned the Lakers a title they never imagined: The most disappointing team in NBA history. (David Berding/Getty Images)
Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James earned the Lakers a title they never imagined: The most disappointing team in NBA history. (David Berding/Getty Images)

Runners-up from previous decades:

2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers

They added Howard and Steve Nash to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. Nash battled a back injury, nobody liked Howard, and they needed 46 minutes per game from Bryant over a late-season stretch to qualify for the playoffs. It cost him his Achilles and them the chance to flip a postseason switch.

Result: 45-37, No. 7 seed and a 4-0 loss in the first round

2007-08 Miami Heat

They entered the season with a projected win total over/under of 46.5, and they won 15 games — the largest gap in the aforementioned Basketball Reference database. They traded a rapidly declining Shaquille O'Neal midway through the season and rested Dwyane Wade down the stretch of a late tanking endeavor.

Result: 15-67, missed the playoffs

1997-98 Houston Rockets

They returned an aging core of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley, who had nearly reached the Finals a year earlier. Olajuwon and Drexler were also two seasons removed from leading Houston to its second straight title in 1995, but by midseason Barkley declared them "Team Turmoil."

Result: 41-41, No. 8 seed and a 3-2 loss in the first round

1986-87 Philadelphia 76ers

They were coming off a 54-win season and had come within one basket of reaching their sixth Eastern Conference finals in seven years, but the wheels fell off at the 1986 draft, where they lost two separate trades involving the No. 1 overall pick and Moses Malone. So much for Julius Erving going out on top.

Result: 45-37, No. 5 seed and a 3-2 loss in the first round

1972-73 Atlanta Hawks

They signed Erving out of the ABA and were set to pair him with fellow future Hall of Famers Pete Maravich, Walt Bellamy and Lou Hudson. Erving played in three preseason games for the Hawks before a judge ruled that the Virginia Squires still owned the rights to his contract, ending dreams of a championship in Atlanta.

Result: 46-36, No. 4 seed and a 4-2 loss in the first round

1961-62 St. Louis Hawks

They drafted Lenny Wilkens to a core of Bob Pettit, Clyde Lovellette and Cliff Hagan in 1960. They won 51 games and reached the Finals for the fourth time in five years during their first season together, but by the middle of the 1961-62 campaign, team owner Ben Kerner voiced his aging team's obituary in Sports Illustrated.

Result: 29-51, missed the playoffs

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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