The Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA Finals in six games over the Miami Heat, but during the 2021 playoffs, they were eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns in six games.
L.A.'s elimination from the 2021 postseason was a disappointment, but former Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma believes the Purple and Gold would have repeated as NBA champs if it wasn't for injuries:
The Lakers' run to the 2020 title will never be forgotten, as it was the franchise's first championship since 2010. Further, it was the first time the Purple and Gold had made the playoffs since 2013.
The additions of LeBron James ahead of the 2018-19 campaign and Anthony Davis ahead of the 2019-20 season helped bring the Lakers back to prominence, and both players deserve a lot of credit for helping lead L.A. to its first title in a decade.
However, a supporting cast that included players like Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played equally important roles in the team's playoff run.
Hoping to repeat as champions in 2021, the Lakers brought back much of the same roster for the 2020-21 campaign, but injuries to James and Davis, in particular, undoubtedly played a role in the team finishing seventh in the Western Conference with a 42-30 record.
Davis appeared in just 36 games because calf and Achilles injuries, but when he was active, he looked far from being the player who earned an All-Star selection the season prior, averaging 21.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and a career-low 1.6 blocks.
James, meanwhile, played just 45 games with knee, ankle and abdominal injuries. He averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 1.1 steals.
L.A.'s supporting cast wasn't able to hold up without its two leaders, and the Lakers broke up much of their roster at the end of the season, making a trade for Russell Westbrook and relying on lower-end talent to fill out the remainder of their roster in 2021-22 and 2022-23.
Now the Purple and Gold are embroiled in an even more disappointing season, sitting 13th in the Western Conference with a 7-11 record. With how the current team is structured, it's hard to imagine it making a run to the NBA Finals this season.