The Los Angeles Lakers came alive towards the end of the season, making it to the Eastern Conference Finals as a seventh seed. Ultimately, they got swept by the Denver Nuggets but now enter a promising offseason, given their postseason success.
Plenty has been reported on the Lakers this summer. It starts with LeBron James not retiring, believing that the Lakers will do everything possible to retain Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura. The Lakers won’t be far from a title as long as LeBron James and Anthony Davis headline this roster, as we saw them turn it on heading into the playoffs, but more needs to be done around them.
Here are three things that need to occur this offseason to propel the 2023-24 Lakers forward.
- LeBron’s Answer & Direction
The Lakers will be okay. They are the Lakers. Given their brand and spotlight, they’ll always attract talent and won’t be far from contention. Still, they must milk every last drop of LeBron James’s tenure. Although unlikely, LeBron dropped the retirement bomb in his postgame press conference after being eliminated, so the Lakers need a commitment from him going into next year.
Additionally, they need answers on how long he has left. Many believe he’ll join up with his son Bronny who is a presumptive first-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, but the Lakers will take LeBron as long as he wants to be a Laker. Regardless, given the salary cap decisions this offseason, they need a clear idea of his plan.
Flipping Russell Westbrook for depth and a low-risk third option in D’Angelo Russell was a smart move at the time. It helped get the most out of a roster that was dead in the water, but Russell cannot be the third option on the Lakers next season. He likely won’t return, and Kyrie Irving remains an exciting option. However, that is unlikely, given the financials. Through free agency, the likeliest option could be Fred VanVleet, as he’s expected to decline his player option. He’d fill a void at the point guard spot and would mesh with LeBron and Davis nicely. The trade market is trickier; they’d have to part ways with their depth pieces to acquire a star such as Trae Young, to whom they have been connected. I’d go all in trying to sign VanVleet, but a third option is needed as the talent gap between LeBron/Davis and everyone else is rather large.
- 3-Point Shooting with Depth
There is no secret about it; the Lakers need more shooters. Having serious threats from beyond the arc helped LeBron and Davis do their things, and it was clear that they were defended differently when the Lakers lacked perimeter shooting. Re-signing Reaves and Hachimura will help, but they need more. Being the Lakers, they’ll be able to attract veterans on the minimum, and unlike past years, they can’t miss. Ideally, they can re-sign Malik Beasley for cheap and hope he doesn’t stink, or they can part with assets to acquire Buddy Hield. I expect Rob Pelinka to do something, given the glaring need.