Skip to content

Wait ’Til Next Year: Star Power Not Enough to Survive in NBA West

The four teams that lost in the Western Conference quarterfinals all could have been among the top contenders on paper at some point this season, but all are already looking ahead to 2024-25. These four teams have some work to do to keep their NBA playoff odds strong for next season, with a number of Western Conference teams on their way up and hoping to take their spots.

Superstars dot the rosters of all of these teams, but star power isn’t enough to advance in the NBA postseason. Look for some big moves from all of these teams in the offseason, which will include keeping those stars if they’re able. Let’s take a closer look at the teams that were eliminated in the Western Conference’s first round.

Wait ’Til Next Year: Star Power Not Enough to Survive in NBA West
D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers/Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via AFP


Los Angeles Lakers (47-35): Coach First Casualty

Los Angeles wasted no time in starting to reshape its team for next season, firing head coach Darvin Ham just two days after being eliminated by the Denver Nuggets. Ham had been on the job for just two seasons, which included a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2023, but Lakers management felt a change needed to be made.

The coaching gig has been rumored to possibly be filled by ex-NBA player JJ Redick, who is doing color commentary for ESPN. He also has a podcast with LeBron James, which might help the Lakers keep the potential free agent around if Redick gets the job. James has a player option for 2024-25 but may opt out and become a free agent.

Another player with an option to become a free agent is guard D’Angelo Russell, who took a bit of the blame for the loss to the Denver Nuggets with his inconsistent play. Russell seems to like playing for the Lakers, but does he want to keep taking the blame when James and Anthony Davis get all the credit?

Los Angeles may or may not have its first-round pick (No. 17), as the New Orleans Pelicans have the option of taking it. Either way, keeping James in the fold is priority one before the team needs to decide if the current makeup of the roster can be a championship contender or if moves need to be made.


— ²³ (@SpeakContext) May 7, 2024


New Orleans Pelicans (49-33): Late Injuries Costly

Injuries were the story of the Pelicans’ postseason, with New Orleans coming close to beating the Lakers in its first Play-In Tournament game before Zion Williamson suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the rest of the game and the rest of the postseason. The Pelicans were overmatched against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, getting swept out without their leading scorer.

New Orleans dropped down into the Play-In Tournament thanks to a late-season injury to Brandon Ingram, so the team has to decide if the current makeup of the roster is on the way up. Williamson, Ingram and CJ McCollum provide a lot of scoring, but can they stay healthy enough to keep the Pelicans in playoff contention again next season?

The biggest personnel question will be starting center Jonas Valanciunas, who is a free agent. The team is near the salary cap luxury tax, so bringing back Valanciunas could be costly. But the team’s NBA playoff odds would likely get worse without the versatile big man.

A pair of first-round picks (Nos. 17 and 21) can be had by the Pelicans, which could help restock the roster with some youth. But it’s never as simple as drafting rookies to fill out a roster if you want to move up in the standings.


Phoenix Suns (49-33): Big Three Fizzles

The most star-studded team of the first-round losers, the Phoenix Suns don’t have a lot of room to make a lot of moves as they’ve already mortgaged their future to bring together Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. But a sixth-place finish in the regular season and a first-round sweep wasn’t what the Suns were looking for.

One big move the team could make is to replace head coach Frank Vogel. That option is still open as team owner Mat Ishbia isn’t afraid to make big moves to build a winner.

“We’re going to evaluate everything,” Ishbia said at a press conference after the first-round loss. “Everything is on the table to evaluate. We have just not started it.”

Getting some more pieces around the star trio is the most likely move, but it won’t be easy. The Suns have one first-round pick at No. 22, so drafting wise could bring another player for the rotation. Phoenix is very restricted on any trades it can make because of its current contracts, so outside of firing Vogel, there isn’t much that is going to change for the Suns heading to 2024-25.


LA Clippers (51-31): Different Season, Same Ailments

Stop us if you’ve heard this one, but injuries were the big problem for the Clippers in their first-round loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Forward Kawhi Leonard played in Games 2 and 3 of the series but missed the other four games, including both Clippers wins. It was the third time in four postseasons that Leonard was on the sideline as Los Angeles was losing a playoff series.

So what do the Clippers do going forward? They have James Harden as a free agent, and Paul George and Russell Westbrook could both opt out and become free agents as well. Going into a season in which the team is moving into a new arena rather than sharing digs with the Lakers, Los Angeles wants to continue to have stars that will draw fans.

Of course, the team would also like to retain its spot among the favorites in the NBA Finals odds in the West too. But to do that, bringing back George and potentially Harden will be needed, no matter what the cost. No first-round pick in this year’s draft limits the team as far as trades and potential new players to add.

Owner Steve Balmer has not been afraid to make big moves since he took over the team, and this summer could see some more from the Clippers. They need to at least bring back George to team with Leonard, but to be contenders, this team will need more than just those two, as shown by their past attempts.

The Western Conference is stacked, making it hard for any of the first-round losers to move up easily. There are some big moves to be made by these teams in the offseason, but will they be through the NBA Draft, the trade market or free agency? Only time will tell.





Questions Of The Day

Which Western Conference first-round loser has won the NBA title most recently?

The Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA title, the most recent championship by a first-round loser in the Western Conference playoffs.


The odds and predictions in the article are based on the time of writing and publication. They may differ as to when the actual event takes place.

Related Tags

NBA News

Did you find this article interesting?

Comments (0)