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What Lakers Need in NBA Offseason

LA Coming Off Unlikely Run to West Finals

It was a surprise to just about everyone that the Los Angeles Lakers somehow ended up in the Western Conference finals. At the start of the season, the team’s NBA title odds took a massive dip due to the Lakers losing 10 of their first 12 games.

Then, at the trade deadline, Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley were traded while the Lakers added D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura, who played key roles in the playoffs. On top of that, the trades opened up minutes for Dennis Schröder and Austin Reaves to shine. Los Angeles’ NBA playoff odds started to gain traction with the season winding down.

What Lakers Need in NBA Offseason
Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the national anthem/Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/AFP

However, injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis would start messing with the Lakers’ late-season NBA lines. They would slide into the play-in tournament, winning one game and earning the seventh seed.

Once the playoffs began, the Lakers emerged as a favorite for NBA picks, mainly due to the star power of James and Davis along with role players stepping up.

Los Angeles beat the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors in a pair of six-game postseason series despite being the lower seed. NBA betting started to side with the Lakers, but they were swept by the Denver Nuggets in the conference finals. Despite the sweep, the Lakers were never supposed to be there based on how they played throughout the regular season.

Los Angeles has some options to work with, making its 2023 offseason NBA predictions interesting. But the biggest question is how much does James have left in the tank, looking noticeably fatigued and injured at the end of the playoffs.

2022-23 Season Record: 43-39

Status of Coach: Darvin Ham, a rookie head coach, received a lot of criticism during the regular season due to the team’s struggle. However, with the deep playoff run, he should be back on the sidelines next season.

Positions of Need for Lakers

  • Starting Point Guard
  • Re-Signing Key Role Players
  • Shot-Making Depth

Possible Free Agency Plan

Even with James and Davis combining for $94 million next season toward the salary cap, the Lakers are in a good situation. Outside of those two, only Jarred Vanderbilt for $4.6 million and Max Christie, a rookie who hardly played, are on the books for 2023-24. That is a lot of money that the Lakers have to work with this offseason.

While James did scare some Laker fans by hinting at a possible retirement, most analysts expect him to be back. That allows Los Angeles to now focus on building the right team around him. That starts with keeping Hachimura and Reaves, vital players in the playoffs.

Keeping those two players would be crucial, providing added floor spacing and offensive creation in the playoffs. It is clear they already play well alongside James and Davis, so getting an entire regular season from them could help the Lakers. The only issue is if they overpay them, which could limit the rest of Los Angeles’ offseason plan.

This playoff run made it clear that James can no longer carry a team, with Father Time finally having an effect at 38 years old. On top of that, Davis has yet to show he can stay healthy or have the consistency to take over the team. That means the Lakers need to find a way to acquire a third star player, preferably a guard.

The biggest names that could fit that mold have been Kyrie Irving and Fred VanVleet, which also could be sign-and-trade targets. The Lakers have the 17th pick in the NBA Draft, which could be flipped for one of these guards. Signing Irving seems like the best option, skill-wise, since he’s already played with James with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But the issue is that, like Davis, Irving has struggled to stay healthy. That, along with off-court problems, possibly will make VanVleet the better and cheaper option.

Furthermore, with James on the roster and the lore of the Lakers, the front office should have no problem signing veterans on the edges of the roster. There will be players looking to chase a ring, but also ones that know they could take a pay cut to get more exposure, leading to a bigger contract later.

First-Round Draft Pick

Los Angeles will have the 17th pick in the NBA Draft. If the Lakers are going to try to win now, there is a strong possibility this pick will be traded.

Possible Draft Plan

While it seems more likely that the Lakers will trade this pick, if they keep it, selecting a player that could help them win now would be crucial. The best choice will be Jordan Hawkins if he is available.

Hawkins is a little older than the rest of this draft class, staying at UConn an extra season, which ended up with the team winning the national championship. He played a big part in UConn’s run through the tournament, being the go-to outside offensive threat. On top of that, Hawkins is one of the best shooters in the draft, making him a perfect fit for the Lakers.

Jett Howard or Dariq Whitehead could end up being reaches this early in the draft, but the Lakers need something specific with this pick – floor spacing and defense in particular. Both these players would fill that mold, being able to come off the bench for the Lakers on day one.

Finally, Keyonte George would also be an exciting selection for the Lakers. While he lacks the defensive ability of the aforementioned players, his offensive game is a lot better. Having him come off the bench and be the primary scoring guard could be an unsuspected wrinkle to the rotation.

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