The Los Angeles Lakers season may have ended on Monday night, however, the Western Conference runners-up now head into the offseason with a bunch of huge questions they must answer if they hope to finish the story in 2023-2024.
Much like the New York Yankees in MLB, the Los Angeles Lakers are a major brand in the NBA that have high expectations and championship aspirations nearly every season. While falling short of winning a seventeenth title for the franchise isn’t anything to celebrate in La La Land, there were a lot of positives for the organization in 2022-2023.
Many will forget that this Los Angeles Lakers team began the season at 2-10. And that they dealt with the ongoing drama of Russell Westbrook still being a poor fit for the team, injuries to Lebron James and Anthony Davis, and a roster remodel with less than half a season remaining. Yet, they overcame it all and were on the doorstep of a trip to the 2023 NBA Finals.
Unfortunately for them, they ran into the buzzsaw that was Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. Getting swept out of the Conference Finals sent a clear message. They were not a championship team this year, but they also may not be that far off.
That is why this will be a pivotal offseason for the Los Angeles Lakers and why they have some major questions to answer if they hope to contend for a championship next season.
Could Lebron James actually retire?
Following their disappointing end to the season, Lebron James through a massive wrench into the team’s offseason strategy when he suggested that he is not guaranteed to return in ’23-’24. It was a shocking development mostly because we have never seen James openly ponder retirement. Yet, it is a completely understandable outlook considering his age (38) and having 20 regular and postseasons worth of miles on his body.
However, being emotional right after a tough setback and making bold statements isn’t uncommon for star athletes. There is the possibility he sits out a season to rest his body and come back in 2024-2025 to play with his son Bronny, which has been a dream for the future Hall-of-Famer.
However, with James being the oldest player to score 40 in the playoffs on Monday, it also seems absurd for him to waste a season or walk away while he still is capable of helping to lead a team to the promised land. Lebron James will be back next season, but he will use this threat as leverage on the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.
Will the Lakers eat contract poison pill to keep Austin Reaves?
Austin Reaves went from a solid rotation player to a major part of the Los Angeles Lakers roster this season. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, because he is a restricted free agent this summer and has put the organization into a very difficult position.
For weeks it has been rumored that many teams around the league will make a run at the 24-year-old undrafted talent. And the always worrisome “poison pill contract” phrase has been tossed around. For a franchise with an extremely small title window, the Lakers must decide if Reaves is worth the risk.
Can he continue to develop into a legitimate star in the league? Is this the best version of him? How much is he helped by playing with the likes of James and Davis? They are all tough questions LA must consider when rival teams come calling in July for Reaves’ worthwhile talents.
How do Los Angeles Lakers address the point guard situation?
A couple of weeks ago it seemed like a given that the Los Angeles Lakers would try to re-sign D’Angelo Russell to be their starting point guard next season. However, after an awful conference final that led to him getting benched, rumors suggested that is now far from assured. However, Russell is not the only free agent this summer, so is backup Dennis Schroder.
It’s possible the team tries to bring back both, or neither, and have to start from scratch in ’23-’24. Either way, it was clear in the second half of the season that they were better when they had a competent player at the position.
Is pursuing Kyrie Irving a serious option or really the answer?
If Russell or Schroder doesn’t return, is pursuing James’ pal Kyrie Irving the answer? There were rumors for much of the season that James coveted a reunion with his former Cavaliers teammate in LA. However, is that really the best fit at this point?
If the Los Angeles Lakers take any lesson from their series with the Nuggets it should be that a big three isn’t necessary to reach the finals. The team already has two elite stars. Using their limited funds for a stronger supporting cast makes more sense for them next season, and was proven over the last few months.
Does Jared Vanderbilt or Rui Hachimura start next to Anthony Davis in 2023-2024?
Both Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura proved to be worthwhile additions to the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline. Both gave them something they were missing, however, it became clear during the postseason that Hachimura has a great deal of upside on this team. However, he is a restricted free agent this summer.
If the team has to overpay to keep him, playing him off the bench may not make sense for the cost. But as mentioned before, they have to be smart with their money and have multiple issues to address. Deciding between their two power forwards will be a big decision for the team this offseason.