Coming into this season, the Los Angeles Lakers were supposed to be contenders for an NBA title. Of course, the team entered with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and a plethora of veterans and young role players who were expected to make a massive impact. Not to mention, the team made a big trade for none other than Russell Westbrook who just last year, was considered one of the premier point guards in the entire league. It was a roster largely assembled by LeBron himself, and in the end, it was one of the biggest disasters in the history of the Lakers franchise.
Throughout the first few games of the season, the team was in complete disarray as Westbrook continuously turned the ball over while attempting bad shots. From there, Anthony Davis was a shell of himself and injuries eventually got the better of him. Young stars like Talen Horton-Tucker were unable to live up to the hype, and it all forced LeBron James to become a primary scorer at the age of 37, which is pretty much the opposite of what he was doing during the Lakers’ championship season back in 2020.
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The team began to lose games at a concerning clip although, by mid-season, they were able to maintain their record around .500. Once AD got injured for the second time this season, the Lakers started to take a massive nosedive. It seemed like they would have to settle for one of the last spots in the play-in round, but they couldn’t even secure that. Instead, they were left out of the playoffs entirely which turned the Lakers into the laughing stock of the entire NBA.
Now, the team has to figure out what to do with Russell Westbrook, and they also have to make a plan for the rest of the roster as it is clear that this was a failed experiment. LeBron James only has so many years left in the tank and with him taking on a pseudo-GM role with the team, many fans are wondering what’s next for the star. After all, he and the Lakers have a lot of work to do this offseason.
For LeBron, the first item of business should be in regards to Westbrook. There have been reports that LeBron was frustrated with the point guard and that he never felt like Russ fit in with the team. If this is the case, then he needs to push Rob Pelinka for some sort of trade. Sure, Russ is going to be hard to move, but you need to make it happen, otherwise, the Lakers are in for another season of frustration. There are plenty of teams who could use Russ and it seems like the Indiana Pacers would be interested in acquiring him for a player like Buddy Hield. Hield is a player the Lakers wanted last season, and they would be mad not to at least try and make a deal happen this time around.
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As for the rest of the roster, the Lakers could benefit from trading Kendrick Nunn and Horton-Tucker. Horton-Tucker is not the player the Lakers thought he would be and Nunn was injured for the vast majority of last season. Nunn could be a good player next season, however, he is more valuable as an asset the Lakers could use in a trade. The same can be said of Horton-Tucker who could probably benefit from playing in a city where the lights aren’t so bright.
In terms of the rest of the roster, the Lakers need to get younger. Last year, they decided to get older with guys like Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. While they are certainly serviceable players, there are better and younger role players available right now. With LeBron getting up there in age, the Lakers could benefit from some youth, and this summer, a youth movement should be the priority, along with shipping out Russ. Otherwise, this team could be looking rough come October.
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As for LeBron himself, this upcoming edition of the Lakers is going to be make or break for him. He only has a few years left on his Lakers contract and in December of this year, he will be turning 38. Needless to say, time to win a title is running out, and the Western Conference is only getting better and better with each passing year. The Golden State Warriors are back to where they used to be, the Phoenix Suns are incredible, the Memphis Grizzlies are finally fun again, and the Dallas Mavericks have Luka Doncic. With all of that being said, LeBron can’t afford to have a mediocre team. He needs to get better this summer, otherwise, he’s probably going to be stuck at four titles until he retires.
It is also a make-or-break offseason for LeBron as he has made his intentions surrounding his son Bronny, very clear. In 2023, Bronny will be starting university and by 2024, he will be eligible for the NBA draft. LeBron has stated that he wants to play with Bronny and that whoever drafts Bronny will eventually get LeBron’s services. Of course, the Lakers could draft Bronny to keep LeBron in L.A., but there is only a 1 in 30 chance of that happening. With that being said, there is a 97 percent chance that LeBron will be playing elsewhere in 2024 and by that point, he won’t have the GM privileges he does in L.A.
By now, it should be as plain as day that these next few months are pivotal for both LeBron and the Lakers. If they don’t figure this out, then LeBron will simply have to focus on breaking longevity records. If you can’t win championships, you may as well win scoring titles.