The 2019/20 NBA season was anything but ordinary, and it ended with the unprecedented Orlando bubble designed to provide a safe space for competition amid a pandemic. In this extraordinary setting, the Los Angeles Lakers won another championship trophy, their 17th overall and the first in the past decade, defeating the Miami Heat 4:2 in the finals.
The title has energized the Lakers fan base and justified the high-risk strategy that sacrificed youth and talent for two bonafide superstars; LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Followers of the team are already looking forward to next season and the defense of the title.
And for a good reason. According to oddsmakers, the Lakers are already +325 title favorites for next year, with many fans using their Bet365 New Jersey Bonus Code to get in on the action early before free agency heats up. General Manager Rob Pelinka will need to fill out a roster that will likely lose some complementary pieces. However, the team will inevitably remain in “win-now” mode and be looking to piece together another championship team.
The Biggest Move – Resign Anthony Davis
If anything became apparent in the 2020 playoffs, it’s that size and athleticism still matter in the NBA when combined with an extraordinary amount of skill. Anthony Davis was borderline unguardable in the postseason, and he is in a great position to cash in on his top-5 all-NBA status.
Davis will likely choose to opt-out of the last year on his current contract to maximize his earnings. According to all reports, he will only negotiate with the Lakers, who are sure to offer him the maximum amount (approximately $32 million per year). The only real question is the length of the new contract for the elite big man. Davis could choose to sign for only two or three years and become a free agent again while still at the peak of his abilities or ink a long term deal that gives him more security. The outcome of these negotiations with Davis will impact the Lakers’ chances to remain in title contention for the next several years.
The Challenge – How To Upgrade
Despite winning it all this year, the Lakers can’t afford to sit idle and watch the rest of the NBA get better. They are sure to explore all avenues for improving the team. With little cap space left after resigning Davis, they may look to keep some of their free agents (Dwight Howard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), and perhaps add a mid-level wing player in the mold of Danilo Gallinari, Maurice Harkless, or Torrey Craig.
They could also try to piece together a trade offer centered around Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green. Still, it’s doubtful that such a package would be enough to net a high profile player who might become available such as Chris Paul or Victor Oladipo.
Besides, trading away useful rotation players creates holes elsewhere, so the wisdom of going all-in for another star this offseason is questionable. Swapping Alex Caruso, a first-round pick, and another player for a better fit is another option. However, finding a trade that makes sense basketball-wise and works financially is quite tricky.
That said, the Lakers need at least one more reliable outside shooter and could use more ball-handling in the backcourt, so they must at least try to find above-average players who fit those profiles. Filling this need could be the trickiest part of the offseason plan, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Lakers fall back to resigning their free agents and keeping the middle of the roster mostly the same.
The Finishing Touch – Cheap Veterans
As it turned out, the Lakers got considerable contributions in the playoffs from minimum salary players such as Howard and Rajon Rondo, so they should be looking carefully into several veterans who might be willing to join cheaply to chase a ring. With such players, the key is how they fit with James, who demands a lot from teammates and puts them in extraordinary situations to succeed.
During the offseason, the Lakers will clear the end of their bench and add at least a few proven NBA foot soldiers hoping they will discover another key rotation piece or two. The number of open slots will depend on many factors, including which players opt-in, how many draft-picks, and whether the Lakers make any multiplayer trades before training camp.
With this year’s success, there will likely be a lot of interest in those jobs, and big names like Marc Gasol or Carmelo Anthony could be in play. Of course, the Lakers could fill those spots with their draft picks (or leave them open) and add veterans after the season starts.