The Los Angeles Lakers went into the offseason with a clear plan to bring back most of their free agents and are now well-positioned to make another run at a title in the 2023-24 season.
The front office did well to re-sign Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura to reasonable deals, pleasing higher ups like Jeanie Buss in the process. Now, the Lakers are widely considered to be one a legitimate contender and should be able to replicate their post-trade deadline and playoff success.
It’s refreshing for fans to feel so confident about the team at this point in the offseason as they couldn’t do that in previous seasons. Dating all the way back to the summer of 2018, most didn’t give the Lakers much of a shot to compete but that notion’s been completely flipped on its head.
The 2018-19 roster was a mix of veterans and young players that actually managed to string together enough wins to threaten a playoff spot, but injuries derailed the season. Lance Stephenson believes if players like LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma didn’t get hurt then they would’ve won the title that year, as he told Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports at And 1’s Open Run in Harlem, New York:
“We woulda won it! LeBron got hurt that year with his groin, Kuzma got hurt. A lot of guys got hurt, I feel like we would’ve won it that year.”
James’ groin injury was the first major injury of his career and he only managed to appear in 55 games for the Lakers, eliminating even the slim chance of a postseason berth. Meanwhile, Kuzma dealt with various nagging injuries to his hand and ankle that forced him to miss 12 games.
It was impressive that the Lakers were even in the thick of the playoff race given the construction of the roster, so even the most optimistic fan would’ve been hard-pressed to believe they could’ve won it all. Lance Stephenson and the rest of the team would struggle down the stretch and be forced to watch the Toronto Raptors win it all from the comfort of their homes.
However, Los Angeles is far from that era now and fans can actually talk themselves into another championship when the new season arrives.
Lakers will eventually retire LeBron James’ jersey
James would capture his first title with the purple and gold the following season, earning his place in Lakers lore. Jeanie Buss is grateful for James’ contributions and once he enters the Hall of Fame the storied franchise will retire his jersey.
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