In the constant pursuit for success, what does it take to be great?
Well for the Los Angeles Lakers, it means building a championship contender 24/7 all-year round.
Since winning the NBA title in 2020, the Lakers went through some ups and downs, with injuries and inconsistent play offsetting some gains. The 2022-2023 season, though, was a successful campaign for Los Angeles despite it being another campaign without a championship.
Starting the season at 2-10, the Lakers went 41-29 for the rest of the regular season, largely due to a shift in philosophy and some complementing moves in the trade deadline. More importantly, Anthony Davis’ health wasn’t a deterrent as he was able to show flashes of his form in the bubble, with LeBron James breaking the all-time scoring record and continuing to test Father Time.
While Los Angeles was swept by the eventual
world champions Denver Nuggets, the Lakers found their winning formula and this offseason saw them execute their plan to put the rubber on the road.
Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish, and rookies Jalen Hood-Schifino, Maxwell Lewis, Colin Castleton, Alex Fudge, and D’Moi Hodge were the early additions to the retooled Laker lineup. Christian Wood became Los Angeles’ latest signing just as many began shifting their focus from the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup to the start of training camp later this month.
While James has another frontcourt option to work with, Davis hasn’t had a frontcourt partner like Wood since DeMarcus Cousins, allowing Davis to take on his preferred power forward spot. Lakers head coach Darvin Ham should be able to deploy larger lineups, especially with additional options like Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt. Playing against Los Angeles
Given Wood’s ability on offense, Los Angeles is hoping to address size issues that hounded them in their Western Conference Finals matchup against the Nuggets, while also providing some size against larger lineups. Health be willing, Davis will likely remain as the Lakers’ primary rim protector, with Wood giving Los Angeles more flexibility with their switching on defense.
On Wood’s end, this stint in Los Angeles is a chance to show everyone his capabilities. His averages of 16.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 2022-2023 were decent, but the 27-year old has never played more than 68 games in a season. Moreover, there remain concerns about his presence in the locker room as Wood will be joining his eighth team in as many seasons.
Looking at the bigger picture, what does this all mean? The latter portions of the offseason are as telling as the start of the signing period.
The Lakers played the waiting game when it came to filling up their roster, a move that has not been uncommon in recent seasons. They’ve often used that spot to sign a frontcourt player (or one of James’ friends) for the postseason. Los Angeles technically has one more spot left, and it may or may not be filled at the conclusion of training camp. In the meantime, the Lakers will continue to work in the shadows, pouncing once again when the time is right.
Things seemed to fall into place when the Los Angeles Lakers signed Christian Wood a few weeks before training camp. The work for the Lakers front office, though, won’t stop here as they will continue their relentless pursuit for their 18th NBA title, bit by bit.