For the first time in the LABron era, the Los Angeles Lakers are preaching continuity.
One can go as far back as the start of 2023, when the Lakers pulled off a couple of trades to shake things up. The acquisitions of Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Mo Bamba, and Davon Reed panned out as Los Angeles won 18 out of their next 24 games, advancing to the Western Conference Finals, where they fell to the eventual NBA champions Denver Nuggets.
Yes, the Lakers once again ended their season without a title, but they found a formula that has worked well for them and brought back excitement within the fanbase. Tweaking the roster to the needs of Los Angeles head coach Darvin Ham and of course to the likes of Anthony Davis and LeBron James was more effective than acquiring “star power”.
Prior to this, the Lakers’ mindset was to win now, sometimes at all costs. Mortgaging the future for a mere shot at a championship proved costly, as injuries and the bad fit observed for certain players contributed to Los Angeles’ struggles.
This offseason, the Lakers doubled down on roster building and have thus far signed the following players:
|Total Contract Value ($)
|Number of Years
Resigning Hachimura, Russell, and Austin Reaves were good moves, but the additions of Gabe Vincent and Jaxson Hayes were great finds and addressed some needs. Vincent is a guard whose 3-point shooting (37.8 percent) in the 2023 NBA Playoffs could prove to be even more useful with the right floor spacing.
Hayes is the big man Los Angeles sorely missed when they faced the Nuggets, as his rim protection and the minutes he can provide in the frontcourt could allow Davis to devote more energy on offense.
What also stands out among the Lakers’ signings so far all but one have at least two years on their contracts (regardless if it’s guaranteed or a player/team option), a significant departure from the one-year deals that have become commonplace in recent seasons. It also helps that James himself seems to love Los Angeles’ recent acquisitions.
Under all of these developments however, is the realization that life without James is inching closer. When James leaves teams, he more often than not leaves them in shambles. The Cleveland Cavaliers are a prime example of this (twice) and while the Miami Heat made frequent trips to the postseason once James left, it was largely due to the stability provided by the front office led by Heat team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra.
Creating a viable roster that can function even when James sits out has both its benefits in the short term and beyond. Integrating rookies Jalen Hood-Schifino and Maxwell Lewis while also seeing how Max Christie will fare in Year Two could empower them to take on bigger roles and secure their future with the Lakers. James’ departure will certainly require some adjustments but preparing this early should soften the blow.
Reports are that Los Angeles remains in the market for a big man and that may be their target for the 14th roster spot. As has been done in the past, the Lakers could keep their final roster spot open for any developments. Given how things can happen so fast, this kind of prudence could prove pivotal to Los Angeles’ postseason fate.
Los Angeles Laker fans and haters have come to a general consensus thus far: The Lakers have been among the big winners this offseason. It’s absolutely not a guarantee to championship success nor an indication that this most recent trip to the Western Conference Finals won’t be the last in the next few years. However, this path Los Angeles has taken this offseason has had its successful moments and if things work out, it could set them on a path to their 18th NBA title.