As the final seconds ticked down during Game 6 of the NBA Finals, LeBron James and Anthony Davis wandered towards the exit of the fan-less arena. Davis had his head hanging low, almost as if he had lost. In reality, the mood was quite different. AD was simply trying to process what was about to happen. For the first time in his career, he was going to be an NBA champion. Seeing as LeBron was the man responsible for bringing him to Los Angeles, it only makes sense that it would be James who would embrace Davis and congratulate him on everything he was able to accomplish. According to reports, it was in this moment that James whispered in Davis’ ear “we’ve got more work to do.”
When LeBron brought Davis to Los Angeles, the goal was always to win multiple championships. One title was never going to be enough for either of these players and now, they’re at least partially on their way to achieving their goal. In order for this goal to actually be met, however, the Lakers are going to need to do a lot of work — as it’s only going to get tougher from here on out.
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Heading into next season, the entire league is about to get better, and if the Lakers keep their roster the same, they could be left behind by other franchises. The Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, and even the Golden State Warriors are all expected to be title threats in the Western Conference. This doesn’t even take into consideration the Eastern Conference who will have the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics all vying for that coveted spot in the NBA Finals. If the Lakers want any chance at repeating as champions, they will have to re-tool their roster, which is easier said than done.
First and foremost, the team is going to need to quickly re-sign Davis. It doesn’t appear as though this going to be a problem as reports came out this week stating that AD would opt out of his final year and re-sign with the franchise. At this point, it remains to be seen how many years he will want to sign for, especially since LeBron is getting up there in age and there are no guarantees that the Lakers will be contenders for more than a couple of years.
Once the Lakers have AD secured, they will need to look for a third star to complement LeBron and Davis. LeBron and AD were more than enough this season, but when the league inevitably gets better, the Lakers will need a bonafide third option who can help out when the going gets tough. As for who this third player could be, well, there have been plenty of names thrown around over the past few months, and fans are starting to get their hearts set on two in particular: Chris Paul and Bradley Beal.
While these players would be perfect for the Lakers, it remains to be seen how they could fit within the roster when it comes to cap space. For instance, Paul is in the midst of a massive supermax contract and once the Lakers sign AD to an extension, they won’t have much room for the veteran point guard. As for Beal, well, it would be a mistake for the Washington Wizards to part ways with him considering John Wall is about to return this season, which could turn the Wizards into a bubble playoff team. Despite these obstacles, the Lakers should definitely try to make something work here, as they will also be dealing with Rajon Rondo who is about to test the free-agent market. If Rondo were to leave, it would create a massive void, and Paul could be the perfect player to take that spot.
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If the Lakers miss out on Paul and Beal, which seems likely, they could also go after Derrick Rose. The team tried to trade for Rose near the deadline a few months back, but the Pistons rejected the trade. Now that Rose has one year left on his deal, the point guard could be seen as the perfect rental for the Lakers as they try to win back-to-back titles. Not to mention, the Lakers have young players like Kyle Kuzma, who could act as sweeteners to any potential trade. If the Lakers really want to make a splash, they could even try to make a play for Victor Oladipo, who is rumored to want out of Indiana, as soon as possible.
As for other free agents the Lakers could go after, there are plenty to choose from — although it will all depend on what happens with their current free agents. This list of players includes Dion Waiters, J.R. Smith, Markieff Morris, Dwight Howard, and Jared Dudley. When it comes to who they could consider going after, there are going to be some sharpshooters on the market. This includes guys like Joe Harris, Jordan Clarkson, and even Bogdan Bogdanovic who is about to become a restricted free agent with the Sacramento Kings. All of these players could give the Lakers some shooting depth, which was lacking at times this season.
Every year the running joke around the Lakers and their fans is that they think they will land every single big-name free agent. This is simply an impossible task, although it will be important for the Lakers to get at least one or two of the players mentioned above. They have the pieces to wheel and deal, so it only makes sense that they would try to make a major play. And now, they have proven they can win, which goes a long way in convincing people to come aboard.
With LeBron’s window closing, this offseason will be pivotal for the Lakers and their future. While the possibilities seem endless, the clock continues to tick.