The Los Angeles Lakers had to go through the play-in tournament just to make the playoffs in 2022-23. But the Lakers engineered a strong playoff to reach the Western Conference finals. Building off that momentum and having recorded one of the best offseasons in the league, the Lakers are primed to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since being housed in the bubble.
NBA Power Rankings Offseason Edition: No. 3 Los Angeles Lakers
A year after a disastrous 33-win season, Los Angeles won 43 regular season games last year, which put them seventh in the conference, thanks to a late post-trade deadline push.
Los Angeles got off to a slow start for the second straight year. The Lakers had the seventh-worst record in the league on February 9, as they were six games below .500. But the Lakers made a few moves, trading for D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley at the trade deadline. They had previously acquired Rui Hachimura on January 23 from Washington.
Los Angeles took off from there. The Lakers posted an 18-8 record, the third-best in the league, from February 10 to the end of the regular season. Russell and a healthy Anthony Davis were a big reason the Lakers made such a dramatic run. Austin Reaves also had a strong run following the trade deadline. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt gave the Lakers a competent power forward and allowed LeBron James to play small forward more often. Hachimura and Beasley provided the Lakers quality minutes off the bench and as a spot starter.
Los Angeles defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 7-8 play-in game to secure the seventh seed. The Lakers then upset No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round of the playoffs (4-2). But after dispatching the Golden State Warriors in six, the Lakers run came to a grinding halt as the Denver Nuggets swept them in the Western Conference finals.
Besides the Lakers not being as good as the Nuggets last year, three things were their playoff demise. Those things were offensive efficiency, offensive rebounding, and transition defense.
Lakers Offseason Moves
Los Angeles had a busy offseason with lots of decisions to make. In the end, the Lakers had one of the best offseasons in the league. The Lakers re-signed Hachimura Reeves. and extended Davis and Vanderbilt. They also signed free agents Taureen Prince, Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish, Jaxson Hayes, and Christian Wood. Additionally, Los Angeles drafted Jalen Hood-Schifino in the first round and traded for second-round selection Maxwell Lewis.
Los Angeles would likely be higher on my power rankings — that is how much I think of their offseason– but Davis and James’ health is always a question.
Best Offseason Move: Extending Anthony Davis
I can’t say there was one move that put the Lakers at the forefront of the offseason; it was a culmination of the moves.
Prince, Reddish, and Vincent provide the Lakers with some perimeter shooting.
Wood was an excellent late signing, giving the Lakers a quality backup four and five-man. More importantly, Wood theoretically can step in and replace Davis when he misses games and have the Lakers not miss a beat. Wood signed a two-year, $5.7 million deal, though he only makes $2.7 million this year. Next season is a player option.
Hachimura is a talented forward who can score in bunches, as he is outstanding around the rim and in the mid-range. Re-signing Reeves was one of their best moves, as he demonstrated during the World Cup.
While Russell wasn’t great in the playoffs and struggled mightily in the series against the Nuggets, it was essential for the Lakers to re-sign the 27-year-old point guard. Russell was much better in every aspect than in his first stint with the Lakers. Russell signed a two-year, $36 million deal with next season being a player option.
However, the best move was to extend Davis. With James’ playing career slowly coming to a close, the Lakers might as well start the transition process of making the team Davis’. Davis is already the Lakers’ most important player. Davis, who had an early termination option in 2024, signed a three-year, $177.1 million extension. However, the extension means the 30-year-old big man is under contract through 2028, with the 2027-28 campaign being a player option.
Worst Offseason Move: Selecting Jalen Hood-Schifino With The No. 17 Pick
While choosing Hood-Schifino with the No. 17 overall pick was okay as the 20-year-old probably will see little action with the Lakers this season. However, it was a bit of a stretch as Jaime Jaquez Jr., Cam Whitmore, and Marcus Sasser were still on the board, and all would have been a better fit for the Lakers.
Hood-Schifno loves to get to the basket, where he finishes well around the rim with an array of different shots and is an outstanding distributor. However, turnovers and shooting are an issue for the youngster who played just one year collegiately at Indiana.
Hood-Schifino played six Las Vegas and Sacramento summer league games for the Lakers. He averaged 13 points over the six games but was not efficient as he shot just 34% from the field and 21.7% from the 3-point line. Overall, Hood-Schifino scored 15 or more points in four of those contests. His best effort came in Sacramento when he put up 20 points on 8 of 17 shooting and four assists versus Phoenix on July 5.
What’s Next? Head to Training Camp
Los Angeles could add another player on a training camp deal after they waived Bryce Hamilton, who had signed an Exhibit-10 pact. The move leaves the Lakers with 20 players set to training camp, including 14 on standard contracts and three with two-way deals. They are unlikely to carry 15 players to start the season.
The biggest thing Darvin Ham likely has to figure out in training camp is the rest of the rotation behind the starting five. Wood, Hachimura, and Vincent are probably set to be the first three players off the bench. However, if Wood or Hachimura are in the starting lineup, Vanderbilt would be one of the first players off the bench.