On the verge of LeBron James’ 21st NBA season, what will the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting five look like in 2023-24?
The Los Angeles Lakers face a summer of introspection after getting swept out of the conference finals. It’s clear the team can still build a contender around Anthony Davis and LeBron James, but with multiple key free agents and a pesky new CBA on the horizon, how exactly can the Lakers get better?
Rob Pelinka and the front office showed unexpected ingenuity this season. The Lakers’ flurry of trade deadline maneuvers completely revamped the offense and elevated the defense to an elite level. The result was a conference finals appearance as the No. 7 seed.
If the Lakers can keep most of the same group together, that could be enough for another deep run. LA played at a 57-win pace after the trade deadline, so the next regular season should go more swimmingly — with the obvious caveat that Davis and James are more injury-prone than ever. There have also been several high-profile free agents and trade targets tied to the Lakers.
Predicting the Lakers’ 2023-24 starting lineup:
Point Guard: D’Angelo Russell
This might make the average Lakers fan squirm after Russell’s performance in the conference finals, but every credible source of reporting during the regular season suggested that LA wants to run it back with Russell in the point guard spot.
Even so, there will be other big names tied to this position: primarily Kyrie Irving, who we all know LeBron James would like to play with. James’ sudden decision to ponder retirement after the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to Denver was perceived by many as a blatant leverage play to force the front office to make big changes. That said, the logistics of an Irving-to-LA move are murky and the Mavs reportedly have zero interest in a sign-and-trade centered on Russell.
To take it one step further, Russell enters a mostly barren free agent market. No team with significant cap space — Houston, San Antonio, Detroit, OKC — should have any interest in the former No. 2 pick. The odds of Russell locking up a big contract elsewhere are pretty slim, so the Lakers could conceivably keep Russell on a discount to serve as a regular season points machine before being phased out of primary ball-handling duties in the postseason.
Russell is a liability in the playoffs, but he averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists on .484/.414/.735 splits in 17 regular-season starts for LA. He’s not devoid of talent and he’s still a good 82-game player, if not the best 16-game player.