Feb 15, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Malik Beasley (5) speaks with guard D’Angelo Russell (1) during a stoppage in play against the New Orleans Pelicans in the first half at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – MAY 04: LeBron James #6 and Tristan Thompson #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers warm up prior to facing the Golden State Warriors in game two of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs at Chase Center on May 04, 2023 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The Lakers remade their roster at the trade deadline and powered a surprising postseason run. But after running into the buzzsaw of the Denver Nuggets, they’ll need to upgrade further this offseason.
Everything was working for the Lakers until it wasn’t. A wild trade deadline helped reset the roster and sent them surging through the Play-In and into the playoffs, where they knocked off the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors. But what looked like it might be a miraculous Finals run came up short when they hit the brick wall of Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. Getting swept hurts, especially burning another year of LeBron James’ dwindling career. But the Lakers learned what they have and what they still need, in terms of player personnel, to hopefully avoid this fate next year.
Even though it came together nearly as well as they could have hoped after the trade deadline, this Lakers’ roster could look dramatically different next season. Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura are both restricted free agents who likely earned big new raises with their strong postseason performances.
Mo Bamba wasn’t healthy enough to play at all in the postseason and his contract for next year is only partially guaranteed. The Lakers could part with him to make space for someone else, but they clearly were intrigued by his potential when they traded for him in February. And then there is D’Angelo Russell, Dennis Schroder and Lonnie Walker, all of whom came up big during the playoffs but are unrestricted free agents.
It’s possible that a player or two from the group above won’t be back next season as Rob Pelinka and company navigate the financial crunch of rebuilding the supporting cast around LeBron and Anthony Davis. But while they’ll probably at least try to bring everyone in that group back, these other three players could be left by the wayside.
Lakers who won’t be back next season: 3. Tristan ThompsonThompson didn’t play a single minute during the regular season, not catching on with an NBA roster until the Lakers signed him on Apr. 9 as a big man insurance policy for the playoffs. He appeared in just six games for a total of 32 minutes since the postseason started.
Thompson brings veteran experience and a tight relationship with LeBron. But he clearly doesn’t have much to offer on the floor at this point in his career and it’s hard to imagine the Lakers using a roster spot on him next season.
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