After being eliminated by the eventual Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns, will LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have enough to exact revenge next year?
The NBA Finals welcomed some new faces this past NBA season. From the Eastern Conference, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks bullied his way to his first title and Finals MVP. In the Western Conference, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns came up short, but their season was magical nonetheless, reigniting the fire and passion the city has for its basketball team.
What started Phoenix’s magical run was defeating the then-defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. The Suns beat LeBron James and crew in six games, exerting their dominance as the series progressed. The Lakers had some injuries to key players, but they didn’t play championship-level basketball against a hungry Suns team.
Entering the offseason, the Lakers will have to make lemonade out of very few lemons because of their limited finances. However, James is still a top-3 player in the world, and Anthony Davis should be back to 100 percent by the time the regular season begins. So, if they make the proper moves during the summer, can LeBron and the Lakers overtake the Suns in the west next year?
Can LeBron James and the Lakers overtake the Suns next season?
If the Lakers can work within their financial limitations this offseason, there’s no reason they can’t retake the throne at the top of the Western Conference next year. They were up 2-1 on Phoenix in Game 4 before Davis injured his groin. James was also less than 100 percent, as he was still trying to recover from a high ankle sprain he suffered in March. Give the Suns their deserved credit, but a healthy Davis and James would’ve given that first-round series an entirely different feeling.
L.A.’s cap situation is difficult, but the team can use their mid-level exceptions to keep the players they want from last year. They can also spend as much as they want on salaries through trades, as long as it is within the league’s trade rules, according to CBS Sports.
If the Lakers can work some magic and retain their core players from last season (Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso, Taylor Horton Tucker, to name a few), they’ll be in a great position to overtake Phoenix. In addition, if they trade Kyle Kuzma for some of their team needs (shooting, a point guard, or defending wing player), it gives them ample ammunition to best the Suns.
Not to mention LeBron James and Anthony Davis are still world-class players. When healthy, Davis is no match for the Suns’ Ayton. The Arizona product is a respectable player, but Davis is just a better player with more weapons at his disposal. James is a matchup nightmare for anyone, even at this stage of his career, and was having his way with Phoenix early on in their playoff series.
To put it plainly: Yes, the Lakers can overtake the Suns next season in the West. They can if they handle their business this offseason and manage their health during the 2021-22 regular season. Injuries played a huge part in the Lakers’ demise last year, and Phoenix took advantage of that.
LeBron and L.A. might’ve fallen to the Suns this season, but if his team can retain some players and acquire the right talent on a budget, they can knock off the Suns as the best in the west.