Despite having roster improvement last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers once again failed to earn a playoff spot in the deep Western Conference. The addition of talented rookies like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart was not enough to end the Lakers’ playoff drought. With their goal to return to title contention, the Lakers obviously need to add a superstar or two in the upcoming offseason.
In the past months, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder have emerged as the Lakers’ top offseason targets. Both superstars could become unrestricted free agents this summer and could end up playing together in Los Angeles. However, for Kyle Kuzma, whether James, George, or other superstars sign with the Lakers or not, the purple and gold can make it to the Western Conference Playoffs next season, per Undisputed.
“Honestly, I think we could’ve made the playoffs this year. For instance, we won 35 games. We had a lot of games at the beginning of the year that we didn’t know how to win that were right here and we just didn’t grab. So, for us, I don’t see why we can’t. Even if we add [somebody] or not,” Kuzma said (h/t Lakers Nation).
The Lakers’ years of tanking finally paid off as most of the players they drafted are taking the right path to becoming a superstar in the league, including Kyle Kuzma. With just one season, Kuzma proved that he deserves to be part of the Lakers’ long-term future, and some people considered him as the steal of the 2017 NBA draft. In the 77 games he played last season, he averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds on 45 percent shooting from the field and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.
If they continue improving their chemistry, the Lakers, as currently constructed, can undeniably make it to the playoffs next season. However, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka made it clear that their goal is not just to return to the playoffs but to win an NBA championship title. With the emergence of Super Teams, the Lakers needs help from at least two legitimate superstars to become an immediate title contender.
Unfortunately, the successful acquisition of LeBron James and Paul George will slow down the development of Kuzma and other Lakers’ young forwards. It will also prevent them from re-signing Julius Randle, who is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. The Lakers still have plenty of time to decide what they plan to do in the upcoming offseason. They should be more careful about making decisions in order not to repeat the same mistake the former Lakers executives did in the summer of 2016.