If the Los Angeles Lakers end up losing their final three games of the season, the team will end up with the exact same win-loss record they finished with last year, despite the arrival of four-time MVP LeBron James last summer and the presence of talented young players such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma. Even with the Lakers confirmed to miss the playoffs for a sixth straight season, there are many who believe they could make it as far as next year’s NBA Finals. But what does the team need to do to get there?
On Thursday, Fansided blog L.A. Sports Hub sought to answer the above question, explaining how it is possible for the Lakers to make up for this season’s disappointment with a 2020 Finals appearance. According to the publication, having James, Ball, and Ingram — who all missed several games due to injuries — all healthy for the 2019-20 season could help Los Angeles win at least 50 games, considering how the team had a 15-8 record this season when all three players were healthy and available.
“You could make the case that LeBron is going to regress and he is not the same player from even 2017 but as he slightly regresses the young players are exponentially getting better,” wrote L.A. Sports Hub’s Jason Reed. “Brandon Ingram showed All-Star-caliber flashes this season and Lonzo Ball could be voted on the NBA All-Defensive Team as early as next year.”
The Lakers were not able to successfully trade for New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis prior to the February trade deadline, but as Reed sees it, the team might not have to acquire the All-NBA forward/center in order to “get something” in the summer of 2019. While he didn’t specifically mention top-tier prospective free agents such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, both of whom are not favored to sign with the Lakers in the 2019 offseason, Reed suggested that second-tier free agents like Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins could still be good enough to improve the Lakers’ talent level.
Talking about other factors that could give the Los Angeles Lakers a chance at making the 2020 NBA Finals, L.A. Sports Hub’s Reed predicted that the Western Conference might not be as strong as it usually is in the coming 2019-20 NBA season. He further suggested that the Golden State Warriors could “regress seriously” if they lose Durant in free agency, while age could play a factor in the Houston Rockets becoming less of a threat than they have been in recent seasons.
“It all depends on what happens this season but the Lakers might be the only Western Conference team that gets legitimately better in the offseason.”
At this point, it’s still far from certain whether the Lakers will even be good enough to merely enter the playoffs next year for the first time in seven seasons. But the team might have more than just their roster to worry about as they head into the offseason, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested earlier this week that the organization, in general, is “not aligned really on any level,” as quoted on Thursday by Bleacher Report.