LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers just finished a season that was good but not great. They won 47 games, including the In-Season Tournament, made it through the Play-In Tournament, and got to the playoffs. However, they were knocked out in the first round by the team that won it all last year.

Normally, that would be pretty okay for most teams. But we’re talking about the Lakers here and, more importantly, LeBron James. For them, it’s championship or bust. What’s more disappointing they led the Nuggets in every one of the five games at halftime, yet only won one of the five.

Now, people in Los Angeles are a bit upset. They’re starting to wonder if the championship they won in 2020 might be the only one they get with LeBron. He’s going to be 40 next season, and even though it’s hard to think about, LeBron’s no longer in the prime of his career. Plus, with all the talk about where he might play next, it’s going to be an interesting summer full of guesses and rumors.

The big question is, can the Lakers make the most out of LeBron’s time left? Or are they going to be stuck being okay – like, a team that wins around 45 games, makes it to the playoffs, but doesn’t really shake things up? Time’s ticking, and everyone’s watching to see what happens next with the Lakers and LeBron.

LeBron’s Future

If LeBron James had only one goal in mind—winning another championship—and location or salary weren’t issues, the Lakers might not be his first pick. Realistically speaking, though, LeBron isn’t likely to head to a team like Oklahoma City Thunder, despite their financial capabilities to bring someone of his caliber aboard.

His family has settled in Los Angeles; his son Bryce is thriving in high school basketball there, and it’s where they want to be. Additionally, if the Lakers draft Bronny James, it’s almost a slam-dunk that LeBron will stay put given his desire to finish his career by playing with his son.

Interestingly, there’s a scenario where the Los Angeles Clippers emerge as a dark horse. With the wealthiest owner in team sports, a move to a brand-new arena next season, the potential to retain stars like Paul George or James Harden, a coach LeBron respects in Ty Lue, and the possibility of them drafting his son Bronny, the Clippers could offer LeBron everything he desires. This includes staying in L.A., playing alongside his son, and chasing another title with all the resources of Steve Ballmer’s empire.

However, assuming LeBron’s loyalty to the Lakers remains strong, it’s likely he’ll opt out of his current contract to sign an extension, perhaps for two more seasons. This decision, though, means he’ll have to depend on Anthony Davis staying healthy and the Lakers’ front office making the right moves to build a championship-contending team around him.

The Westbrook Trade

The Russell Westbrook trade will likely be remembered as a pivotal moment for the Lakers that didn’t go as planned. When the team decided to bring Westbrook to Los Angeles, it shook up the roster in ways that are still felt. Yes, Westbrook is no longer a Laker, and some fans might not miss him much, attributing part of the Lakers’ struggles to his time with the team.

The trade was particularly hard to swallow because it meant losing Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, two vital players from the Lakers’ 2020 championship run. These players’ absence is keenly felt, not just for their contribution on the court but for the defensive skills they brought to the team, skills that would have been invaluable, especially against top competitors like Jamal Murray.

On top of that, the Lakers allowed Alex Caruso to leave for the Bulls, further depleting their defensive lineup. Now, looking ahead, the Lakers have to think about how to rebuild and strengthen their team, keeping an eye on the NBA odds to ensure they can make the most of LeBron’s remaining time with them.

Could Trae Young Help?

Could Trae Young be the missing piece for the Lakers? That’s the big question. Young is an offensive powerhouse known for his impressive scoring and playmaking. However, his defense is not as strong, which might be a problem for the Lakers. Besides Anthony Davis, the Lakers aren’t known for their strong defense. Adding Young could mean they have to work even harder on the defensive end.

And there’s another hurdle. Getting Young from the Atlanta Hawks won’t be easy. Since he’s represented by Klutch, the same agency as LeBron, there might be some hope. But if the Lakers want to start talks, they’d likely have to discuss including Austin Reaves in any deal. It all comes down to whether the Lakers think Young’s offensive talents can outweigh his defensive challenges and if they can actually manage to bring him to LA.

Potential Moves: DeRozan and D’Angelo Russell’s Decisions, Darvin Ham’s Future

DeMar DeRozan could move back home. The LA native and free agent might want to play in his city, next to LeBron, instead of staying with the Bulls. He’s great in clutch moments but wants a big payday, which the Lakers might not offer. It’s his choice.

D’Angelo Russell might leave, too. After the All-Star break, he was good but struggled against the Nuggets. He could leave if the Lakers don’t pay up and they don’t have a backup plan. The free-agent market for point guards isn’t great.

Coach Darvin Ham is also under pressure. After criticism from Davis and LeBron, his job is shaky. The Lakers fired a coach two years after a championship before; Ham’s position isn’t secure, especially with high stakes and LeBron’s expectations.

Challenges Ahead for the Lakers

The Lakers have had a tough time lately, especially with Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets being a tough matchup for them two years in a row. It’s all up to LeBron now. If he stays for another season, the Lakers have a chance to make big moves. But remember, staying healthy isn’t guaranteed for LeBron and AD. They still ended up in the Play-In Tournament last season.

The West is full of young, strong teams like the Thunder, Wolves, and Mavericks. These teams are building slowly and have young stars leading them. They are set to stay competitive for a while. The Lakers? They’re working on a tight schedule, maybe two more years, before things might need to change big time.

The post What Lies Ahead for LeBron James and the Lakers? first appeared on The Sporting Base.

The post What Lies Ahead for LeBron James and the Lakers? appeared first on The Sporting Base.