2021 didn’t go as expected for the reigning NBA champions. The stars aligned for the LA Lakers, as they captured their 17th championship in the NBA bubble. However, the Lakers’ title defense came under unique circumstances, as they were only afforded 72 days to prepare for the next season. It was the shortest offseason for any champion in league history. The lack of rest took its toll on them in short order too. Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis spent much time out of the lineup, which had the Lakers toil down to the 7th seed.
It was clear by then that repeating as champions would prove more challenging than once expected. Fast forward to today, and the LA Lakers are champions no more. Following another injury to AD, LA bowed out in Round One of the NBA playoffs to the Phoenix Suns. It marked the first time that LeBron James’ team lost in the conference quarterfinals.
Having come up short so early, changes are likely to come. The only question is: what do those changes look like? It won’t take much to put the team back on track. In today’s NBA, though, you can never have too many stars. That said, here are three stars the Lakers need to target this offseason to regain championship glory in 2022.
3. Victor Oladipo
Victor Oladipo has had a rough go at it for the past few seasons. An upper leg injury ended his season in 2019. While he did show flashes of his all-star self at times, he never looked quite the same. Having been traded twice this past season, it seems that the market for the former all-star is slowly declining. This development could play into the Lakers’ favor as Oladipo heads into free agency.
There isn’t much word about where he currently stands with the Miami Heat. Joining the Lakers on a one-year deal can help fortify Victor’s value on the open market next offseason. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that Oladipo sought out a max-level contract. If that is still his intention, assisting the Lakers in their championship chase could be the road to take.
For LA, it’s a solid proposition. Victor Oladipo is an exceptional two-way player. By adding him to the roster, they would strengthen an already great defense. It would also provide them with a secondary ball-handler and tertiary scoring option. The only concern is his health.
2. Myles Turner
The Center position was in flux throughout the year for the Lakers. They started the season with Marc Gasol as the starter. Then they moved to Montrezl Harrell for a little while. Eventually, they tapped into the buyout market and secured Andre Drummond. The results varied from each player, but none proved satisfactory. Drummond now enters free agency, Harrell may join him by opting out of his contract, and Gasol goes into next year at age 36.
One player they could inquire about is Pacers C Myles Turner. According to Evan Massey, Indiana is expected to listen to trade offers for their 6th-year big man. A frontcourt with him and Anthony Davis would make them a terror inside the arc on defense. The main concern here is that trading for Turner would leave LA somewhat limited offensively, depending on how they fill out the rest of the roster.
1. Kyle Lowry
With all signs pointing toward Dennis Schroder leaving, the Lakers will likely be without a starting point guard at the start of free agency. Near the trading deadline, the Lakers tried to make a deal for Kyle Lowry. Why negotiations fell through, we don’t know. Maybe Toronto didn’t like the package they were being offered, or Los Angeles wasn’t comfortable giving Lowry an extension. Whatever the case, all parties involved could reopen talks on a sign-and-trade.
Lowry is a proven winner, leader, and consistent producer on both ends of the floor. Like Victor Oladipo, he’d only have to be the third option on offense, a role he’s more than capable of fulfilling. The main concern for him would be his age. The Raptors’ PG is 35-years-old. Rumors swirled near the trade deadline that he sought out a two-year deal worth $50M. For a Lakers team already pressed against the cap, that’s a lot to give up, even for a player this good.
There are obviously more glamorous options that LA could venture into this offseason. Names that come to mind are Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal. However, looking at the Lakers’ assets aside from LeBron and AD, acquiring either of those two or any player like them is a pipe dream. The names I’ve listed here aren’t the most exciting. That said, lining either one of them next to the Lakers’ stars can go a long way in winning another championship next year.