5 bold predictions for the Lakers’ offseason, ranked most to least likely

Anthony Irwin
11 Min Read
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2023-24 Los Angeles Lakers season behind us, it’s time to look ahead to what promises to be a fascinating, and once again, crucial summer. Rob Pelinka has already made one critical decision and dismissed Darvin Ham, which means he’ll have to find a replacement. LeBron James has a player option. Christian Wood has made a decision on his own, with D’Angelo Russell close behind him.

Oh, and there’s also that whole matter of whether or not to trade for a third star. No biggie!

So, without further ado, here are five educated predictions for this offseason, ranked most to least likely.

1. LeBron opts out of his current deal, then re-signs a three-year max (with a third-year player option)

Sources close to the situation say the Lakers are prepared for James to opt out and also confident they’ll be able to work out a deal that would ensure he’ll retire in purple and gold.

Yes, James hasn’t been all that thrilled with some of the decisions the front office has made and certainly isn’t over the moon with the results. He’s more than held up his end of the bargain, staving off Father Time in ways we’ve never seen before in NBA, if not all of sports, history. He probably has a better chance of winning a championship elsewhere, obviously depending on the kind of contract he’d be willing to sign.

Still, the sources I’ve spoken to close to the Lakers have indicated they have the utmost confidence he’ll remain with the organization.

“He loves it in L.A.,” said one Lakers source. “He loves having his family nearby. He loves the opportunities he’s had off the court. He understands his brand is boosted by playing for this team, especially if they have any success. And I think he wants to do his part to live up to the promises he made the city and Jeanie [Buss] when he signed here. There’s a lot of work to be done, though.”

This doesn’t mean, however, James won’t apply some pressure by way of that player option. James knows how far the Lakers roster has to go to give him a chance at another championship and is going to do his part to ensure those improvements are made, sources say.

2. D’Angelo Russell is brought back on a big, one-year deal

When Russell re-signed last summer, he and his team were offered a choice: a big-money, one-year deal or the contract he took, which was for less money per season with a second-year player option.

Now, the Lakers, I’m told, are going to try harder to make sure he takes a one-year deal that would be easier to move at the deadline, if not this summer, but are somewhat wary of his market given how he played in the regular season. Reports have already linked him to the Orlando Magic given their dearth of scoring from their guard positions.

Russell had a good regular season but once again sputtered in the playoffs, a trend that has followed him everywhere he’s played. Sources say the Lakers tried to trade him at the deadline, but no team wanted to acquire him because of the leverage he’d have heading into the summer with that player option.

The Lakers understand the limitations that come with a backcourt pairing of Russell and Austin Reaves, especially on the defensive side, and will likely try to sign-and-trade Russell. But if they don’t find an offer they like this summer, they’re open to running it back with the intent to upgrade at the deadline, hopefully with Russell on a large expiring contract.

3. Lakers take their time hiring their next head coach

Sources close to the situation have made it very clear that the Lakers are keeping a close eye on the talks between Tyronn Lue and the Los Angeles Clippers. Don’t expect the Lakers to hire a head coach until they know for absolute certain Lue won’t be available.

While league sources all expect Lue to remain with the Clippers, it’s definitely interesting that two sides haven’t come to an agreement now weeks after their season once again ended early in the playoffs. The longer that stalemate continues, the higher eyebrows will raise as everyone wonders what’s going on there.

“If Lue was available, it’d be done already,” said a source close to the Lakers. “They know they screwed that up a few years ago and would like to remedy that mistake. Problem is, the Clippers know the Lakers want Lue. So, on top of him being a good coach, [Steve] Ballmer doesn’t want to help the Lakers get better.”

As Lue is likely not going to be an option, and with Mike Budenholzer reportedly now manning the Phoenix Suns sidelines, the Lakers can sit back and make sure they get their guy. As a few sources indicated this week, the Lakers are hoping to be impressed by JJ Redick when he interviews. He’d have James’ confidence from the outset and the Lakers would ideally do everything they can to surround him with the NBA coaching experience he lacks.

Kenny Atkinson remains a name to keep an eye on, as well, sources say.

4. Lakers don’t trade for a third star

Naturally, when Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young very quietly changed agencies last week, speculation throughout the league started swirling about what that would mean for the Lakers’ pursuit of the three-time All-Star. Now, what was once considered an inevitability stands as merely a vague possibility.

Ever since the Lakers season ended, sources close to the situation have indicated it isn’t the foregone conclusion the Lakers would trade for any star, let alone Young specifically. Trading for Young, Donovan Mitchell or any player of that caliber would require parting with essentially every asset the Lakers currently have. It’s taken years to rebuild that cache, and sources say the Lakers are going to be extremely cautious on any such trade given the crippling effect of the Russell Westbrook debacle.

“That trade shook the organization to its core,” a source close to the Lakers said. “They gave up the two best players and a first-rounder and then had to give up more stuff to move him. That move put a strain on everyone even on some of the relationships in those walls. If they make another big swing on that kind of player again, it’ll be for someone they know will put them in position to win a championship. I’m not sure Trae is that.”

To be clear, this doesn’t mean they won’t upgrade the roster using the up to three first-rounders they’ll have at their disposal this offseason. It’s just been indicated thus far that a trade for another max-contract type player isn’t as widely predicted as it once seemed.

5. Jesse Buss gets an expanded role in the organization

Pelinka’s Lakers tenure has been defined by remarkably high highs (the 2019-20 title, the ’23 playoff run) and absolutely brutal lows (that aforementioned Westbrook trade, letting Alex Caruso walk, Ham, etc…). This would indicate that Pelinka has decent instincts for the job, but sometimes needs to be protected from himself.

L.A.’s front office is among the thinnest in the NBA, composed of, well, Pelinka, who holds the official titles of vice president of basketball operations and general manager. One would have to imagine the Lakers are aware of how impatient fans are getting with his tenure and if not, Buss is now on the hook for two years of Ham’s deal on top of whoever they hire to replace him.

Calls for Jesse Buss’ and Joey Buss’ promotions have only increased over the years because of the success they’ve had as heads of the scouting department. As the GM position is essentially vacant anyway, slotting Jesse into that role would be an olive branch to fans, acknowledging Pelinka hasn’t performed consistently enough.

This is pretty easily the least likely of my predictions for this summer, but there has been enough clamoring internally and externally for Jesse’s role to expand that it might just happen.

It’s yet another critical offseason for the Lakers, as time runs out on their working relationship with James. As evidenced by their last two exits at the hands of the Denver Nuggets and the shellacking that team is currently experiencing by way of the Minnesota Timberwolves, there’s a long way to go to truly be considered a contender next season. If James opts in, the Lakers owe it to him, Anthony Davis and fans to do everything in their power to close that gap.

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Anthony has spent the last decade-plus covering the Lakers either in written, audio or video form. He has written previously on the TrueHoop Network, Fansided and SB Nation. He founded Locked on Lakers, currently hosts Lakers Lounge and produces other podcasts for Audacy and 247Sports. His latest venture has been news breaking, which he looks forward to doing for Lakers Daily.