Hall of Famer Charles Barkley likes what the Los Angeles Lakers have done during the offseason and offered an upbeat take on their chances for the upcoming campaign.
Barkley was interviewed by NBC Sports Bay Area about his outlook for the 2023-24 season and included the Lakers among his teams to watch.
“I was happy for Denver,” Barkley said. “Getting a chance to see what the Joker (Nikola Jokic) could accomplish is phenomenal. It was great for the NBA.
“The Lakers have gotten better. There’s going to be some surprise teams. The Celtics are interesting, going out to get (Kristaps) Porzingis.”
Two key moves made by the Lakers were making sure that guard Austin Reaves and power forward Rui Hachimura were given contract extensions. In addition, the team signed former Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent to help bolster the team’s backcourt.
Now set to enter his third NBA season, Reaves has rapidly progressed from being an undrafted free agent to signing a four-year deal worth $54 million.
In the case of Hachimura, his acquisition in January from the Washington Wizards was one of the sparks that helped the Lakers make a deep playoff run. Prior to that deal, there was some question about whether the Lakers would even reach the postseason.
Like Reaves, Vincent also had humble beginnings in the league before emerging as a talented player. He was originally an undrafted free agent who was signed and released by the Sacramento Kings.
The Heat then signed Vincent to a two-way deal in January 2020 and watched him develop into a contributor who helped the team reach the 2023 NBA Finals.
During the past season, Vincent averaged 9.4 points, 2.5 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game and started 34 of the 68 regular season games he played in for the Heat. For the second consecutive year, he averaged more than 20 minutes per game and is now confident he can deliver for the Lakers.
Of course, as the Lakers have painfully discovered in the past, any hopes of contending for a title largely rest with keeping players healthy. In particular, making sure that both LeBron James and Anthony Davis are fixtures on the court offers the team its best chance to achieve that goal.
In the two seasons prior to the 2022-23 campaign, injuries to James and Davis were devastating to the Lakers. During the first season, the team made a quick postseason exit, followed by a complete miss the next year.
Barkley’s comments are his opinion of course. While he’s a close observer of the NBA, the value of his comments likely depends on a variety of factors in the year ahead.