LeBron James reportedly will have his playing time load managed more than ever, with the Los Angeles Lakers able to rely on their deep roster to keep their 38-year-old superstar fresh throughout the season and hopefully for another long playoff run.
“The Lakers are planning to manage James’ minutes and offensive workload more than in years past, and [general manager Rob] Pelinka cited the team’s depth as a way to do that,” wrote Jovan Buha of The Athletic.
After putting off thoughts of retirement, James is about to enter his 21st NBA season still among the league’s best players. He averaged more than 35 minutes per game in his 55 regular season appearances during the 2022-23 campaign in which he dealt with a late-season foot injury.
His playing time increased to more than 38 minutes per game during the playoffs, when the Lakers reached the 2023 Western Conference Finals, where they were swept by the eventual NBA champion Denver Nuggets.
The disappointing result led to James hinting at retirement but he announced early in the offseason that he will indeed return. He has played at least 67 games in a season just once since the 2018-19 campaign and is coming off his longest playoff run since winning the 2020 championship.
The Lakers by all accounts have had a very successful offseason in their attempt to keep the championship window open during James’ later years. They were able to re-sign Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura and add Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince, Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood. They also may be in play for Buddy Hield if the Indiana Pacers decide to move on from the veteran.
It is arguably one of the deepest quality rosters in the NBA, with improving young players teaming with standout veterans like James and Anthony Davis. Reaves in particular is an emerging NBA star who made a name for himself during the playoff run and later with Team USA at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
The 25-year-old is preparing for his role to increase and has the confidence of knowing that he has built up a strong bond of trust with James.
Though the NBA has established new rules about resting star players, James has reached the thresholds for exceptions based on age, minutes played and games played. It is clear the Lakers are planning to take advantage of whatever they can in an effort to maximize his ability to perform this season.