Lakers News: NBA Expert Doubts LA ‘Cracks’ Top-Six in West Next Season

June 22, 2022

The Lakers roster is far from a finished product, but due to their lack of cap space and reported reluctance to spend future first-round draft picks to trade Russell Westbrook this summer, it’s unlikely the Lakers are going to add an All-Star caliber player this offseason. They’ll be filling out their roster with the $6.4M taxpayer mid-level exception (TMLE) and veteran minimum players

LA’s lack of salary cap flexibility will once again result in a top heavy roster which is why The Athletic’s John Hollinger thinks the Lakers are destined for the play-in tournament next season. At best.

” … just cracking the top six is going to ask a lot from this roster. Without 140 or so combined games from James and Davis, it may be hard to get the 47 or so wins it will likely take to get there. On paper, it tops out as an absurdly top-heavy team that can threaten on any given night, but pencils out as a worse version of the Brooklyn Nets.”

In addition to the availability of Davis and LeBron, many analysts have also been quick to point out that the Western Conference isn’t going to get any easier next season. Hollinger is among those that thinks the strength of the conference isn’t something that should be overlooked when handicapping the 2022-2023 Lakers.

“I think the top of this Western Conference will be a pretty unforgiving place, too. Golden State and Dallas were this year’s conference finalists and I don’t think they’re going anywhere. Phoenix might lose Deandre Ayton but won twice as many games as the Lakers. Memphis had the league’s second-best record despite its youth, Denver and the Clippers return injured stars and will be massively better. Behind them, younger teams like New Orleans and Minnesota seem legit and could have a Grizzlies-like jump ahead of them.” 

If the Lakers are going to prove Hollinger wrong, they’ll need vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka to thread the needle on low-cost players who can be productive on a roster headlined by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.

If not, the Lakers could once again find themselves fighting for relevancy in challenging Western Conference.

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