LeBron James heads into an early offseason after suffering his first playoff exit in the first round. The Los Angeles Lakers will be quite busy retooling the roster. James may already be playing a hand in those efforts by recruiting the Lakers’ next star player.
Lakers fall well short of NBA title contention
The Lakers entered the 2020-21 season hoping to push toward a second straight NBA title.
However, Los Angeles became ravaged by injuries that derailed the franchise’s championship chances. Anthony Davis suffered an Achilles-related injury that kept him off the floor for two months. Meanwhile, James dealt with a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss nearly two months.
The two stars returned late in the regular season, but both struggled to move past the ailments. A groin strain kept Davis off the floor against the Phoenix Suns, resulting in the Lakers falling short in the first round of the playoffs.
As Los Angeles moves toward a crucial offseason, the four-time NBA Finals MVP may already be recruiting the franchise’s next superstar.
LeBron James is already working behind the scenes to recruit the Lakers’ next superstar
The Lakers‘ first-round exit sends the franchise toward another pivotal summer focused on retooling the roster.
LeBron James lies at the centerfold as he and Davis will anchor the reconstructed team. During a recent segment on ESPN’s First Take, longtime NBA analyst and insider Stephen A. Smith voiced that the four-time league MVP has been privately recruiting Damian Lillard.
“Well, they [Blazers] better handle their business, because, listen, let me tell you something right now, LeBron’s already out there,” Smith said. “He’s going to try to recruit, he’s going to try to recruit. You know they’re going to try to get somebody to L.A., there’s no question about it. Again, we’ve already spent time talking about Damian Lillard.
“What if Damian Lillard ended up changing his mind? He’s told me for years he ain’t interested. What if he changed his mind and decides he wants to go to the Lakers? What if he changed his mind? I mean, it would change everything.”
James holds tremendous respect toward the Portland Trail Blazers star guard. In December 2018, a report suggested the 36-year-old attempted to push the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade Kyrie Irving for Lillard.
After a fourth first-round playoff departure in the last five years, the six-time All-Star is heading into another disappointing offseason. The Blazers have seemingly plateaued with the current roster, while Lillard is in the prime of his career. It leaves him with a pivotal choice as he begins his four-year, $176.2 million extension that runs through the 2024-25 season.
Lillard remains committed to Portland, but he can change course airing voicing that he wants to play elsewhere to compete for an NBA title. The Lakers may not currently have the trade pieces that would intrigue the Blazers, but if the star guard aired a strong interest to join Los Angeles, the franchise would go all out to make it feasible.
Ultimately, it all depends on Lillard’s desire as he will dictate the next chapter of his career.
Los Angeles holds a critical offseason ahead
Beyond an interest in prying Lillard away from Portland, the Lakers are heading into a pivotal offseason.
The team saw injuries prevent a deep playoff push, but it may signal the need to change the roster significantly. Los Angeles has only five players under contract for next season, with several key players such as Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Wesley Matthews heading into free agency.
The Lakers must decide whether to run it back with the same roster or shake up the core group alongside James and Davis. General manager Rob Pelinka already indicated that team president Jeanie Buss voiced the franchise is willing to go into the luxury tax to get the right group of talent together.
Los Angeles will have its hands full working through a critical summer geared toward constructing another NBA title-contending roster.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.