What Has To Happen For The Lakers To Win The NBA Title? | Mark Medina
Written by: Mark Medina. Be sure to follow Mark on X (@MarkG_Medina).
Will the Los Angeles Lakers win the 2024 NBA championship?
The answer to that question hinges on something familiar to a franchise consumed with star power. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have to stay consistently healthy and dominant.
Yet, the answer to that question also depends on something new that the Lakers have finally embraced. Their supporting cast must accept and thrive in their roles.
Can the Lakers collect their 18th NBA title to eclipse their hated rival, the Boston Celtics? Can James delay Father Time some more during his 21st NBA season? Can Davis show that his effectiveness and durability doesn’t vary by the game? Can the Lakers’ role players reach their full potential and accept their fluid job descriptions?
The Lakers surely believe so. They wouldn’t have retained most of their roster if they didn’t. After the Denver Nuggets swept them in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers concluded they mostly liked what they had instead of fretting about what they didn’t.
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They didn’t fret about James becoming worn down as the playoffs progressed or that he felt so burnt out that he even contemplated retirement. Instead, the Lakers concluded James just needed an offseason to recharge his body and mind.
They didn’t worry about Davis’ checkered history with his durability and his consistency. Instead, the Lakers granted Davis a three-year, $186 million extension after he avoided a major injury this calendar year and showcased stronger flashes of his two-way potential.
They didn’t scrutinize D’Angelo Russell’s inconsistent shot, Austin Reaves’ thin frame or Rui Hachimura’s streakiness. Instead, the Lakers retained those players in free agency because Russell’s playmaking, Reaves’ team-oriented play and Hachimura’s positional versatility all significantly contributed to the Lakers climbing out of the Western Conference basement following the trade deadline.
It will be inevitable that some will make positive and big-picture conclusions out of the Lakers’ season-opening loss to the Nuggets. Some may fret that the Lakers’ first-half struggles against Denver foreshadows another postseason sweep. Some may view the Lakers’ second-half resilience as evidence they can make a title push. Very rarely does opening night foreshadow what may happen in April, May and June.
But it is clear that both the Lakers’ stars and their supporting cast will need to show the best versions of each other consistently to make this work.
The Phoenix Suns have a lethal trio with Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. The Lakers can expose that with their superior depth and familiarity. The Milwaukee Bucks have a dynamic duo in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. The Lakers can overcome that threat by leaning on the chemistry that James and Davis have already forged for four seasons.
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The Golden State Warriors have both championship equity (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green) and a proven veteran point guard (Chris Paul). The Lakers have fewer question marks, however, on how the team’s supporting cast can complement their stars. The Boston Celtics have so much offensive depth (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis). Aside from acquiring a trusted two-way player (Jrue Holiday), however, the Celtics don’t have the defensive depth that the Lakers have with their frontcourt, wings and backcourt.
As for the Nuggets? Just like the Lakers, Denver has plenty of stars (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray), depth (Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon) and promising role players (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Christian Braun). Unlike the Lakers, Denver could not retain some of their players because of salary cap concerns (Bruce Brown).
To Make It Happen
To match up with those other title-contending teams, however, the Lakers have to hit on every best-case scenario.
James will have to avoid any major injuries. He will still have to organize the offense and lead the team the same way as when he was in his prime. The Lakers would like for James to reduce his scoring load and his minutes. That depends on other scenarios, though.
Davis has to prove he can carry that mantle by producing every game as opposed to every other game. He also will have to avoid any other major injuries.
The Lakers’ other role players will have to become dependable in various areas. They will have to hit more 3s consistently so that James and Davis have more room to operate. They will have to defend effectively to reduce James’ workload and to give Davis some help. They will have to fulfill that job description when James and Davis are off the floor. Lakers coach Darvin Ham will have to keep his players empowered and accountable enough to understand their role will remain fluid for matchup, performance and availability purposes.
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Does this seem like too tall of a task? Perhaps. The Lakers are hardly the favorites when it comes to the NBA odds. They will compete against a crowded field full of viable contenders. Unlike last season, though, the Lakers have some margin for error.
They can afford James to feel Father Time’s light touch because of Davis’ improved durability. They can absorb an occasional Davis off night because of James’ improved health. They can live with one of their role players having a sluggish game because they have enough depth to have a third option to complement James and Davis. If the Lakers could climb out of the bottom of the Western Conference standings, into a legitimate playoff contender without a training camp and limited practice time, just imagine how stronger the Lakers will become this season with more time together.
As the Lakers’ season-opening loss to Denver showed, they have plenty of work to address from now until next spring. As last season demonstrated, though, the Lakers have the correct blueprint on how to win their next NBA championship.