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What's next for the Los Angeles Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers reached the Western Conference finals this year, but were then swept 4-0 by the Denver Nuggets.

This season was a strange one for the Lakers as they made an awful start with just two wins in their first 12 games, and for much of the campaign it appeared as if they may miss out on the postseason altogether. 

The departure of Russell Westbrook in February and the arrivals of D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt proved to be a bit of a turning point, however, and the Lakers managed to finish the regular season in seventh place in the West. 

The LA outfit overcame the Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in tournament to secure seventh seed in the NBA Playoffs and then saw off the Memphis Grizzlies 4-2.

The defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, were dispatched by the same scoreline as the Lakers reached the conference finals, where the Denver Nuggets ended their championship hopes in emphatic fashion. 

Considering the Lakers looked in danger of sitting out the playoffs for a second year in a row but ended up winning two postseason series, this campaign may be viewed in a positive light overall by some.

But with LeBron James' career winding down and the Lakers' perennial championship expectations, many within the organization won't be satisfied with a conference finals appearance.

What's next for the Lakers?

Could LeBron James retire?

The biggest story to emerge in the aftermath of the Lakers’ conference finals defeat predictably involved LeBron James, who said he had “a lot to think about” when the issue of potential retirement was put to him after the Game 4 defeat to the Nuggets. 

It seems unlikely that James will retire as he has previously indicated he wants to play in the league on the same team as his son, Bronny, who will enter college at USC next year - the last season remaining on the two-year deal James signed with the Lakers in August 2022. 

The bigger issue in regards to James is a tendon injury in his right foot that could see him forced to undergo surgery and potentially miss the start of next season.

The 38-year-old played through the injury in the playoffs but the latest reports indicate the problem is worse than it had initially appeared, with some sources claiming the tendon is torn.

Could the Lakers fire Darvin Ham?

After any heavy playoff series defeat there will always be questions regarding the future of the coach at the Lakers, but for now it seems as if current incumbent Darvin Ham’s position is safe. 

Ham inherited a team that had massively underachieved in the previous campaign as he replaced championship-winning coach Frank Vogel. 

The 49-year-old endured a tough start to his tenure in LA, but guiding the team to the conference finals has to be viewed as a success overall and he should still be in charge by the time the new season starts.

Will the Lakers keep Austin Reaves?

Austin Reaves enjoyed a breakout season for the Lakers this season in his second year in the NBA but will become a restricted free agent this summer. 

That means he could potentially move on, but the Lakers are widely expected to match any offer he receives and tie Reaves down to a long-term deal.

Could the Lakers trade for Kyrie Irving?

Kyrie Irving’s future at the Dallas Mavericks remains in doubt as he could potentially depart as a free agent this summer. 

Irving only moved to Dallas in February and on a personal level he impressed, averaging 27.0 points-per-game, although the Mavs missed out on the Playoffs. 

Dallas could offer Irving a new deal or agree to facilitate a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers, but the latter option looks unlikely. 

If Irving does enter free agency, the Lakers may miss out as they don’t currently have the room on their salary cap to facilitate a deal, so they would need to free up some space to sign the 31-year-old at present.

Who are the Lakers trade targets?

Irving isn’t the only name who has been linked with the Lakers in recent weeks and Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield has been mooted as a possible target, due to his shooting ability from three-point range. 

Chicago Bulls’ All-Star guard Zach LaVine is a more ambitious - and perhaps unlikely - target, while Cameron Payne of the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson have also been suggested as possible candidates to move to LA.

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