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Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers eliminated from playoffs by Denver Nuggets. Where does LA go from here?

The NBA playoffs are a teaching moment.

Lessons given, lessons learned.

Among the chief takeaways from the Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers series: the Lakers do not have a championship roster compared to the Nuggets, and the gulf is wide over the course of a best-of-7 series.

The evidence is in the results. The Nuggets swept the Lakers in last season’s Western Conference finals and a similar result unfolded in Denver’s 4-1 series victory over the Lakers this season.

Denver ended the Lakers’ season with a 108-106 victory in Game 5 on Monday. Jamal Murray's 14-foot jumper with four seconds remaining pushed the Nuggets into the conference semifinals, where they will face the Minnesota Timberwolves. Nikola Jokic had 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, Murray had 32 points and seven assists and Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points.

Now the Lakers enter another offseason in search of answers that can make them contenders in the deep West where the top teams — Denver, Oklahoma City and Minnesota — are set up for future seasons.

The Lakers did not make a move at the February trade deadline, though they explored potential trades.

“You can't buy a house that's not for sale,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka explained nearly three months ago. “My job is to always look for ways to upgrade our roster, but you can't buy a house that's not for sale. We spent a lot of time looking for ways to use assets to make our team better.”

In non-real estate talk, there wasn’t a suitable trade for the Lakers to make. Also, the Lakers had just one first-round pick to send to another team at the trade deadline — not exactly the attractive assets another team sought in a deal for an All-Star-caliber player.

However, this summer, the Lakers could have three first-round picks and that opens up their ability to improve the roster.

“This summer, in June, at the time of the draft, we’ll have three first-round draft picks to look for deals, which I think will really unlock an access to potentially a greater or bigger swing,” Pelinka said in February after the trade deadline. “We didn’t want to shoot a small bullet now, that would only lead to very marginal improvement at the expense of making a much bigger and more impactful move potentially in June or July. Sometimes no move is better than an unwise move.”

Where do the Lakers go from here?

Who is under contract for the Lakers in 2024-25?

The 2024-25 NBA season could be LeBron James' seventh with the Lakers and 22nd in the league.

LeBron James (has a player option and can become a free agent)

Anthony Davis

D’Angelo Russell (has a player option and can become a free agent)

Rui Hachimura

Austin Reaves

Gabe Vincent

Jarred Vanderbilt

Jalen Hood-Schifino

Christian Wood (has a player option and can become a free agent)

Cam Reddish (has a player option and can become a free agent)

Jaxson Hayes (has a player option and can become a free agent)

Maxwell Lewis

Who is a free agent from the Lakers' roster?

Max Christie (restricted free agent)

Skylar Mayes (restricted free agent)

Colin Castleton (restricted free agent)

Spencer Dinwiddie (unrestricted free agent)

Taurean Prince (unrestricted free agent)

Harry Giles (unrestricted free agent)

How much salary cap space do the Lakers have?

The Lakers do not have salary cap space in which to make significant free-agent signings. They are projected to surpass the luxury tax, given that James returns. They will have access to minimum-salary and mid-level exceptions to bolster the roster.

Major moves need to be made via trade.

What do the Lakers need?

Percentage-wise, the Lakers were a solid 3-point shooting team at 37.7%. But they were 28th in 3-point attempts per game (31.4) and 24th 3s made per game (11.8). It led to the Lakers producing an average offense – No. 15 in the league at 115.4 points per 100 possessions.

Finding offensive help is a must, and guard help is at the top of the list.

The Lakers need good health, too, which Lakers coach Darvin Ham said is the key to maximizing a roster that had some strong moments during the regular season. They didn’t have their full roster available for much of season because of injuries to Christian Wood, Cam Reddish, Gabe Vincent and Jarred Vanderbilt.

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