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Anonymous executives think the Lakers will be ‘way better’ next season

One could make the argument the Lakers will be better next year at every position than they were a season ago.

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Los Angeles Lakers v LA Clippers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While the Los Angeles Lakers and the fan base are licking their wounds after missing out on Kawhi Leonard, that shouldn’t necessarily take away from the fact that they were still able to pair Anthony Davis with LeBron James and surround them with a roster that makes a ton more sense than last season’s.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN spoke to some executives and scouts around the NBA for a piece to summarize how everyone feels about the Lakers’ roster, and it seems they’re still fairly impressed, despite Leonard’s presence across the halls of Staples Center:

”There’s no question this is a much stronger team that fits around LeBron better,” said one league executive.

”They started backups a lot last season, and they had some guys on their bench that shouldn’t have been in the league,” said one scout. “If they stay healthy, they have a playoff lineup now.”

”They added Anthony Davis; if they did nothing else, they were going to be way better,” said another league executive.

Still, it’s hard not to wonder about what could have been. One executive in particular thought a big three of James, Davis and Leonard would’ve been ridiculously formidable:

”Had they gotten Kawhi, we’d all probably be playing for second,” an executive said. “I’ll never rule LeBron out, and I’m interested to watch him and AD play together. But a lot of things would have to fall in place for them to win it.”

As tough as it to think of the dynasty that might have resulted from that threesome, it’s time to move on at this point. The Lakers did all they could to fill out the roster given time and financial constraints, and quite frankly they did a pretty damn good job, all things considered.

I’d go so far as to say the Lakers are heading into next season with upgrades across the entire starting lineup.

Last season, the Lakers started Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and JaVale McGee alongside James. This year, especially now that James will be starting a point, you could make a very solid argument there isn’t a position they didn’t improve at this summer.

It all depends on who else Frank Vogel inserts into the starting lineup, but McGee should be better this year than he was a season ago so long as he doesn’t suffer from pneumonia all over again. And if Davis starts at center, then all the better — though I wouldn’t bet on him doing so.

Danny Green is better than whoever played the bulk of the shooting guard minutes because, well, he can shoot. Kuzma was played out of position so that he could start, and Green is a much more natural fit and generally a better player right now than Kuzma was last year.

If we’re just slotting James at point, then there is no discussion between him and Ball.

The one spot that might not be an upgrade would likely be at small forward if James is listed at point. Without significant improvement, Kuzma isn’t as good an all-around player as Ingram was. Now, maybe Avery Bradley or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope starts at shooting guard and Green is listed at small forward and there’s a case to be made there, but if it is Kuzma, he’ll seriously have to improve on last season, shirt biting and mamba mentality be-damned.

And all that is before we get to the bench. Last year, Rajon Rondo was one of the league’s most negatively impactful players who was given the responsibility he was. Hopefully, Alex Caruso will assume the role as primary backup point guard if for no other reason that my own sanity.

DeMarcus Cousins is more talented than anyone who came off the bench for the Lakers last season and, if healthy, could very easily outplay the contract he is on.

Josh Hart will be missed off the bench, but he was so up-and-down that he should fairly easily be replaceable when compared to KCP, Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook and Troy Daniels. This is also before the Lakers fill the final roster spot.

Now, look, the counter to all this is: Of course the Lakers are better right now than last year’s roster heading into the season. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka pieced together one of the least sensible teams around James that we’ve ever seen — just ask LeBron, himself. But the fact of the matter here is that, despite sitting out most of the summer while they waiting on a decision from Leonard, the Lakers vastly improved.

This isn’t to say there aren’t question marks. The defensive ability (or lack thereof) across the roster is concerning. They’re obviously not as good as they could have been had Leonard signed. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to be legitimately excited heading into next season. The right buttons have to be pushed, but head coach Jason Kidd LeBron James Frank Vogel has a much wider margin for error than Luke Walton was given last year. Now, it’s just about staying healthy and executing the proper plan for this specific team.

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