Last week, I came up with what is undoubtedly the worst-case scenario for the rest of the 2022 offseason for the Los Angeles Lakers. Take a look at that article to at least know that things could be much, much worse than what we’ll eventually see by the end of this summer.
But let’s not just wallow in negativity. Instead, let’s figure out what a best-case scenario for the Lakers’ 2022 offseason might look like. I’d say we are already headed in that direction with the official hiring of head coach Darvin Ham as well as the retention of assistant Phil Handy. However, that was probably the easiest part of the offseason for the team. Now comes the hard part.
There are still a number of different paths the organization can take. Below, I think I’ve come up with a few of the most optimistic roads that might direct the franchise towards its 18th championship.
If any of the following happens, I’ll be permanently relocating my predictive powers to Las Vegas and joining LeBron as the country’s newest billionaire.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are injected with the Super Soldier Serum
It’s been said ad nauseam over the past two seasons, but even optimal coaching and roster construction will come up short if LeBron and AD can’t stay healthy.
And in each of the past two years, they haven’t. But how can they fix that? It’s been well-documented that LeBron takes care of his body as well as or better than any athlete ever. And although AD has a stigma of being injury-prone attached to him even dating back to his Pelicans days, most of his injuries over the past couple seasons have come from freak accidents involving his lower extremities.
We’ve all seen the Avengers movies, right? Well, in this case, it turns out the Super Soldier Serum is real. Kurt Rambis finally uses his shady, shadow GM powers for good, leveraging Jeanie Buss’ global contacts to find a lab that has successfully replicated the serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America.
LeBron and AD are injected with it, meaning you’d need to hit them with a runaway Mack Truck to induce even the slightest ankle sprain.
They never get injured again in their careers, however, they have a hard time adjusting to hiding their now super-powered strength and agility. The NBA can’t know about this.
Adam Silver and the rest of the league get a little curious after LeBron causes a power outage across Southern California with his first dunk of the season and AD pulverizes a fan’s popcorn in the fifth row with a volleyball-spike block in the very same game.
A trade of Russell Westbrook for Damian Lillard falls through
I know what you’re thinking: “Wait… that sounds bad?”
It isn’t, and you’ll find out why in a bit.
Yes, in this scenario, the Trail Blazers actually entertain the Lakers’ advances in putting together a package that would send out Russell Westbrook in exchange for Damian Lillard. The Lakers’ interest in Lillard comes as no surprise, as it was reported last offseason that Dame was part of their “Plan A” after he and LeBron James were seen giggling together at a Sparks game in the summer of 2021.
The Lakers’ offer for Dame will consist of their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks along with Russ, a worthy expenditure considering how well Dame’s shooting ability would fit alongside LeBron and Anthony Davis. However, the Lakers actually end up axing the seemingly favorable deal. Why?
The Nets trade Kevin Durant to the Lakers for Russ
Many have speculated about the possibility of a Kyrie Irving-for-Westbrook trade. The Lakers would probably have to pony up one, if not both of their legally trade-able first-rounders in order to swing a deal, as Irving is — like Dame — a much better fit beside the team’s two real superstars than their current third banana.
However, in my imagined branch of the multiverse, instead of trading for Kyrie, the Lakers pull off one of the most shocking trades in NBA history. First, the Nets relent and re-sign Kyrie to the long-term, max extension that he wants. However, instead of appeasing Durant by re-signing Kyrie, it turns out he’s just as sick of Kyrie’s tomfoolery as James Harden and just about everyone else around the NBA is.
After Kyrie’s deal is announced, KD goes on his “The ETCs” podcast, cursing out Sean Marks, Steve Nash, AND Kyrie while publicly and privately demanding a trade to the Lakers to form his first superteam since leaving Golden State. The Nets buckle under KD’s pressure and decide to cash in his contract for picks while also opening their books for the 2023 offseason when Westbrook’s contract will expire.
And for the Lakers… LeBron. AD. KD.
Laker fans may have thought they had a “Big 3” last season when the team acquired Russ, but as foolishly hopeful as that was, the potential heights of those three pale far in comparison to what this three-headed monster would do.
Talen Horton-Tucker becomes the next Damian Lillard
And while the Lakers’ frontcourt is figured out, they’d still need someone to replace their departing point guard. And adding onto their pile of good fortune, who needs Dame when you have a guy just as good, 10 years younger, and only making $10 million a year?
THT’s leap comes when he locks himself in a gym all summer, spending his time shooting spot-up 3-pointer after spot-up 3-pointer until his legs give out underneath him. After that, he moves onto perfecting the step-back, logo 3-pointers that Dame has mastered.
As it turns out, the only thing separating THT from superstardom was a consistent jumper.
He shoots 40% from deep, wins the 3-point Contest, and becomes the clear-cut fourth-best player on the team with Lakers fans being much less worried about LeBron James leaving someday armed with the knowledge that the franchise’s future is in the hands of THT.
Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson take massive steps
Two players (nearly) guaranteed to return from last season are Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson. With such a limited selection of available free agents this offseason, major leaps from these two young players would dramatically raise the ceiling of what this team can be, even with The Biggest 3 + THT™ already under contract.
Reaves enters camp having added 20 pounds of muscle, hearkening back to the awesome pictures of Alex Caruso in the weight room looking absolutely yolked. Gone are the days of opposing offenses even trying to pick on him, as Reaves’ physical supremacy even spawns a number of “random” drug tests.
Johnson becomes a better version of P.J. Tucker — one of the most versatile wing defenders in the NBA who also shoots a blistering 90% on corner 3-pointers.
Now, I’m sorry that none of that will happen. But hey, I promised an outlandish best-case scenario after my exaggerated (and depressing) worst-case scenario last week.
I do believe there are realistic aspects of the aforementioned dreamscape. Hopefully the Lakers do trade Westbrook. Hopefully LeBron and AD do find a legal way to stay healthy all season. Hopefully THT, Reaves and Johnson all make the leap. All of that is possible… (KD and Dame trades notwithstanding).
With a focused offseason and some luck, who knows? The Lakers could find their way to the promised land yet again for championship No. 18.