The Denver Nuggets eliminate the Los Angeles Lakers from the NBA playoffs

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The NBA playoffs are a teaching moment.

Lessons learned, lessons learned.

Among the main meals from Denver NuggetsLos Angeles Lakers Series: The Lakers don't have a championship roster compared to the Nuggets, and the gulf is wide over the course of a best-of-7 series.

The proof is in the results. The Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference final last season, and a similar result appeared in Denver's 4-1 win over the Lakers this season.

Denver finished the Lakers' season with 108-106 win in Game 5 on Monday. Jamal Murray's 14-foot jumper with four seconds remaining propelled the Nuggets into the conference semifinals, where they will face… Minnesota Timberwolves. Denver's Nikola Jokic scored 25 points, grabbed 20 rebounds and made nine assists, Murray added 32 points and made seven assists, and Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points.

The Lakers now enter another offseason searching for answers that could make them contenders in the Deep West as the top teams — Denver, Oklahoma City and Minnesota — are primed for future seasons.

The Lakers did not make a move at the February trade deadline, although 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 mission is to always look for ways to upgrade our roster, but you can't buy a home that's not for sale. We spent a lot of time looking for ways to use assets to improve our team.”

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In non-real estate talk, there was no suitable deal for the Lakers to make. Also, the Lakers only had one first-round pick to send to another team at the trade deadline — not exactly the attractive asset 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 will have three first-round draft picks to look for trades, which I think will really open up the possibility of getting to a bigger or bigger potential swing,” Pelinka said in February. After the trade deadline. “We didn't want to fire a bullet now, as that would only lead to a very marginal improvement at the expense of making a bigger, more impactful move in June or July. Sometimes inaction is better than unwise action.

Where do the Lakers go from here?

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

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

Anthony Davis

D'Angelo Russell (has a player option and could become a free agent)

Rui Hachimura

Austin Reeves

Gabe Vincent

Jared Vanderbilt

Jalen Hood-Schivino

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

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

Jackson Hayes (has a player option and could become a free agent)

Maxwell Lewis

Who is the free agent on the Lakers roster?

Max Christie (restricted free agent)

Skyler Mays (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 with which to make major free agent signings. They are expected to exceed the luxury tax, given James' return. They will have access to minimum salary and mid-level exceptions to bolster the roster.

Major moves should be made by trade.

The Lakers have the 17th pick in the 2024 draft, but New Orleans has the right to take that pick (part of the Anthony Davis deal) or the Lakers' first-round pick in 2025. The Lakers also have a second pick. Round pick in 2024.

What do the Lakers need?

In terms of percentage, the Lakers were a solid 37.7% three-point shooting team. But they were 28y in 3-point attempts per game (31.4) and 24y 3s per game (11.8). This resulted in the Lakers producing a mediocre offensive team – No. 15 in the league at 115.4 points per 100 possessions.

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

The Lakers need good health, too, which Lakers coach Darvin Ham said is key to maximizing a roster that saw some strong moments during the regular season. Their full roster was unavailable for most of the season due to injuries to Christian Wood, Cam Reddish, Gabe Vincent, and Jared Vanderbilt.

Will Darvin Ham return as Lakers coach?

Hamm has had his ups and downs as the Lakers' coach, and as mentioned, he hasn't had a healthy roster to work with. Hamm appears to have the support of owner Jeannie Buss, but that doesn't mean he's guaranteed to return for a third season.

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