LeBron played most of the 2022-23 season with a foot injury but Heat legend Dwayne Wade believes LeBron’s time away ended up benefitting the team greatly.
Wade was having a discussion with sports presenter Shannon Sharpe, who asked if Wade thought the outcome of the Western Confernee Finals between the Lakers and Nuggets would have been different if LeBron was fully healthy.
“I think the outcome is different between the Lakers,” Wade said on the Club Shay Shay podcast. “With him getting that time away, actually we got a chance to see them grow as a team outside of LeBron. We got to see AD [Anthony Davis] grow at that level. Obviously, when he on the floor, we was like, ‘Top five player in the league.’ We got a chance to see what the D-Lo [D’Angelo Russell] can bring and what Austin Reaves can bring.
“The best thing to happen to the Lakers was LeBron’s absence because it allowed them to not have to depend on him, right? Because when you got a great player, you depend on that great player. And so they have the rock, and they have something to play for in the middle of that. And so I think it was great for the Lakers.”
It is true that we got see those players develop in leaps and bounds during the season, which we may not have seen otherwise.
Especially during the playoffs, LeBron played more of an off-ball role because of his foot, which allowed other players to thrive.
Reaves became the Lakers’ third-best player as he averaged 13 points, three rebounds and 3.4 assists per game during the regular season and 16.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.6 assist per game during the postseason.
Now, it is has been reported that the purple and gold are willing to pay up $100 million to keep Reaves as he enters free agency this summer.
As well, the development of Rui Hachimura was another positive to LeBron taking a step back and he was key during the playoffs.
Hachimura becomes a restricted free agent this summer as well, and HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto believes another rival team may poach him if the Lakers can’t match a realistic offer.
“I think his market is anywhere in that $15-18 million range annually. In that range, the Lakers would retain him,” Scotto said on his podcast last week. “I think where it gets a little dicey is if there’s a team that sells themselves on Rui and offers three years, $60 million or four years, $80 million.”
With LeBron threatening retirement, it makes securing players like Reaves and Hachimura all the more important for LA.