Why Lakers Should Still be the 2020 NBA Title Favorites
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The Los Angeles Lakers were dealt a significant blow over Fourth of July weekend when Kawhi Leonard agreed to a deal with the L.A. Clippers. Adding insult to injury, the Clippers also acquired six-time All-Star Paul George as part of the package.
The acquisitions shifted 2020 NBA championship odds, with the Clippers jumping both the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers to become favorites with +275 odds. The Lakers, meanwhile, were bumped back to +375 to win their 17th NBA title in franchise history.
But the Lakers recovered post-Kawhi decision. Still armed with $32 million in cap space, they acted quickly, put together a solid core around LeBron James and Anthony Davis and look every bit of a title contender, especially in an NBA that is as wide open as it’s been in the last decade.
That’s why fans of NBA betting should consider the Lakers the best NBA team on paper.
Lebron, AD The League’s Best Duo
The news that LeBron James will play point guard for the Lakers isn’t all that ground-breaking. He’s always been one of the league’s best passers and has averaged 8.8 assists per game over his last three seasons – prior to 2017 he had averaged 8.0 assists in a season just once.
There’s still a strong argument that James is the league’s best player; though he played in just 55 games last season, he averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists, and finished eighth in PER despite not having a second star alongside him.
James will continue posting Herculean numbers, but his point-guard approach and passing numbers will help Davis, too. Take his other All-Star stretch forwards for example.
In four seasons with James, Kevin Love shot 37.7% from beyond the arc on 5.7 attempts, including a career-best 41.6% in 2018. Love was a career 36.2% 3-pointer shooter on just 3.3 attempts prior to joining the Cavaliers.
The same went for Chris Bosh’s efficiency; prior to joining the Miami Heat in 2010, Bosh was a career 49% shooter and 30% from beyond the arc on 168 attempts in four seasons. With James, Bosh shot 51% from the field and 31.5% from beyond the arc. That also included 41% 3-point shooting in 78 postseason games.
Davis has steadily increased the number of 3-pointers he’s taken and made the last three seasons. That will certainly be an increased part of his game, and James will open up plenty of space on the perimeter for Davis to shoot.
When Davis has space, he makes just about everything, like when he buried three triples in two minutes against the Clippers in his last full season with the Pelicans. Also note that his point guard in that game was Rajon Rondo, who signed with the Lakers this week.
Davis is 26 and seems to have shaken the injury-prone label associated with him. He’s just entering the prime of his career, and for the first time won’t be opposing defense’s main target. No disrespect to Leonard and George, but James and Davis are the best 1-2 punch in the NBA.
Lakers Add Key Role Players
James, Davis and Kyle Kuzma will lead the championship path for the Lakers, but they’re not alone. The Lakers turned that $32 million they would have used on Leonard and instead built a team full of shooters, depth at multiple positions and proven winners.
DeMarcus Cousins signed for the league minimum and, despite an awful 2019 Finals showing, posted solid numbers for the Warriors. He was also having plenty of success alongside Davis with the Pelicans before tearing his Achilles in 2018, so there’s hope those two playing together again can rekindle some old magic.
The Lakers also took the Cavaliers approach to building a roster around James. They signed sharpshooters in Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley and Quinn Cook in the backcourt. There’s a chance they could also add Kyle Korver or Andre Iguodala to give James and Davis even more spacing to work on offense.
Perhaps more importantly, they have winners. That matters in the postseason. Their current roster boasts six players with NBA Finals experience (seven if Korver or Iguodala comes aboard) and more than 650 career playoff appearances. Five of those players have won rings.
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Korver would add 135 playoff games and nine Finals appearances to that list, while Iguodala has turned into a postseason Hall of Famer with 145 playoff games and 26 Finals games to his name.
The Lakers have built a roster to James’ liking and he finally has a second star. Even without Leonard, the Lakers are the team to beat in the NBA this season.
NBA Top-Heavy But Wide Open
Like the teams in the East last offseason who got aggressive in the wake of James leaving the Cavaliers, teams in the West have been their championship window open as the Warriors dynasty broke up.
The Clippers added two All-Pros, the Jazz added Mike Conley, the Sixers reloaded with Tobias Harris and Al Horford and the Rockets kept their core together.
But no team broke away from the pack. There’s no KD-and-Steph Warriors juggernaut and there’s no James-led Cavaliers team that should run away with their conference as long as they stay healthy.
So, even though the Lakers struck out on their top options in free agency, it didn’t close their championship window. Not in the slightest.