After a tumultuous 2018-19 season, the Los Angeles Lakers completely retooled, turning a team full of young talent into a super team. It’s been a busy offseason across the NBA, and while the finals race appears to be more wide open than it has been for many years, the Lakers are back among the favorites to win it all after nearly a decade without a title. However, another team stands in their way, and they happen to share the same arena.
The battle of Los Angeles
The Lakers were among the teams who were favored to land superstar free agent and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, but after he chose to go to their in-arena rivals, the Clippers and got Paul George in there with him, the Clippers shot atop the odds, according to BetOnline.ag.
Leonard and George, if not quite at the level as LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are still joining a deep team that gave the Warriors fits this previous offseason.
While Los Angeles has always been Lakers territory, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has done everything in his power to not only keep the team relevant in the post-Lob City era but to bring the team to the forefront of the NBA. The Lakers, however, have responded with a series of valuable signings.
The Lakers’ offseason
Anthony Davis seemed predestined to be a Laker for much of the last season. From signing with Klutch Sports, which is run by LeBron’s friend and agent Rich Paul, to his transparent attempts to force a trade there, much of the trade talk last season revolved around Davis to the Lakers. The Pelicans finally pulled the trigger on a trade during the 2019 offseason. Now, he’s there, and many of the Lakers signings should complement him and James en route to the ultimate goal.
Aside from bringing back players like Javal McGee and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers acquired Danny Green, whose 3-point shooting helped elevate the Raptors to the title last year. They also brought in DeMarcus Cousins, who is just two years removed from being considered among the best big men in the NBA. Cousins has struggled with injuries, but he proved to be a valuable member of the Warriors last year, including a pair of great performances in the Finals.
Following up the two Los Angeles teams in the NBA Finals odds are the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
With the Raptors getting weaker following the departure of Leonard, it remains likely that, barring an unforeseen move by another team, that whoever wins in the Western Conference will face one of these two teams, both of whom were taken out by the Raptors last year.
In the West, the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, and Golden State Warriors are all tied. With Durant gone and Klay Thompson likely out for several months, it appears as though the Warriors will finally have to come from behind for the first time since surprising the league in 2014. The Utah Jazz are right behind those three teams after acquiring All-Star guard Mike Conley and several role players.
What might hold the Lakers back?
Lost in the glamour of getting two of the biggest names in the NBA is the drama that constantly surrounds the Lakers since Jeanie Buss took over the team following the death of her father Jerry. From Magic Johnson’s short and leaky tenure to a power struggle with her brother, the franchise seems to have gained these high-profile names because of name and market, not due to the strength of the current organizational leadership.
The Lakers should be among the last teams standing, but a championship is far from a sure thing. Injury, unforeseen roster moves, or a surprising jump from another team can come any day, and if the Lakers want to prove that they are contenders, they will have overcome all of that without the need for excuses and what-ifs.