After Horrendous Start, the Lakers Have a Stellar Shot to Be NBA Champs

The Lakers were in 13th place in the West at the All-Star break

LeBron James celebrates with Anthony Davis of the Lakers.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are shooting for a second title.
Allen Berezovsky/Getty

For the first time in his 20-season career, LeBron James didn’t receive a single vote on anyone’s five-man ballot when the voter tally for the MVP award in the NBA was revealed earlier this month. The 38-year-old, who has won four MVPs, four Finals MVPs and two Olympic gold medals to go along with his four titles, possibly has been using that slight as motivation during the postseason. He’s been playing at an elite level and has given the Lakers excellent odds of winning an NBA championship.

In fact, for a few hours on Tuesday evening after the 76ers — who have reigning MVP Joel Embiid on their roster — knocked off the Boston Celtics to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven series in the Eastern Conference, the Lakers were the favorites to win the NBA championship with odds of +325 at DraftKings. The Celtics were favored to win it all and had been for the majority of the postseason but have seen their odds fall to +400.

With James and  Anthony Davis leading the Lakers in the NBA bubble in Florida during the delayed 2020 postseason, Los Angeles Lakers knocked off the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Now, if Los Angeles wins late tonight against the Warriors in San Francisco and the Heat knock off the Knicks in New York earlier in the evening, the two teams could be on a collision path to meet once again. Should that happen, oddsmakers will clearly be backing the Lakers, as the Heat have +1400 of winning the title, the worst of any team besides the Knicks and Warriors.

For Los Angeles, the turnaround clearly came at the NBA trade deadline when they unloaded Russell Westbrook and other pieces and brought back D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura, Davon Reed and Mo Bamba. In 13th in the Western Conference with odds as poor as +200 to simply make the playoffs, the Lakers have completely turned things around and gone 25-11 since deadline day.

“The moves they made at that deadline have transformed this team from a plodding mess into a well-oiled machine,” according to The Action Network. “Rui Hachimura provides elite spacing across the floor and has shown his three point chops. Jarred Vanderbilt is a matchup nightmare and has admirably guarded Steph Curry throughout a series in which the Lakers are up three games to one on the defending champions.”

A win tonight over the defending champs means the Lakers will advance to the Western Conference finals. “I think we’ll be ready,” James said this week. “One thing about when you play Golden State, you don’t have an opportunity to relax. You just don’t. So I’m not worried about us going in there comfortable. You just can’t do it versus Golden State, it’s not even — it’s not possible.”

Something that is possible? Ring No. 5 for James.

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