- Anthony Davis leads the Lakers with a scoring average of 26.7 points per game
- LeBron James is averaging an eye-popping 10.6 assists per contest
Why the Lakers are a good bet:
Any team that gets to trot LeBron James and Anthony Davis out onto the floor on a nightly basis is going to win a lot of basketball games. That’s the situation the Lakers are blessed with. The presence of those two superstars makes it all but a certainty that they will be legitimate contenders come playoff time. The question is whether or not James and Davis can do enough to bring another title to the City of Angels.
Currently, oddsmakers have identified the Lakers as their second favorite choice to win the title. The Lakers come in at +300 which is just behind the Bucks at +240. You can safely assume that difference is down to the difference in the two conferences. The Lakers will have a tougher time getting through the West than the Bucks will have in the East.
Even so, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Los Angeles’ more storied team has the goods to win it all. The biggest challenge this team will face in the postseason is the reality that they only have two quality scorers. James and Davis average well over 50 points combined, but the next best scorer on the team is Kyle Kuzma who checks in with 12.5 points per night.
As you’ll recall, the Lakers strongly considered dealing Kuzma for a more established player ahead of the trade deadline. That shows just how much a concern him being the third scorer in a playoff series would be for Frank Vogel’s team. James and Davis have to find a quality third option if they’re going to prevail in a long series against another elite team.
The options available to the Lakers in that regard aren’t great. Danny Green enjoyed some epic postseason moments in both San Antonio and Toronto, but he just hasn’t been able to conjure up the same magic this season in LA. Perhaps the arrival of the postseason will add some juice to his weary legs, but that’s far from a certainty.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope might be a higher ceiling option. He’s never been the league’s most consistent shooter from behind the arc, but he’s more than willing to get shots up at a prodigious rate from distance. Remember, the Lakers don’t need a player to blossom into a superstar in the postseason. They only need a guy to get hot for a month or so. Caldwell-Pope certainly has that capability. With a little luck, he can be the third scorer the Lakers need when the stakes are at their highest.
It’s also worth mentioning a couple of players who shouldn’t be counted on to ascend to this lofty role. Rajon Rondo doesn’t have the shooting ability to trouble opponents if they left him in the gym by himself. Frankly, the less he plays during the postseason the better. He’s only effective on offense with the ball in his hands. Any time that happens for the Lakers it means that James and Davis are losing shots.
Avery Bradley would like to think he’s capable of exploding in the postseason, but there’s no evidence to support that theory. He needs to stick to a strict three and D regimen in the playoffs. He should be empowered to take open threes when help descends on James or Davis, but he should keep his creation to a minimum.
Lastly, Dwight Howard should not be allowed to even consider the idea that he might be an offensive force in the postseason. Every time he touches the ball in a post-up it should go down as a loss for the Lakers. Howard must be limited to offensive rebounds and dunks.
In the end, the sheer power of LeBron and AD on the same court for big time minutes in the playoffs makes the Lakers a good bet. They will face a dogfight with the Clippers to make it out of the Western Conference Playoffs, but they are still a solid value at +300. Count on James and Davis to open the floor up enough for a third scorer to emerge. If that happens, look for an emotional championship parade for the Lakers.