NBA playoffs

Lakers 2020 playoff preview: Thy kingdom come

JR Isaga
Lakers 2020 playoff preview: Thy kingdom come

LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Photo from Instagram/@lakers

Whatever their final playoff seed ends up being, the Lakers are poised to go deep into the postseason with the intent of hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy at the very end

Since the beginning of the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers have been penciled in as heavy favorites to represent the Western Conference in the NBA finals.

Those claims are not without merit as the league’s most popular team boasted the MVP-caliber duo of LeBron James and newcomer Anthony Davis, who was acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans for a massive package of young stars and draft picks.

Soon enough, the retooled Lakers expectedly took the league by storm as they decisively clinched the first seed with an elite 33-7 record in their first 40 games.

Even after the season suspension and subsequent overhaul, public opinion has not changed one bit as fans, haters, and the media alike expect the 16-time champions to be in firm contention for their 17th.

Anything less than winning it all will put Hollywood’s top draws under serious scrutiny.

Current roster composition

As stated earlier, James and Davis are the two primed engines that keep the Laker train going strong heading to the playoffs.

The 27-year-old Davis is once again in strong contention for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year with team-high averages of 26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.5 steals on 51% shooting.

Likewise, the 35-year-old James is again deep in MVP talks despite being in his 17th season with norms of 25.7 points, a league- and career-high 10.6 assists, 7.9 boards, and 1.2 steals on a career-low 34.9 minutes per game.

The Lakers’ fearsome twosome is then surrounded by a platoon of high-energy defensive-minded stalwarts like Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee, and Danny Green.

Once considered a desperation signing after the season-ending injury of the ill-fated DeMarcus Cousins, Howard has resurrected his career as a hyper-efficient big man off the bench.

In just a career-low 19.2 minutes per game, the 34-year-old former All-Star is averaging 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks on an astounding 73% clip.

It is basically the same story for starting big man McGee, who is norming 6.8 points, 5.8 boards, and 1.5 rejections on 64% shooting in just 16.8 minutes a night.

Green, meanwhile, has brought his championship-caliber defense and shooting to LA and is averaging 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.2 steals on 38% shooting from three.

The list of serviceable role players rolls on as Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dion Waiters, and newcomer JR Smith are all making the most of whatever time they get on the floor.

That’s not even counting key cogs Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, who are out of the Disney World Orlando bubble due to a hand injury and personal reasons, respectively.

The only low point of the Lakers’ well-rounded roster is third-year forward Kyle Kuzma, who has regressed to averaging just 12.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 24.6 minutes off the bench.

Despite that and some missing pieces, the Lakers’ roster is built to suffocate opposing offenses under the defensive-minded system of head coach Frank Vogel and lead assistant Jason Kidd.

As the quote goes, defense wins championships, and the Lakers certainly have a lot of defense to show off. Now it’s up to them to prove that quote true.

Grade: 9/10

Rest-of-season outlook

Remaining games: Clippers, Raptors, Jazz, Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, Nuggets, Kings

When the season restart schedule was released, the Lakers were probably relieved to remember that they have their playoff spot all locked up, simply because they got one of the most difficult eight-game runs among the 22 invited teams.

With the exception of the Sacramento Kings, all of the Lakers’ opponents are legitimate playoff-ready squads with multiple title contenders in the mix like their neighboring Clippers and the defending champion Toronto Raptors.

This eight-game seeding run, however, is the perfect tuneup the Lakers can get as they fine-tune their rotations to offset the losses of Bradley and Rondo.

Whatever their final seed ends up being, the Lakers are poised to go deep into the postseason with the intent of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the very end.

This is after all the season dedicated to the memory of Kobe Bryant, in case anyone has forgotten. There is no better motivation.

Grade: 10/10

– Rappler.com