ESPN Panel Picks Lakers As Favorites To Make Western Conference Finals
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers were in the midst of securing the top spot in the Western Conference before the 2019-20 NBA season was shut down in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The NBA is now preparing to finish out the 2019-20 season with 22 teams set to take part in an eight-game regular season that could feature a potential play-in series for the No. 8 seeds before the playoffs begin.

For the Lakers, they will simply be looking to pick up where they left off prior to the unexpected hiatus when they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks and L.A. Clippers in back-to-back games, and despite a subsequent loss to the Brooklyn Nets, hold an impressive 49-14 record.

The restrictions placed in response to the coronavirus has certainly come with its own set of challenges for teams throughout the league. Regardless, it appears this has not had much of an impact on the expectations for the Lakers.

An ESPN panel has heavily pegged the Western Conference Finals to be a showdown between both teams in Los Angeles:

Western Conference finalists

Los Angeles Lakers: 97.1%
LA Clippers: 85.3%
Houston Rockets: 8.8%
Denver Nuggets: 5.9%
Dallas Mavericks: 2.9%

Although the Lakers generated plenty of excitement by pairing LeBron James with Anthony Davis this offseason, there were preseason predictions that doubted how successful the team would be. It is safe to say that many have since had a change of heart now that James and Davis emerged as the NBA’s premier duo.

The Clippers also managed to do their part in upholding the championship aspirations they set after forming an elite tandem of their own in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. While offsetting injuries prevented them from getting properly acquainted on the court this season, it clearly has not had any standing on their status as one of the most formidable teams making the trip to the bubble environment in Orlando.

Checking in behind the two powerhouses in Los Angeles with minimal odds are the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. Any of these teams making it to the WCF may seem far-fetched under normal circumstances, however, the unprecedented nature of this season could provide dark horse teams with a peculiar advantage.

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