This time last year the Los Angeles Lakers wouldn’t have been in the top-10 of any predictions involving a team with a chance to win the Western Conference. But what a difference a year makes, or more importantly, what a difference LeBron James makes.
The addition of James immediately makes the Lakers a team to watch, even in a Western Conference that again is expected to be extremely competitive. Whether or not James can make a ninth straight NBA Finals appearance remains to be seen, but those at ESPN at least put the Lakers among the elite.
The network continued its Summer Forecast series, and the Lakers received votes to win the 2019 NBA Finals.
The Golden State Warriors, of course, were first with 165 points, receiving 100 percent of first-place votes. They were followed by the Boston Celtics (70 points) and Houston Rockets (35) before a sizable drop off to the Toronto Raptors (15).
Meanwhile, the Lakers earned four points in the prediction for this season’s NBA champions, which put them in the top-five and ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers.
The Lakers have a massive challenge ahead of them if they plan on making a run to the NBA Finals. President of basketball operations Magic Johnson is looking forward to the opportunity to challenge the Warriors, but teams like the Rockets, Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz will all present their own challenges as well.
Adding James is enough to get a team in the conversation, but in this Western Conference, there are a ton of obstacles in the way.