The Los Angeles Lakers received 13 points to win the 2018-19 Western Conference Finals, according to the ESPN Summer Forecast panel.
As the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors remain the favorites with 165 points, receiving all first-place votes, the Houston Rockets — who nearly defeated them in last year’s Western Conference Finals — finished second with 89 points.
The Oklahoma City Thunder placed slightly ahead of the Lakers with 16 points. L.A. received more votes than the Utah Jazz (nine points) and San Antonio Spurs (two).
With the Warriors eventually having five All-Star starters once DeMarcus Cousins returns from an Achilles injury, they are looking to win their fourth championship in five consecutive NBA Finals appearances.
As the Rockets signed Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder improved their depth during the offseason, the Lakers are this year’s mystery team.
Even after LeBron James signed a four-year, $153 million contract, some believe the Lakers can be the second-best team in the Western Conference while others believe they will not even make the playoffs.
Still, it is difficult to go against the best player in today’s game, who is looking to make his ninth consecutive NBA Finals appearance.
With a young core and tough veterans in place, James like the challenge of bringing the storied franchise back to their championship ways.
The Warriors and Rockets currently have the better talent and chemistry, but it can quickly change for the Lakers as they look to establish themselves as perennial championship contenders.