The Western Conference is stacked for the 2019-20 NBA season but while teams such as the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Houston Rockets are looking to make a run to the NBA Finals, most believe it will come down to a showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
So far this season, the Lakers have been the more cohesive and consistent team, holding the better record.
On the other hand, the Clippers have beaten the Lakers in both head-to-head matchups and have the better roster on paper in the eyes of most. That includes Magic Johnson.
Johnson recently spoke about the Lakers-Clippers matchup and said that in terms of the overall roster, the latter likely has the advantage, according to Mark Medina of USA Today Sports:
“If you look at man-for-man, (the Clippers are) probably better than (the Lakers) in terms of the bench,” Johnson said in Chicago at McDonald’s Black and Positivity Golden “Beyond the Court” panel.”
This is an interesting point made by Johnson as the team’s starting lineups are pretty even with two All-Star players surrounded by solid role players. However, the Clippers can come with Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, and now the recently signed Reggie Jackson off the bench.
“But to Anthony Davis and LeBron James, to me they are going to be the key and they are going to have to dominate in that series. Then we’re going to need that third scorer.”
There is no doubt that Davis and James will have to be at their best to beat the Clippers, but they can’t do it alone. Someone will have to step up in a big way for the Lakers and the obvious choice in the eyes of many would be Kyle Kuzma.
This has not been the season hoped for from Kuzma who has struggled to find consistency amidst a new role and early season injury issues.
Even still, he has shown flashes of the player many believe he can be as a volume scorer who can help carry the offense when James and Davis are out or struggling. He has also worked hard to improve other facets of his game, making strides as a passer, defender, and rebounder.
On the other hand, perhaps the team’s strength is that any of their role players could be that third scorer on any given night.
Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and Rajon Rondo have all had big nights at different times this season. But stepping up in the 2020 NBA playoffs will be a necessity for all of the rotation players if the Lakers plan on getting past the Clippers.