In the 19th annual NBA.com general manager survey, the Los Angeles Lakers were picked as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2021 NBA Finals.
The Lakers received 86% of the total first-place votes in the Western Conference, with the L.A. Clippers coming in next at 11%. The Lakers also received 11% of second-place votes, giving them 38% of the total amount of points awarded to each team.
This is a massive turn of events as the Clippers received 46% of the first-place votes in last year’s survey, a clear indication that the league-wide perception of them has taken a hit after a collapse against the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
The Clippers did add worthwhile players such as Serge Ibaka and Luke Kennard, but those two were not enough to close the gap apparently.
The Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat also received votes to win next season’s championship.
During the 2019-20 season, the Lakers quickly dispelled any offseason doubts and established themselves as a force in the Western Conference, settling into their identity as a defensive-minded team under head coach Frank Vogel.
Los Angeles also leaned into their advantage in the front court, consistently playing another true center alongside Anthony Davis for large portions of the season before ultimately sliding the 27-year-old to the 5 in the postseason.
Even after winning a title, Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka did not remain complacent and retooled the roster in the offseason, adding high-impact players Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol.
The Lakers additionally retained key free agents Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris. They have also seen improvements from their younger players in Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker as the two dominated the preseason.
As things currently stand, the team has 11 players who are all deserving of minutes, meaning Vogel will have the unenviable challenge of trying to find time for everyone on the roster.
Lakers chemistry already developing ahead of 2020-21 season
The Lakers were largely successful in the Orlando bubble because of their chemistry as a team. Each player touted early on that the roster was tight-knit and that showed on the floor as they were always seen rooting for each other.
That kind of connectivity was still present during a shortened training camp and preseason as the new additions blended in nicely with the rest of the team. Even with the shortened offseason and lack of practice time, the Lakers look like they have not missed a beat and that should serve them well when the season officially tips off this week.
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