NBA Odds: Can the Lakers Win the NBA Championship This Season?
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With the Los Angeles Lakers season kicking off tonight on the road against the defending champion Golden State Warriors, oddsmakers will likely get a quick preview of their pre-season championship odds. The Warriors are the favorite to repeat, while Los Angeles is at long odds to win despite being only 2-years since the Lakers last won a championship in 2020.

After getting bounced by the Suns in 2021 and failing to make the playoffs in 2022, things should only improve, but many questions remain.

Can we expect the Lakers to compete this year? Can LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook stay healthy, find some chemistry, and not repeat the disaster that ended with a 33-49 record last year?

Where We Are Right Now

The preseason doesn’t necessarily correlate with the regular season. That is good news for the Lakers as they completed the session 1-5, with their only win coming against the Warriors, the team they’ll face on opening night.

The schedule doesn’t get much easier as their home opener is against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, followed by games against the Portland Trailblazers and Denver Nuggets, all teams who had winning regular season records last season.

Worse, they’ll be without point guard Dennis Schröder who underwent successful surgery Monday for a right thumb injury. Schröder is expected to miss three to four weeks, according to coach Darvin Ham.

Defense Must Improve

There is some truth to the old saying that “defense wins championships.” The two best defensive teams last season, the Warriors and Boston Celtics, met in the championship game. Meanwhile, last season, the Lakers ranked 21st defensively in the NBA, reminding us that few teams go very far unless they’re successful on that side of the ball.

To address this, the Lakers signed Patrick Beverley during the offseason. Beverly played for the Minnesota Timberwolves last year and is known as a defensive stopper. Coach Ham and the Lakers’ management hope Beverley can add that defensive spark the team needs to get back on a winning track.

Starting Lineup Still Unconvincing

Aside from Beverley and Schröder, the Lakers could not make any significant additions during the off-season due to cap restraints. Los Angeles has been tied down by their overall team bankroll since they made moves for LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, with the three due well over $115 million combined in the 2022-23 NBA season.

Worse, they lack valuable draft picks, having traded most of them away in the last few years. The Lakers currently have first-round picks in 2027 and 2029, which General Manager Rob Pelinka has been hesitant to move, leaving them a team with a number of holes, particularly when it comes to a solid starting five.

Pencil in Anthony Davis and LeBron James as forwards, and maybe Thomas Bryant at the pivot, but the rest will likely change week to week. Not an ideal situation to say the least.

Lean on James and Davis

Once again, the Lakers will lean heavily on both James and Davis to make things happen. If they remain healthy, the two are good enough to beat any team on any night. However, James will be 38 by the end of this year, and Davis has been injury prone the last few seasons.

The wildcard here is Russell Westbrook. If Westbrook can find his groove with the team, the Lakers will finally have that “big three” they envisioned when they traded the ranch for the local kid who played his high school ball at nearby Lakewood High School and UCLA.

Deep Playoff Run

The truth is that the Los Angeles Lakers are probably not championship contenders, particularly with the Western Conference being so competitive. The playoffs should be within reach, but a deep run is in doubt. The team doesn’t have the depth pieces or defense to be a major threat. Minus a surprise move before the trade deadline that changes the outlook; expect the Lakers to compete for a playoff spot, but that’s about it.

 

 

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