Can King James and the Los Angeles Lakers secure some more silverware this year? We take a look at the lay of the land and see how the Lakers compare against the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat.
LeBron James has been locked in on the 2023 NBA playoffs as we’ve seen him come as early as five hours before games to get himself ready. King James’ insane preparation has certainly paid off as the Lakers have gone from a 2-10 start to one of the remaining four teams in the current NBA playoffs.
History says that no 7th seed has ever won the Larry O’Brien Trophy, with the lowest seed ever to win an NBA title being the 1995 Houston Rockets who were the 6th seed in the Western Conference that year.
But with LeBron healthy and locked in, the Lakers are looking to add a second title in the King James and AD era. Looking at how far they’ve gone since their slow start and what is left to accomplish, there’s no doubt that the Lakers can win this year’s NBA championship.
WATCH LeBron James’ five-hour pregame workout below.
Lakers head-to-head against the remaining teams
The Lakers split their season series with the Denver Nuggets at 2-2. They also split their regular season matchup with the Miami Heat at 1-1 but were 0-2 against the Boston Celtics this season. It’s also worth noting that both games versus the Celtics were decided in overtime.
Looking at those games however, none were played later than January 28, 2023, which means that neither the Nuggets, Celtics, nor Heat have played against the current Lakers roster.
The reason why this is significant is that Rob Pelinka overhauled the Lakers at the trade deadline, adding two key players in D’Angelo Russell and Jared Vanderbilt while also acquiring Malik Beasley for Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley. In late January,
Pelinka also traded for forward Rui Hachimura, giving up Kendrick Nunn in the process.
The overhaul made the Lakers a better team, with more depth, and young role players who are not afraid of the big time.
Role players have stepped up in the playoffs
No question, the Lakers’ superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis have played extremely well in the postseason. But as we all know, superstars often cancel out each other in the playoffs, leaving the role players to decide who wins games or playoff series.
That has been the case for the Lakers in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Hachimura set the tone when he scored 29 points during the Lakers’ Game 1 win over the Grizzlies.
Then it was D’Angelo Russell who closed out Memphis in Game 6 with 31 points.
In Round 2, it was Jared Vanderbilt’s defense on Steph Curry that sparked the Lakers’ Game 1 upset of the Dubs. Then in Game 4, offseason free agent signee Lonnie Walker IV took over in the 4th quarter as the Lakers took a 3-1 series lead. In the big Game 6 against the Warriors, another role player in Austin Reaves scored 23 points while Russell added 19, Walker 13, and Hachimura 9 points.
If this continues, the Lakers will be hard to beat, regardless of where the game is played.
A tale of two seasons
The 2022-23 NBA campaign has been a tale of two seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. struggled at the start of the year trying to make the Big 3 of LBJ, AD, and Russell Westbrook work. It didn’t, so they blew it up at the trade deadline.
After the trade deadline, Austin Reaves also blossomed. After putting up 10.5 points and 2.2 assists per game before the All-Star break, he averaged 17.6 points and 5.5 assists per game. Then the addition of Russell, Vando, and Hachimura gave the Lakers more firepower and plenty of fresh legs.
The Lakers were 16-7 after the All-Star break, the best record in the West during that stretch. In the playoffs, they have not lost at Staples Center and have stolen a pair of Game 1s from the Grizzlies and Warriors.
No question, the team is playing well right now but it’s also appears like they are peaking at the right time.
Health will be wealth for the Lakers
Looking at the Lakers, they have all the ingredients to win it all. The team is led by two superstars who have been there before. They have a very talented supporting cast who can take turns in stepping up in every game. The team is gelling very well because they are winning. They carry plenty of momentum heading to Tuesday’s Game 1.
The key to winning the Western Conference and the NBA Finals will be setting the tone in Game 1. That means taking home-court advantage right away. It worked against Memphis, it worked against Golden State. If not Game 1, there is Game 2. For as long as they leave the first two games with a split, that’s what will be crucial moving ahead.
The Lakers endured a myriad of injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis during the regular season. Those games missed contributed to their struggles but with both superstars currently healthy in the playoffs, the Lakers have looked good. If James and Davis stay healthy the rest of the way – fingers crossed on that – there’s a pretty good chance that the Lakers will shock the world in June.