Last year’s NBA champions have not been at their best this season, although some of the reasons are beyond their control. In the past few months, the Lakers’ biggest stars in Anthony Davis and LeBron James have plagued injuries. James, who has been out with a high ankle sprain since March 20, is expected to return to the field relatively soon, while Davis is already making his comeback after thirty games.
At the moment, the Nuggets and Lakers face each other 1-1 for the series, but they meet in an all-important fixture on May 4th. Taking a quick look at the latest NBA odds will give you an idea of what Sports Betting thinks about the upcoming affair and season so far. The Game Day allows bettors to find out who is the favorite and which team is the underdog in the best NBA action.
Although they miss the two regulars on their team, the Lakers are not entirely out of the picture. Some might have expected a complete breakdown after LeBron’s injury, considering Frank Vogel’s men lost each of the next four games, but other players stood up when it came down to it. Especially Dennis Schröder.
Schroder’s ability to take the reins in an offensive sense has kept the Lakers’ hopes for a positive end to the regular season alive. The point guard scored 21 points against the Orlando Magic in a crucial win considering the Lakers had previously lost three games. As an added bonus, Anthony Davis enjoyed his best performance since his return by collecting 18 points for the team. By the time LeBron is ready, which should be soon, the two must form an impressive working relationship to get the Lakers on the right track.
It wasn’t just Schroder who kept the ship stable over the past few months. Talen Horton-Tucker, only 20 years old, scored 24 points against the Utah Jazz from mid to late April and averaged over 13 points per game. The starlet has received praise for his achievements in recent weeks, which has proven to many that he is ready to take another step in his development and become even more central to Vogel’s thoughts. Listen to someone close to the team and they will tell you that Horton-Tucker is a passionate learner and an excellent listener. According to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the child is “like a sponge”.
We didn’t see the best of all within the Lakers list during Davis and James rehab, however, as Andre Drummond struggled to make an impression. Granted, he was signed to Davis so we haven’t had a chance to see what he’s really made of. Although Davis is returning, it might be a while before we get a glimpse of what Drummond can do as part of a planned duo. Vogel is quoted as saying that the “biggest thing” when it comes to Davis is conditioning, with concerns raised about the risk of his calf problem getting worse again.
Did LeBron James & Anthony Davis return late?
We know Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma are talented players. They showed it several times at the Lakers, and the same was true when Davis and James were unable to go on the field due to an injury. However, some may argue that Vogel got lucky with the schedule and that opponents also miss their stars. So, have we been given the wrong impression of what the Lakers’ rotation players are capable of?
The Utah Jazz rested several key players like Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley, while the Hornets and Raptors were also without top performers. The Brooklyn Nets couldn’t take inspiration from James Harden when they faced the Lakers, while we saw Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving limited to just a few minutes of play. Have we just seen a natural leveling of the pitch with large teams forced to switch teams? That is a difficult question to answer.
With all the facts ahead of us, we can argue whether or not the return of the two Lakers captains was late. With fifth place in the Western Conference, it seems like a steep task to work your way back into the top three. This would require a monumental collapse of the LA Clippers, who look far from ready to give up their current form. The Clippers are 8-2 in their last ten games, and although they suffered a surprise loss to the New Orleans Pelicans to end their four-game winning streak, they haven’t endured anything like the Lakers this season.
Realistically, the Lakers should prepare for a first-round meeting with the Nuggets. The Denver Nuggets are currently higher than the LA Lakers, but they could feel the effects of star man Jamal Murray being out injured for the remainder of the campaign. That said, the Lakers have a pretty good chance of jumping ahead of the Nuggets and stealing fourth place, especially with their superstar talisman coming back. In that case, the Lakers would earn a home advantage for a 4-5 first-round series against the Nuggets.
What’s next for the Lakers?
We all know it hasn’t been the best season for Lakers fans, but that doesn’t mean the future is bleak. Still, LeBron James is one of the first choices for the 2020-2021 NBA MVP award, and a late-season boost could cement his win. As for the Lakers as a team, they won’t end up at the top in the Western Conference – that’s clear at this point.
However, you don’t have to finish first to be the best. They’ll have a cheap matchup against the Denver Nuggets if things stay the way they are, and the situation will only improve if the Lakers have the energy to push their way to fourth place. We could see an improved, determined, and most importantly, a ready LA Lakers team as the season nears its end.