A team with Anthony Davis and LeBron James typically wouldn't be considered a dark horse, but that's the position the Los Angeles Lakers effectively find themselves in ahead of the 2022-23 NBA season.
"We're treating this season like we have a chip on our shoulder," Davis said to ESPN's Dave McMenamin on Monday. "We're the underdogs. Obviously, the world is looking to see what we do. But ... they're not talking about us, and that's fine. You know, we'd rather be under the radar."
The Lakers are +2500 at FanDuel to win the 2023 NBA Finals, the 11th-best odds in the field. And even that might be a bit generous and more reflective of the star power on Los Angeles' roster rather than its actual chances of winning a title.
In June, Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey put the Lakers at No. 16 in his power rankings.
L.A. isn't an underdog in the traditional sense because it boasts three players who were named to the NBA's 75th anniversary team. Still, a majority of fans are probably expecting the team to fall short of expectations and perhaps even have another uphill climb just to reach the playoffs.
The once-durable James missed 26 games last year after only making 45 appearances in 2020-21. Davis continues to have injury problems as well, having played 76 games over the past two seasons combined. Russell Westbrook may not even be a starting-caliber point guard anymore.
There isn't much general manager Rob Pelinka can do to improve the roster for the time being, either. The franchise had limited salary cap space in the offseason and little in the way of trade assets beyond its 2027 and 2029 first-round picks.
Some might see Davis' comments as false modesty, but they reflect a wider truth about the Lakers.
The squad shouldn't go into the season with a mindset it can win games on talent and reputation alone. Adopting a siege mentality may be the kind of thing that leads the players to thrive on the court.