Lakers Clinch No. 1 Seed in Western Conference Playoffs for 1st Time Since 2010

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) celebrates with Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis (3) during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 142-125. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers have clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference after a 116-108 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday.

As Bill Oram of The Athletic noted, it's the first time since 2010 the Lakers have earned the top seed in the Western Conference. StatMuse pointed out the Lakers have had quite a bit of success as the No. 1 seed:

StatMuse @statmuse

The Lakers clinch the #1 seed in the West for the 17th time in franchise history. They have won the title in 9 of those 17 seasons — including the last 2 times they were the West top seed (2009, 2010). https://t.co/FUkYGSElky

This season represents a significant turnaround for an organization that went six straight years without a playoff berth, the longest stretch in franchise history. The team had high expectations in 2018-19 but finished 37-45, 11 games away from the playoffs.

Things changed in 2019-20 with the addition of Anthony Davis, while LeBron James was able to stay healthy after a disappointing run last season.

The duo has played at a high level all year, with both starting the All-Star Game and each having a legitimate argument for MVP votes.

James entered the day averaging 25.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and a career-high 10.5 assists while Davis has averaged 26.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. The production of those two players alone makes the Lakers a legitimate contender to bring home an NBA title this postseason.

There have been questions about how the veteran team would react to the four-month hiatus and move to Florida to play within the bubble, especially after losing Avery Bradley to an opt-out and Rajon Rondo to injury.

There is still a strong supporting cast of players who can help on both ends, including Kyle Kuzma, Dwight Howard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, JaVale McGee and Alex Caruso. Dion Waiters has also provided some surprising production during the restart.

The potential path to the NBA finals will be key to watch after locking down the No. 1 seed. There are several dangerous possible first-round opponents, including talented young squads like the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans or proven playoff teams like the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs

The Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and others could also cause problems in later rounds.

Though the Lakers have done their job to this point, the real challenge begins now.