After months of understandable waiting, the NBA has reportedly moved toward the 2019-20 season resuming in July. While the final details must be finalized, the board of governors are expected to formally approve the proposal Thursday afternoon.
Once that happens, the focus will quickly shift to which franchises are best prepared to make a run at the NBA Finals.
As of Wednesday evening, LeBron James and Co. possess the best odds at +200. That number means a $100 bet would earn $200 if the Lakers win a championship.
Entering the mid-March stoppage, the Lakers stood atop the Western Conference with a 49-14 record and 5.5-game edge on the Los Angeles Clippers. If the return-to-play proposal is approved, the Lakers' magic number—a combination of wins and opponent losses—to clinch the No. 1 seed will be either three or four.
Granted, finishing with the NBA's best record won't be as helpful as usual. Since all games will be played at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, home-court advantage isn't a factor.
But that doesn't mean a No. 1 seed is irrelevant, either.
The Lakers—assuming they avoid a remarkable collapse to end the regular season—are headed for a first-round matchup with one of the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs or Phoenix Suns. None of those six teams had a winning record prior to the stoppage.
Impressively, the Lakers are a combined 17-2 against that group. The records are 4-0 (New Orleans), 3-0 (San Antonio, Phoenix), 2-0 (Sacramento), 3-1 (Memphis) and 2-1 (Portland).
While a 100-day layoff is bound to throw some variables in the discussion, the trends are encouraging for L.A.
Yes, the playoff road would only get tougher.
Wrapping up the East's top contenders are the Boston Celtics (+1500), Toronto Raptors (+1700) and Philadelphia 76ers (+2500). They'll need to upend Giannis Antetokounmpo and a Bucks squad with a 6.5-game advantage in the East.
Based on the reported plan, the Lakers would take on the Rockets when the NBA resumes its season.
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.