Why Lakers Will Make a Deep Run in 2021 NBA PlayoffsApril 29, 2021
Why Lakers Will Make a Deep Run in 2021 NBA Playoffs
The Los Angeles Lakers have been in championship defense mode ever since they were crowned NBA kings inside the Orlando bubble in October.
Despite encountering more turbulence this season than last, the mighty Purple and Gold still stand as one of the likeliest teams to go deep into the postseason.
There are a number of reasons to feel that way, and we'll spotlight the three most compelling here.
The Defense Is Elite
A healthy Anthony Davis might be the most effective defender in basketball. An engaged LeBron James makes the shortlist of legitimate five-position stoppers.
Add coach Frank Vogel at the controls, and this defense is downright dominant. The Lakers allow the second-fewest points (106.3 per game), force the fourth-most turnovers (15.3) and best everyone in defensive rating (106.3). It's exactly what the Lakers envisioned all along.
"We are a defensive team," James told reporters last season. "We want to be that—we want to be the best defensive team in the league. And we can hang our hats on that no matter if we're playing well offensively."
Defense doesn't win championships on its own—despite what a certain cliche may lead you to believe—but it does make it a whole lot easier to stay within striking distance. This defense will always keep the Lakers in games, and their star power can take it from there.
The Roster Has Championship Experience
Seven teams have a better net rating than the Lakers this season. Do any put fear into this team? That's doubtful.
For one, the Lakers have no reason to dread anyone. They are the league's kings until knocked off of their throne. More importantly, though, this group has a shared experience no other contender can match. The Lakers know they can win a title together. What do the other Western Conference powers know about themselves?
The Los Angeles Clippers know they can prematurely stumble out of the playoffs. The Denver Nuggets know they won't have Jamal Murray for this playoff run. The Utah Jazz know they have been knocked out of the opening round in consecutive years. The Phoenix Suns know, well, nothing really since this will be their first playoff trip since 2010.
The Lakers appreciate the level of work required for a title run and won't be bothered by the stakes or the pressure attached to them.
There Isn't a Better Duo Than James and Davis
When pressed for a championship prediction this season or last, NBA prognosticators must tackle one major question: Who can stop both James and Davis?
The answer is no one.
L.A. is 17-6 when both take the floor this season. Last season, it was 45-14 and then 16-5 in the playoffs. All together, that's a record of 78 wins against 25 losses, which equates to a .757 winning percentage. The Jazz lead the league with a .726 mark.
When their stars share the floor, the Lakers look even better than those numbers suggest. The pair holds an enormous plus-14.6 net efficiency rating across 517 minutes this season. The Jazz pace that category too—at plus-8.8. In other words, this season's top squad isn't remotely as dominant as James and Davis are together.
If these two are healthy, the Lakers should be considered championship favorites until proven otherwise.
Statistics used courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com.