Hot Takes We Might Actually Believe: The Lakers will repeat as NBA champions, and it won't be close
The 2020-21 NBA season is just around the corner, but Hot Take SZN is here, and at the end of another eventful off-season, we'll see how close we can fly to the sun and still endure the heat of these lookouts.
(Michael Wagstaffe / Yahoo Sports)
Believing he was "part of two teams that won the two toughest championships in NBA history," LeBron James puts this year's win with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Orlando Bubble in the same category as the 3-1 - His Cleveland Cavaliers comeback ranked a 73-win Golden State Warriors team.
Granted, the bubble took its toll on everyone, both mentally and physically, but as far as basketball goes, this fourth ring was James' most airy to date. The 35-year-old had a four-month break from the season to recharge before driving the autopilot seeding schedule to # 1 overall seeding schedule. The Lakers were not tested in any of their four playoff rounds. They competed against the exhausted and low-injury Portland Trail Blazers, rolled the imploding Houston Rockets, avoided rivals LA Clippers in the Western Conference final and beat a fifth-manned Miami Heat team who lost two of their top three players in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers boasted the top two players in the bubble and avoided anyone who challenged them because of that nickname. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry played a total of five games last season. Giannis Antetokounmpos Milwaukee Bucks lost their rhythm. Damian Lillard rode his body into the ground. Russell Westbrook undercut James Harden's missiles. And Kawhi Leonard's Clippers collapsed. We thank LeBron and his seasoned Lakers for avoiding the dynamics, chemistry, and injury issues exacerbated by the bladder.
The Lakers may have beaten all comers anyway. Their mental toughness was unmatched in a season ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, but they enter this campaign with a claim James has failed to make since playing in the heat: his squad is clearly the most talented in the league, sustained through an off-season that supports this better equipped to beat any challenger at their best. So, yes, the Lakers will repeat themselves as NBA champions.
LeBron James smiles as he holds the MVP and NBA final trophies after winning the 2019-20 NBA championship over the Miami Heat on October 11, 2020. (Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images)
All the Lakers needed last season was two proficient role-players alongside James and Davis to get to the title without ever sniffing a Game 7. Rajon Rondo's career resurgence and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's career off-season were enough to cover up the disagreements between Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard - easily the worst supporting cast Green has headlined .
According to Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers outperformed opponents by 15.9 points per 100 possessions in the no-garbage playoff minutes when James and Davis were on the floor, regardless of who played with them. That's absurd, all the more when you consider that JaVale McGee was on the most used lineup.
Before the franchise's newest Larry O’Brien Trophy wore its shine, Lakers' vice president of basketball operations, Rob Pelinka, revamped the roster around his two superstars. He worked for Dennis Schroder before signing Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews. Schroder and Harrell alone would have been a coup. After all, they are both winners and runner-up in the "Sixth Man of the Year" award.
With Gasol and Matthews, they represent a significant collective improvement over Rondo, Green, and Howard and McGee's Big Man tandem. Half a championship plan has been swapped for a better model.
Both Caldwell-Pope and Morris have re-signed. Kuzma is entering the final year of his rookie contract but has just agreed to a three-year extension. Many of those who played significant minutes in the Lakers' title run, including Caruso, are moved where they belong further down the depth map. Let's face it: no one but James and Davis could have led the RPG players to a title last season, and they made it look easy. What could they do with a real rotation?
You will win another championship even if the road is more difficult. And it can't be.
It remains to be seen whether the Clippers can reach their potential, even though Serge Ibaka may have been an upgrade over the outgoing Harrell. The missiles are a mess. Warriors star Klay Thompson sustained another injury at the end of the season. The Denver Nuggets have lost Jerami Grant from their starting line-up. The Lakers are in their own tier in the West, and their potential challengers at the other conference are full of question marks.
Pelinka's off-season was so successful that James and Davis were persuaded to sign long-term contract renewals in LA. The only question that will be left to them will be whether James can get six rings, as Father Time is the only opponent now standing between him and Michael Jordan. But that's a hot thing for another year.
- - - - - - -
Ben Rohrbach works for Yahoo Sports. Do you have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach
More Hot Takes We May Believe In:
Milwaukee Bucks will be worse
Brooklyn Nets will be a chemical disaster
James Harden will be a Philadelphia 76er this season
Jayson Tatum will be on MVP talk
Golden State Warriors will miss the playoffs
Miami Heat was a bubble anomaly
You should check here to buy the best price guaranteed products.
U.S. judge tells lawyers in Ghislaine Maxwell case to watch what they say
'Bad candidate': Mark Walker says Trump made mistake backing North Carolina GOP Senate rival
Castro banned 30 games under MLB policy; Nats to release him
Beijing Has Raised the Risk of Investing in China. Don’t Flee. Look Further Afield.
Elon Musk speaks out about Tesla's $1.5 million payment to settle a battery-charging lawsuit, saying 'if we are wrong, we are wrong. In this case, we were.'
Djokovic's temper flares up as he leaves Tokyo empty-handed