They’re not expected to have the best record in the NBA, but according to a poll of ESPN’s NBA analysts, the Lakers are the overwhelming favorites to win this year’s championship, which would give them back-to-back titles for the eighth time in franchise history.
Not only that, but the results were overwhelming in favor of the Lakers. And they have motivation.
In all, the Lakers received 86% of the votes cast for projected champion. The only other teams to receive votes were the Milwaukee Bucks (7%) and the L.A. Clippers (also 7%). Both of those teams were expected to be major hurdles for the Lakers last season, but neither team lasted past the conference semifinals, the Bucks falling to the Heat and the Clippers to the Nuggets.
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Don’t expect the Lakers to get overconfident, however. Despite winning last year’s championship, the team is doubly motivated this year because it was never able to win on their home floor in the playoffs, and Los Angeles was never able to celebrate with a parade. The postseason was played at the NBA’s anti-coronavirus bubble in Orlando this summer.
The hope is that, with vaccines already being deployed, the Lakers might be able to win in 2021 and share the back-to-back glory with their fans.
“You dream of winning a championship and having a parade, celebrating with the fans, and none of that happened,” star forward Anthony Davis said, according to the AP. “I understand why it happened, but it’s definitely weird not to have a parade and have fans be there celebrating with you. This city would have been crazy.”
“You want to run it back, because we missed the parade,” said Jared Dudley. “You missed Staples erupt.”
Vegas Also Backs the Lakers, Big-Time
It is not just ESPN that is picking the Lakers heading into the season. Vegas is behind the purple-and-gold as well.
The Lakers will enter the year as a +275 favorite to win the title this season, according to BetMGM. That means their odds are twice as good as the next time on the list, the retooled Bucks, who are a +550. The Brooklyn Nets, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irvin returning, are +600 and the Clippers, at +650, are the only other team with three-digit odds.
The Lakers were among the favorites to win it all last season, too, running pretty even with the Bucks and the Clippers at the time.
Lakers Made Major Offseason Changes
The Lakers are looking to run it back for a second straight championship, but this will be an undoubtedly different team.
The Lakers added offensive firepower with the signing of Dennis Schroder (18.9 points per game for the Thunder last year) and Montrezl Harrell (18.6 points for the Clippers), and brought on veterans Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol.
They will have 10 returning players, and one—second-year wing Talen Horton-Tucker—is pushing for a bigger role this year. Several key Lakers, like Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard and Danny Green, are gone.
Still, on paper, this team upgraded its depth and talent level, and that’s why there is such a strong consensus toward them repeating their title.
“We have one of the deepest teams in the league, and really in recent memory,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “(But) I think everybody is aligned. Our team has one goal, and that’s to win a championship.”