That is not to say it was the only problem—chemistry and health were obviously way off, too. But the Lakers might have been able to get over those humps in the early part of the playoffs if they were facing off against a weaker foe.
Instead, they tumbled down the stretch of the regular season, landed with the No. 7 seed, and got the No. 2-seed Suns in the first round, who wound up winning the Western Conference and going to six games in the Finals against the Bucks.
The Lakers had history against them, because low seeds have been cursed in the NBA — no team seeded seventh or eighth had ever won a championship.
When the subject of the Lakers and seeding came up on ESPN’s The Jump this week, there was agreement that we should not expect the Lakers to push for the top overall seed in the conference. But, they will need to take playoff seeding seriously.
As ex-NBAer Richard Jefferson said, “My thing with the Lakers, they have such a veteran group, but you don’t want to be battling. We saw, you’re playing against a No. 2 seed, you’re battling the whole way. You want to be in that Top 4. You want to get that first round under your belt, you want to have that homecourt advantage, you want to be able to ease into the postseason, which they were not able to do last season, it puts a lot more tax on you. But if they get in there healthy, and let’s say they have the first round at home, I’m good. But the No. 1 seed, that takes a lot out of you.”
The Lakers Made a Major Overhaul This Offseason
The Lakers do have the talent to pick up the top overall seed this season, especially following the radical changes to the roster they have made.
They swapped out Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wes Matthews and Alex Caruso in the backcourt for Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn. They set their entire big-man rotation free and brought back Dwight Howard with DeAndre Jordan. They’ve got accomplished players like Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza providing depth.
Oh, and they’re still anchored by Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Injuries to those two guys (Davis missed 36 games and James missed 27) ultimately crushed the Lakers’ hopes to a good playoff seed. But now, with full health expected, the Lakers have opened the season as the odds-on favorites to win the Western Conference.
Barnes: Seeding Is ‘the Last Thing They’re Going to Be Worried About’
This should be the best team in the West. But former Laker Matt Barnes was asked whether he thinks the Lakers will play for the No. 1 seed.
“I don’t,” Barnes said. “I think this is a veteran-driven group. I think the last thing they’re going to be worried about is seeding. You know they’re going to be in the dance. The most important thing, like last year, to this team is just health, getting rhythm during the season. They’re adding a lot of new pieces so the most important thing is just catching a rhythm during the season. I don’t see them chasing the No. 1 seed, I think they know this is a marathon. As long as they’re healthy going into the playoffs, they have a great chance at winning a championship.”