The NBA Conference Finals are here. On one side, Nuggets vs Lakers and on the other side Celtics vs Miami. Sounds familiar? Indeed, it’s a repeat of the 2020 Bubble playoffs.
It seems like a long time ago, but it’s only been three years since LeBron James won his last ring in the gold and purple jersey. This year could be a repeat of history, as both the Heat and Lakers are one step away from the Finals.
If it were to happen, we would be talking about a historic milestone, as we would have for the first time the confrontation in a finals of two teams qualified through the play-in. The Lakers, who have managed to enter the playoffs ranked 7th, and the Miami Heat, who have had to play both play-in games to qualify as 8th.
Therefore, if history repeats itself, we could be talking about the fifth ring for LeBron James and his fifth Finals MVP, because no matter how good Anthony Davis’ Finals are, LeBron’s name weighs a lot. It would reopen the debate about who is the greatest of all time (GOAT).
The fact that the Lakers are here has a lot of merit. Not only because of what happened in the playoffs, eliminating the Warriors, who are the reigning champions, and the Grizzlies, the NBA’s trendy team, who managed to finish second in the regular season. To all this hard road, we must add that the Lakers in the regular season have been very far from entering the playoffs. The turning point has been Rob Pelinka’s excellent transfer market.
Despite the departure of players during the season, who had their importance in Darvin Ham’s scheme, such as Patrick Beverley or Russell Westbrook, others have arrived who are performing optimally in these playoffs, such as Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell or Vanderbilt.
And these Lakers are really a team designed in the middle of the season to conquer this ring. On the one hand, you have the veteran and experience, which is needed in important moments, in players like LeBron and Davis, who already know what it is to win a ring with the Lakers. And then the youth and freshness of other players on the roster.
On offense, apart from those already mentioned, who are the stars of the team, they have acquired in this market something they were missing, which are shooters from long distance, such as D’Angelo or Hachimura. They have also improved their defense with the arrival of Vanderbilt, who is a real pain in the ass when you face him, if not tell Stephen Curry without going any further.
All of this is not to mention that some players have exploded at some point this season. Young Austin Reaves is already an idol among Lakers’ fans. The kid is playing basketball in a way that is very uncharacteristic of his age. Let’s remember that this is his second year in the league and he is not burning the ball in his hands in important moments of the playoffs.
To this you also have to add the level of the secondary in crucial moments of the playoffs, such as Lonnie Walker IV’s 15 points in the last quarter of a game against the Warriors, Hachimura’s great performance against the Grizzlies in the first round, or Varderbilt’s successful defenses.
To all this core of good secondary, you have to add that on the team you have both LeBron James, and Anthony Davis, who are two of the best players in the league when they are healthy.
LeBron has done very well for himself. Even though he’s not putting up stratospheric numbers like he’s used to in the playoffs, it’s no longer necessary. Currently he is already 38 years old, he needs to have less and less workload in the team. This has been good for him with the arrival of point guards such as D’Angelo and Reaves, who are in charge of moving the ball up the court.
Davis, on the other hand, is having a very good playoffs. Especially on the defensive end, where he is averaging 3.3 blocks. A real savage. All this added to 21 points and 14 rebounds. The future of the Lakers will undoubtedly depends on Davis’ level.
This is a player very prone to injuries, which have always plagued him since his arrival in Los Angeles. If they are able to keep Davis injury-free, it will be very difficult for other teams to take the ring away from the Lakers.
At the moment, their first obstacle is Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets, who have beaten Durant’s Suns 4-2. This series will undoubtedly be a hard-fought one, due to the high level that both teams are showing in the playoffs. We will see how the confrontation between these great centers such as Jokic and Davis turns out and see which team will get the ticket to the NBA Finals.
Main image: @Lakers.