After lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in October 2020 at the conclusion of the longest season in NBA history, the Los Angeles Lakers were a bit of a disappointment in the shortened 2020-21 campaign that followed.
A major cause of that were injuries, as most of the teams that made a deep run in the bubble saw player’s bodies start to wear down, and the Lakers were no exception.
Los Angeles got off to a 21-7 start to the campaign, but then in short order lost stars Anthony Davis (strained calf) and LeBron James (sprained ankle) for the majority of the second half of the 72-game season.
Without their two biggest stars, the Lakers slid down the standings and finished seventh in the Western Conference. James and Davis returned in time to help Los Angeles defeat the Golden State Warriors in a high-profile play-in-game matchup.
But the run of good health didn’t last long as Davis suffered a groin injury in Game 4 of the opening round and Los Angeles bowed out in six games to the Phoenix Suns.
The Lakers enter the 2021-22 campaign fully healthy and armed with a set of reinforcements after a busy offseason.
Los Angeles acquired Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Wizards, added solid auxiliary pieces in Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn and signed a cast of veterans including Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, and DeAndre Jordan.
Despite boasting the oldest roster in the NBA and falling well below expectations last year, the Lakers are expected to bounce back as they enter the season as the favorite to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.
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Lakers Win Total Prediction 2021-2022
Lakers Over 52.5 Wins (-110) at DraftKings
This win total is certainly reachable for the Lakers, as they won 52 of 71 games in their title-winning campaign two seasons ago. With the traditional 82-game schedule back in play, there’s no reason Los Angeles can’t win 53+ games given its top-end talent. We normally see about five teams hit this mark each year, so it’s not like 53 wins is this team’s ceiling, either.
Ultimately, this will come down to how quickly the new pieces mesh on the court and how many games LeBron and AD end up playing, but having the luxury of Westbrook to help carry the load and bring the energy every single night during the grind of the regular season has me leaning towards the over.
Lakers Make NBA Playoffs Prediction 2021-2022
Los Angeles Lakers to Make the Playoffs (-5000) at Caesars
The Lakers did miss the postseason in LeBron’s first season in Los Angeles and this team does have a lot of older pieces, so this isn’t the ultimate lock of all locks, but it’s pretty damn close. It would take some sort of injury crisis to keep this team out of the postseason, even in a competitive Western Conference.
At a return of $1 for every $50 invested, this isn’t a bet I’d be rushing to the window to make, but it seems plenty safe.
Lakers To Win NBA Championship Prediction 2021-2022
Lakers to Win NBA Championship (+400) at BetMGM
The NBA Playoffs are generally the chalkiest of the four major sports, so I don’t hate the idea of going with the Lakers to win the title as the prohibitive Western Conference favorites. My biggest hesitation is trying to figure out how Russell Westbrook will fit in with Anthony Davis and LeBron when playing postseason basketball.
The formula for success in the past has been to surround LeBron with shooters. However, as we know, Westbrook is one of the worst shooters in terms of efficiency in NBA history.
The Lakers that shot over 40% from three-point range last season — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and Marc Gasol — are no longer on the team.
I certainly wouldn’t blame you for backing LeBron, but I’d prefer to wait and see on this one.
Lakers & Player Prop Predictions 2021-2022
LeBron James Points Per Game Over 24.4 (-115) at DraftKings
LeBron hasn’t averaged less than this number since his rookie season. Let’s not get silly here. I know his PPG stats have been trending down a little bit over the last two years, but he’s had a longer-than-usual offseason to get healthy and ready for Year 19.
He’s still motivated and while we’ve never seen anything like him before, I trust LeBron like I do Tom Brady to push off this whole aging thing for as long as possible.
Anthony Davis to Win Defensive Player of the Year Award (+700) at DraftKings
Are voters really going to give Rudy Gobert another award, even after he continues to get played off the court in the playoffs? A fourth DPOY would see Gobert tie Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo for the most all time. He’s not in that category to me.
Meanwhile, Anthony Davis somehow hasn’t won this award yet despite being one of the most versatile defenders in the league. If he can play the majority of the season, I think AD finally gets his recognition.
Lakers to Win the Pacific Division (+105) at DraftKings
When I first looked at the pricing, I was a little thrown off to see the Lakers this low given the competition in the Pacific. But as I looked further into it, I think this is a pretty good value, especially since the Lakers are only (+200) to win the Western Conference and reach the NBA Finals.
I’ve already said my piece about why I think Westbrook’s addition should help the Lakers in the regular season, but they should also get a head start in the division race in part to key injuries elsewhere.
The Clippers will be without star Kawhi Leonard for a good chunk of the year, while the Warriors will start the season without Klay Thompson and James Wiseman. That leaves the Suns, who won the division last year, as the only serious threat (sorry Sacramento).
I’m not sure I’m ready to trust Phoenix to be a perennial contender just yet.