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Lakers News: League Insider Predicts LA Makes NBA Finals This Season

All Lakers on FanNation 3/30/2023 Alex Kirschenbaum
© Provided by All Lakers on FanNation

We can't believe it either.

Despite the cold hard reality that your Los Angeles Lakers are currently just the eighth seed in the Western Conference with a 38-38 record, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated is convinced they can go all the way in a wonky West this year, thanks to their finally-healthy two stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and some impressive depth.

Mannix praises injury-prone starting LA center Davis as a big motivator for his confidence that the team can actually reach the NBA Finals in 2023.

“It all starts with [AD],” head coach Darvin Ham agreed, per Mannix. 

During March, Davis has been averaging 27.1 points on .586/.400/.723 shooting splits, 11.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 blocks and 0.8 steals a night. All-NBA numbers, to be sure, though considering that he's the second-best player on a .500 team and has missed 26 games, he faces an uphill battle to be named among the league's top 15 players.

But AD isn't the lone Laker Mannix thinks deserves some attention. Second-year starting shooting guard Austin Reaves is currently team's all-time leader in offensive rating. That's saying something, considering that Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and, oh yeah, LeBron James have all been Lakers.

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Mannix also praises the fits of recent trade acquisitions D'Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt, both huge additions to the team's starting lineup, plus Rui Hachimura and Malik Beasley on the bench. 

“We have multiple ballhandlers," James said of the new lineup. "No one needs to feel like they have the stress of handling the ball on every possession. We have shotmakers, and we have a lot of length. It gives us a lot to do defensively as well.”

James' own health issues could ultimately prove an impediment to the Lakers' potential Finals berth, Mannix cautions. He returned to the hardwood just a month after tearing a right foot tendon, thanks to "the LeBron James of feet."

Mannix thinks that the six West teams that seem to be definitively ahead of the play-in contenders -- Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Clippers -- all have their own distinct vulnerabilities, which is part of the reason the West is so wide open this year. We'll have to see.

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