As expected, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a commanding series lead against the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs. After falling in Game 1 to Phoenix, LeBron James and company made adjustments to win Games 2 and 3. The main adjustment was force-feeding the ball to Anthony Davis, who reminded everyone he is arguably the best big man in the world.
After a poor Game 1 performance by Anthony Davis (13 points in 39 minutes), he followed it up with 34 points in each of Game 2 and Game 3. With LeBron pulling the strings while Davis dominates, the Lakers are once again proving they are the team to beat. In fact, they are the most talented team in the Western Conference and the favorites to make the NBA Finals once again this year. No one in the conference can beat the Lakers, and looking at the East, no one has a shot either except the Brooklyn Nets.
The Lakers Have Too Much Size On Both Ends Of The Floor
The Lakers have tremendous size on the court at one time. They have the best frontcourt in the NBA with extremely talented players of immense size. LeBron James is a 6'9" locomotive, Davis is 6'10" with guard skills, Andre Drummond is mobile at 6'10", and Marc Gasol comes into the game at 6'11". This amount of size is demoralizing for opponents, as shown by the series against the Phoenix Suns. Other than Deandre Ayton, the Suns have no answer for the Lakers' size. Looking across the league, no one does.
The Lakers' size was one of their best advantages last season, but they replaced Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee with Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol. Clearly, they have upgraded on both ends of the floor. Drummond and Davis are amazing at running the floor, while LeBron is unstoppable when he attacks the rim. Gasol is a backup center, but he is very smart and will always make the right play for the Lakers.
Even Montrezl Harrell, a forgotten star this postseason, can come in and provide big minutes. Harrell won 6th Man of the Year last year and averaged PPG and RPG this season, so he is yet another option for Los Angeles. Kyle Kuzma has had a poor playoffs so far, but he is a baller at heart and cannot be ignored on offense. Kuzma can get hot at any moment and will always be a threat in the paint or the perimeter. The Lakers have the best big men in the NBA and it isn't close.
The Lakers Guards Have Toughness, Grit, And Shooting
The Lakers guards do not get enough credit for what they bring to the table, but it is time they do. Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews, and Dennis Schroder are excellent role players for the Lakers. They play tough defense every possession, never back down when they have an open shot or a lane to the basket, and they are extremely unselfish. Each one of these guards plays the game the right way, and have complete faith in LeBron James and the Lakers coaching staff.
With the bigs dominating the inside, the Lakers guards space the floor perfectly. Dennis Schroder had arguably his best games as a Laker in Game 2 and 3 against the Suns by dropping 24 and 20 points respectively. His ability to slice to the rim without hesitation puts a lot of pressure on opponents and even sets up offensive rebound opportunities for Drummond and Davis. Caruso, Matthews, and Caldwell-Pope are tough defenders and they can defend every possession without any real weakness.
LeBron James Is The Smartest Player In The NBA, Anthony Davis Is Unstoppable
LeBron James looks a tad slower, and he isn't focused on completely taking over the game as we have grown accustomed to. After all, he is 36 years old with 18 years in the NBA. Instead, The King is leading with his brain. No player in NBA history, probably outside of Magic Johnson, has the basketball IQ of LeBron James who is killing the Phoenix Suns with his passing. LeBron makes the right play every single possession whether it's lobs to the bigs or setting up his shooters.
No player in the game right now can outsmart LeBron and that means the Lakers will always make the right adjustments. As the Lakers go deeper in the playoffs, we will also start seeing a more aggressive LeBron James which is a major problem for every team in the league. But as great as LeBron is, the play of Anthony Davis will dictate how the Lakers finish the season.
Anthony Davis is completely unstoppable. No big man in the NBA can dominate both ends of the floor like he can, because his athleticism and talent are off the charts. While most of the attention in the league has gone to Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, and for good reason, Anthony Davis is a top-5 player in the game on both ends of the floor. Davis has awoken from his slumber, dropping 68 points in 2 straight games in the playoffs. When Davis carries the offense, the Lakers look unbeatable.
Only The Brooklyn Nets Can Handle The Lakers
The Brooklyn Nets are having their way with the Boston Celtics, grabbing a 2-0 lead and having fun doing it. The Nets are the most talented team in modern NBA history, even surpassing the Golden State Warriors dynasty which also featured Kevin Durant. Brooklyn have three superstars in Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden but the rest of the team is also extremely talented.
Joe Harris is on fire this season averaging 14.1 PPG on 47.5% 3-point shooting during the regular season. In the playoffs, Harris dropped 25 points in the most recent blowout victory for the Nets. Other than Harris, the Nets have some more ballers. Blake Griffin is a dunking machine all of a sudden, after failing to register a single dunk with the Detroit Pistons this season. Griffin isn't a star anymore but his basketball IQ is tremendous and he fits like a glove alongside the Big Three.
Landry Shamet can get hot from three and Nic Claxton is a promising center who gives Brooklyn much-needed size in the paint. Bruce Brown has blossomed into a solid wing player who plays hard every night and Brooklyn have a lot of depth to throw in the game at any moment. With Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni on the sidelines, the Nets are running a very scary offense.
When looking at the Lakers and Nets matchup, it is obvious these are the teams to beat. The Lakers have more size than anyone in the NBA including the Nets, but Brooklyn have three unstoppable offensive players. Kevin Durant, 4-time scoring champion, is once again reminding the world how special he is. Other than LeBron James and Larry Bird, it is hard to find a better small forward in terms of pure talent in NBA history.
Durant is a problem for the Lakers because no one can guard him, even the powerhouse LeBron James. Durant can shoot over anyone and is still explosive when he attacks. Next to him is James Harden, 3-time scoring champion and arguably the best isolation player in NBA history. Harden and Durant are a scary duo that can create a shot anytime they want, especially when Kyrie Irving starts dancing.
Irving is the best ball handler in NBA history and LeBron James surely knows firsthand what he can do on the court. Durant, Harden, and Irving cannot be stopped by any team in the NBA including the Lakers. Even if Los Angeles have a ton of bigs to pound Brooklyn with, the Big Three will score anytime they want. With the amount of talent the Nets field at once, the Lakers are facing the only team that can contend with them and beat them.
There Is No Competition For Brooklyn or Los Angeles, But Brooklyn Are The Favorites
The Lakers do not fear a single team in the Western Conference. Even as the 7th seed, the Lakers are better than every team in the West. The Suns have an injured Chris Paul and are very young, meaning the Lakers should take care of business before 7 games. Utah had a great regular season but their two stars do not compare to LeBron and Davis. The Clippers...well, they are choke artists who might not even get out the first round.
For Brooklyn, their competition is mainly Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The Sixers and Bucks are having an easy first round, and are proving why they are title contenders this season. Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo are both MVP caliber players so they will always be a threat. But Brooklyn have 2 MVP caliber players as well, and 3 superstars who can outperform what Embiid or Giannis can do on the court.
In the prospective Finals matchup between the Lakers and Nets, Brooklyn are the favorites. Davis can assert himself and dominate the paint alongside Drummond, but his offense alone cannot compare to what Durant, Harden, and Irving bring. LeBron is not the same player physically as he was a few years ago, meaning the prime Big Three have an advantage.
James Harden made a fuss to get out of Houston this year to have a superteam and he certainly has one. Durant has proven he performs the best in the biggest games, and Kyrie is a 40-point explosion waiting to happen. LeBron and Davis will lead the Lakers to battle every night but Brooklyn have the most talent in modern history and should be crowned champions at the end of the year.