Lakers’ Strong Performance and Offseason Improvements Go Unnoticed

The Los Angeles Lakers are poised for a formidable postseason despite flying under the radar.

Your Los Angeles Lakers, the seventh seed in the Western Conference Finals last spring with a 43-39 record, may have surprised many, but their journey was far from ordinary.

When we scrutinize their performance after the February 9th trade deadline, they displayed an impressive 18-8 record (excluding the 9th itself when recently acquired players were undergoing medical evaluations). This equivalent, percentage-wise, to a 57-win season over the course of a full year. The Lakers didn’t stop there; they made significant improvements over the summer. Among the crucial playoff rotation players from the previous season, only Dennis Schroder and Lonnie Walker IV departed in free agency. In their place, the Lakers added talents like Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Christian Wood, Jaxson Hayes, and Cam Reddish.

With these additions, it’s clear that the Lakers are poised to be even more formidable in the upcoming postseason.

However, it appears that the broader NBA community isn’t overly concerned about the Lakers’ resurgence.

According to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, he conducted a poll among 15 NBA coaches, front office executives, and scouts, seeking their preseason predictions. Surprisingly, the Lakers didn’t receive much attention in their responses. Ten of them favored the reigning champion Denver Nuggets, three opted for the revamped Phoenix Suns, and two cast their votes for the 2022 title-winning Golden State Warriors.

“They [the Denver Nuggets] have the best player in the world, continuity and their young guys will keep getting better,” an Eastern Conference scout explained. “I don’t see anyone beating them if healthy.”

The Denver Nuggets may have lost key bench players Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, but they are placing their hopes on internal growth from talents like Christian Braun and Peyton Watson, along with potential contributions from rookie role players.

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, made a significant acquisition by trading for former All-Star guard Bradley Beal. Beal will join an already stacked starting lineup featuring All-Stars Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, alongside the maximum-salaried center, Deandre Ayton. The remaining spot, likely small forward (or perhaps power forward with Durant shifting to the three), is anticipated to be filled by Josh Okogie, with the possibility of experienced veterans seeking a role under the guidance of former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.

The Lakers managed to overcome a struggling Warriors team in a six-game second-round series last spring. While the Lakers have strengthened their roster, the Warriors have added Chris Paul, a player who has struggled with injuries in almost every postseason for the past decade. Even if he manages to stay healthy, there are doubts about his playoff performance, given his history of underperforming when injury-free. As it stands, the Warriors don’t appear to pose a significant threat in the upcoming postseason.

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Gary Lee

Gary Lee, a mainstay at LA Sports Report, is not just a sports writer; he's a veritable institution in the realm of sports journalism. With an extensive and illustrious career that boasts stints with notable platforms like Sports Illustrated, Gary has consistently showcased an uncanny knack for capturing the essence of the game, regardless of the sport. His prowess isn't limited to the written word alone; Gary's vast experience extends to creating and curating sports websites, providing fans with in-depth analysis, up-to-date news, and captivating stories. For readers keen on insights into the Clippers, Dodgers, Galaxy, Kings, LAFC, Lakers, Rams, UCLA, and USC, Gary is your go-to guy.
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