Lakers Favored to Win NBA Western Conference in 2020, But Warriors Are Close Behind

Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma has the Lakers pointing in the right direction. Photo by @BleacherReport (Twitter)
  • The Los Angeles Lakers are projected to be the top team in the Western Conference in 2019-20
  • The Lakers have the league’s most formidable one-two punch in LeBron James and Anthony Davis
  • Oddsmakers aren’t willing to give up on the Warriors yet despite devastating injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant 

Can you hear that? It’s the sound of the Lakers’ bandwagon creaking beneath the crushing weight of millions of new fans and supporters.

LA has become everyone’s favorite new team following its splashy acquisition of six-time All-Star Anthony Davis. The Brow is arguably the most talented two-way player LeBron James has ever teamed up with, and his very presence transforms the Lakers from league-wide laughingstock to instant title contender.

Davis and the Lakers are now the favorites to win the NBA’s Western Conference in 2020 according to the latest odds from sportsbooks. LA is followed closely by the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Clippers.

2020 NBA Western Conference Odds

Team 2020 NBA Western Conference Odds
Los Angeles Lakers +145
Golden State Warriors +300
Houston Rockets +450
Los Angeles Clippers +650
Denver Nuggets +1000
Oklahoma City Thunder +1300
Portland Trail Blazers +1400
Utah Jazz +1600
Dallas Mavericks +2000
San Antonio Spurs +2500
New Orleans Pelicans +4000
Sacramento Kings +6000
Memphis Grizzlies +8000
Phoenix Suns +17500
Minnesota Timberwolves +17500

*Odds taken 06/19/19

Fade the Warriors

Dynasties seldom end well. Just ask the Romanovs, who were brutally executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

The end of Golden State’s own dynasty may not have been quite as bloody, but it was just as final, as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were helped off the court with devastating injuries during the 2019 NBA Finals. Both players enter the offseason as free agents and, even if they re-sign with the Warriors, their impact will be minimal in 2019-20. KD is expected to miss the entire season as he recovers from a torn Achilles, and Thompson isn’t expected back until February as he rehabs his ACL.

The Warriors will also have to figure out what to do with DeMarcus Cousins, whose best years now appear far behind him, and Shaun Livingston, who has flirted with retirement in each of the past two years. Golden State may contend for a championship again, but it won’t be in 2020.

Expectations are Too High for Lakers

The 2019-20 Lakers have more questions than an FAQ. Who will be the team’s starting point guard and shooting guard? Will Rob Pelinka have enough money to fashion a competent second unit? Can the Lakers surround LeBron with reliable spot-up shooters? Let’s be honest: if your crotch burned as much as these questions you’d be going to the emergency room ASAP.

There’s still time to address some of these concerns through free agency, but the LA will need some very creative accounting to field a full roster with the cap space they have remaining.

Beyond the obvious concerns regarding roster construction, the Lakers should be legitimately worried about the health of their two pillars. Davis missed 26 games last season and has never appeared in more than 75 games in a given year. James missed 27 games in 2018-19 with a strained left groin and will turn 35 in December. It’s fair to wonder if his injury was a sign of things to come rather than just an aberration.

Rockets Look Ready to Implode

No team has had a more contentious offseason than the Rockets, whose players and personnel have been actively sniping at each other since Houston was defeated by Golden State in the second-round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Much of the drama centers around Chris Paul and James Harden, who reportedly went two months without speaking to each other leading up to their postseason ouster. When they did chat with one another it often looked like this:

Sources close to the Rockets claim their relationship is “unsalvageable” and fully expect Paul to be traded this summer. The nine-time All-Star may not be the only Rocket changing addresses as GM Daryl Morey has made it known he’s willing to sell everything that isn’t nailed down (and likely a few things that are).

A year ago Houston looked like the heir apparent to Golden State, but now they look like Oakland Raiders of the NBA.

A year ago Houston looked like the heir apparent to Golden State, but now they look like Oakland Raiders of the NBA. Steer clear of their dysfunction and bank instead on a team whose players are all moving in the same direction.

Clippers Offer Intrigue

LA’s “other team” presents excellent value to bettors. The Clippers pushed the Warriors to six games in the opening round of the 2019 Playoffs with a scrappy core of overachievers. Players like Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell all punched above their weight and consistently made Golden State pay for taking off possessions.

The Clippers may lack the star power of the Lakers or Warriors, but that could change soon if Lawrence Frank and Doc Rivers can convince Kawhi Leonard to return home to southern California. The two-time Finals MVP has remained tight-lipped about where he’ll sign next, but it’s widely believed the Clippers and Raptors are the only two teams on his list.

LA presently has the cap space to sign one max free agent, but they could free up enough space for a second if they trade Danilo Gallinari and his $22.6 million contract before July 1st. That’s a big “if” but if Leonard chooses the Clippers his gravitational pull could easily attract another superstar like Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, both of whom represent huge talent upgrades to LA’s roster. At +650 that’s a risk worth taking.

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