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LeBron and the Lakers are a Longshot to Win the Pacific Division

Eric Rosales

by Eric Rosales in NBA Basketball

Updated Mar 27, 2020 · 3:06 PM UTC

Draymond Green and Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green, Steph Curry and the Warriors are heavy NBA title favorites. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License].
  • The Warriors are heavy favorites to take the Pacific Division once again
  • Are the Lakers worthy challengers or longshots at best?
  • Is there a chance any of the Suns, Kings or Clippers emerge?

The NBA’s Pacific Division has been owned lately by the Golden State Warriors, but a transplanted Angeleno is looking to change all of that.

The odds are still against LeBron James and his new team, the Lakers, but do they have what it takes to put an end to Golden State’s reign? Sportsbooks certainly don’t think so…

Odds to win the Pacific Division in 2018-19

Team 2017-18 Record Odds to Win the Pacific Division
Golden State Warriors 58-24 -1500
Los Angeles Lakers 35-47 +1000
Los Angeles Clippers 42-40 +3300
Sacramento Kings 27-55 +10000
Phoenix Suns 21-61 +10000

The Warriors’ Talent Level is Historically Great

Other teams might be deeper, and other teams might possess a few standouts who can trump a Warrior or two, but there’s no team that can trot out this starting five – when DeMarcus Cousins gets back, of course.

For all their success, this team needed a shakeup. The Warriors looked wildly disinterested during long stretches of the regular season a year ago, and even entered the playoffs a brutal 7-10 in their final 17 games.

Any other team does that, and they probably miss the playoffs. Golden State? They finished with 58 wins (second best in the NBA) and led the league in scoring, field goal percentage, three-point  percentage and assists.

Then they scorched the NBA playoff earth and rolled to their third title in four years.

There’s a reason this team is the odds-on favorite to win the title. A fifth straight division crown will match the Kobe-led Lakers run from 2007-11, the second longest stretch of dominance in the Pacific’s history (The Magic Lakers owned it from 1981-89).

LeBron James Provides a Challenge to the Warriors

If there’s one person that can challenge Golden State supremacy, it’s LeBron James, who is still considered the best player on the planet entering his 16th season.

He knows a thing or two about competing year in and year out.

James will be extra motivated as well: he’s moving from the lightly regarded Eastern Conference to the powerhouse West, with a roster that is equal parts budding and equal parts confusing, but he is the constant.

Injecting 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists on 50.4% from the field and 34.4% from three (James’ career averages through 1,143 games) into any roster will definitely raise your team’s talent level, and that’s still not considering the intangibles and swagger he brings to a team both on and off the court.

Taking a flier on a long shot with LeBron James on it is worth it. You could do much worse. The Lakers have finished no better than third since 2011. Guaranteed that is going to improve.

Past 5 Pacific Division Winners

Year Team Record
2017 Warriors 58-24
2016 Warriors 67-15
2015 Warriors 73-9
2014 Warriors 67-15
2013 Clippers 57-25

Is there Value in Betting on the Lakers?

First, leave the Clippers, Kings and Suns where they are. There’s only one scenario that sees those three competing for a division crown, and that would involve the Warriors and Lakers boycotting the season.

Taking the Warriors is the right bet here, but there’s not much return on that.

The best value bet is the Lakers, but lots would need to bounce right – one or a combination of Warriors’ injuries, another regular season of indifference or DeMarcus Cousins ruining chemistry, to name a few – for them to be in position to leapfrog the juggernauts of the Bay Area.

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