As Anthony Davis and LeBron James continue to don Gucci sweaters and five necklaces on the sideline (as seen above), the Lakers remain firmly entrenched as the favorites to win the West. That they're currently the fifth seed in said conference matters not. They are +150 favorites over at WynnBET to make a second straight Finals and have the second-best odds in the NBA to win it all at +250 just behind the Nets, who are +165.
You know if Vegas says it, there's a reason. That reason is the Lakers are just fine, despite prognostications to the contrary
When LeBron James sprained his ankle a few weeks ago, leaving LA without him and an already-hobbled Davis, some wondered whether the Lakers would collapse and drop in the standings all the way to the play-in game. That hasn't happened. The Lakers have gone 7-8 since LeBron's injury and are currently the fifth seed in the playoffs. That's great for them.
The Clippers are the Lakers' biggest competition in the West and it looks like the Lakers will avoid playing them until the conference finals. The playoff path the Lakers are on now includes facing the Nuggets in the first round and the Jazz in the semifinals. With Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray out for the season with a torn ACL and the Jazz still a star player away from being true contenders, that path appears easier than the Clippers current set up, which would pit them against Dame Lillard and the Trail Blazers in the first round and Chris Paul/Devin Booker in the second.
This isn't to say the Lakers will sweep their way into the conference finals. This is to say they're in a good position to do so. That despite being without their two best players for over three weeks and one of them (Davis) for the majority of the season.
So no, the sky isn't falling on the Lakers. In fact, they're doing just fine, thank you very much. They just beat the Jazz in overtime last night and beat the Nets (albeit a depleted version of them) last Saturday too. With backups.
Davis is expected to play potentially as early as this coming week and LeBron should be back sometime in early May. That will give LA time to hone its chemistry over the last half dozen games or so and try to secure the fourth or fifth seed in the playoffs, which looks like the easiest path for LA to win it all again.
Clearly this team is more than just Davis and LeBron and players like Kyle Kuzma, Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and new-addition Andre Drummond are getting a chance to prove it. They've kept the Lakers afloat while their captains were off the ship. Now their captains are coming back fully armed for a playoff assault that looks very promising despite all the challenges they've faced this season.