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A Lakers fan’s guide to watching the 2018 NBA playoffs

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The NBA playoffs are here and while the Lakers won’t be participating, they have every reason to tune in.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NBA playoffs tip-off today and for the fifth consecutive year, the Los Angeles Lakers won’t be participating. For some fans, that might mean skipping out on watching the postseason completely but I’m here to tell you that there are plenty of reasons to tune in, if only just for the first round.

From free agency implications to set ups for blockbuster trades, here is a Lakers fan’s guide to watching the 2018 NBA playoffs.

GO WESTBROOK (and nobody else)

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Almost every Lakers fan on the planet will be rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder to get swept by the Utah Jazz in the first round hoping that it will discourage Paul George from re-upping with the Thunder this summer.

That’s fine and all, and I will be doing the same, but more than just rooting for them to fall apart, I will be rooting for a monster first round from Russell Westbrook. Let me explain.

Westbrook became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in consecutive seasons on Wednesday, a tremendous feat he should be proud of. However, more often that not, his individual success has come at the expense of his teammates and that’s great! More of that!

George has gone one record saying that a poor showing in the postseason won’t sway him one way more than the other this summer. However, if the Thunder get eliminated in the first round because Westbrook wants to be unapologetically himself in late-game situations, George might head into the offseason with a bad taste in his mouth.

After all, this is the same Paul George that publicly condemned one of his teammates for taking a buzzer beater in the playoffs only a year ago.

So yes, grab those rebounds, Russ. Throw up those pull up three-pointers in transition. Take three defenders to the rim for a contested layup. Do whatever it takes to have a great boxscore in the playoffs, just don’t let it translate to wins.

The King and his men

NBA: New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in it last eight years, LeBron James’ team will not be the favorites to advance to the Finals. Even after pushing the reset button at the trade deadline, the Cavs still have a handful of things they need to work out and their first playoff game is tomorrow. Not ideal.

But as long as James is in a Cavaliers uniform, Cleveland will have a fighting chance. The question is, can James play at his MVP level for what might be multiple seven-game series in year 15 and if he can, does he want to?

James logged a career-high 36.9 minutes per game and played in all 82 games for the first time in his career this season and yet, his Cavaliers still only finished at the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference with 50 wins. What more can he do?

If his supporting cast, several of which will be playing in the postseason for the first time in their careers, can’t step up when it counts, James could start moving furniture to his $23 million mansion in Brentwood, CA hours after the final buzzer.

The Kawhi Kerfuffle

NBA: Utah Jazz at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Surprise! The San Antonio Spurs announced Kawhi Leonard will not be available for Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors because ... well no one really knows why and no one knows when he’ll be back either.

If it were not for the credibility the Spurs as an organization have built throughout the years, this would be the most talked about story in the NBA. Where the hell is Kawhi Leonard? Why is he waiting to be cleared by his personal team of doctors? Is it because he’s actually a basketball cyborg? No one knows but Leonard and to a team and fanbase that’s used to stability, that can be frustrating.

If the reported discourse between Leonard and the Spurs bleeds into the offseason, there’s a chance San Antonio looks to deal him before he hits unrestricted free agency in 2019. The Lakers will surely be one of the several teams keeping tabs on the Los Angeles native and one of the few teams that actually have the assets to put a package together.