After pairing LeBron James and Anthony Davis together in the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be one of the best teams in the NBA this season by most league executives. Maybe not the best, but one of the best, for sure.
In the annual NBA.com GM survey released that was released on Thursday, the Lakers were voted the third-best team in the Western Conference behind the Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers, who received 66% of the first-place votes. The Lakers received the second-most first place votes, but the Nuggets got more second and third-place votes.
That might not be as high as Lakers fans would like to see their team, but it’s a fair projection for a team with a new head coach, a new offensive and defensive system and eight new players, including three new starters. Comparatively, the Nuggets and Clippers have had the same head coach for at least four consecutive seasons and will have more than half of their starting lineup from last season.
However, while the Lakers finished behind the Nuggets in the Western Conference regular season win projection, they got the third-most votes to win the 2020 NBA Finals behind the Milwaukee Bucks and Clippers, who once again led the group with 46% of the votes. The Nuggets didn’t even finish among the top-five vote-getters.
That might be because unlike the Bucks, Clippers and Lakers, the Nuggets don’t have surefire second superstar player. Depth wins a lot of regular season games, but star power usually wins out in the postseason. The Lakers have two after trading for Davis in July.
As a result, the Lakers were also voted the most-improved team with 38% of the votes. The Clippers also received votes, but unlike the Lakers, they made the playoffs last season, so the highest number of spots they can jump is seven. The Lakers can jump as high as nine places after finishing 10th in the Western Conference last season.
Finally, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was voted as the coach that will have the second-biggest impact on his new team, behind Monty Williams and ahead of Luke Walton.
Overall, the Lakers did pretty well in the survey, and Vogel doesn’t think his team needs any more motivation for the regular season from any survey, anyway (via Lakers.com):
“When I was with the Pacers or Magic I always tried to use that as newspaper motivation to get my guys feeling slighted. I don’t think this group needs that at all. I don’t think this group pays any attention to that. We know what we’re capable of and where our ceiling is, so I really don’t feel like that matters at all to this group.”
We’ll see if the Lakers can live up to their own lofty expectations when the regular season tips off on Tuesday.