In 34 days, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers will start their 2019-20 regular season campaign, which is expected to be their most exciting season since the 2012-13 season, when they first acquired Dwight Howard.
However, as Lakers fans discovered last season, things can happen and expectations can unravel quickly. So, in an effort to prepare ourselves for the season ahead — for better or for worse — we ran three different “What If?” simulations of the Lakers’ season. Here are the results.
What if DeMarcus Cousins never got hurt?
A large part of the excitement around the Lakers going into next season was the prospect of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins reuniting in Los Angeles and dominating opposing big men. Unfortunately, that is no longer a possibility because Cousins tore his ACL and, as a result, won’t suit up in the purple and gold next season.
But what if he didn’t get hurt?
According to 2K, a Lakers team with Cousins would have finished the season with 60 wins, good enough for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. Ironically, though, this is the lowest they’d finish in the three simulations we ran. The simulation with Cousins on the roster is also the only one that had the Lakers exiting the playoffs in the second round, but there’s some further context needed for that.
In Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Davis suffered a season-ending high ankle sprain, which allowed the Utah Jazz even up the series and eventually win the series 4-3. The Jazz went on to lose the LA Clippers, who beat the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks en route to their first-ever NBA championship.
Cousins was able to average a respectable 13.2 points per game in the postseason, but it wasn’t enough to carry them past the Jazz. If both he and Davis had been healthy, maybe it would have been a different result.
What if things stayed the way there are?
Sometimes the way things are is the way they’re supposed to be, and 2K seems to believe that’s the case for the Lakers.
In the simulation we ran with the existing roster sans Cousins, the Lakers finished with a record of 64-18, their best regular season record since the 2008-09 season. While it wasn’t the best record in the NBA, let alone the Western Conference, head coach Frank Vogel was still voted Coach of the Year for the first time in his career.
Additionally, LeBron James took home his fifth league MVP, making him one of three players with at least five Most Valuable Player Awards. The others? Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won the MVP award a record-setting six times.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Lakers went 16-4 in the postseason, including 4-0 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals. Three of their losses came against the Houston Rockets, who they beat in seven games. Anthony Davis was named Finals MVP after averaged 30.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks per game against the Sixers.
So, yeah, I guess you could say things went pretty well.
What if the Lakers replaced DeMarcus Cousins with Carmelo Anthony?
Carmelo Anthony might not be the same player he used to be, but he can still be a contributor on a championship-contending team like the Lakers, according to 2K.
Through 55 games, Anthony averaged 9.5 points per game on 44.3 percent shooting from the field, including 37.1 percent shooting from behind the arc. The best part? He had 27 DNPs on the season and didn’t complain once!
Anthony and the Lakers finished the season with 62 wins and cruised to the NBA Finals, losing only four times on their way there. Once they got there, they swept the Philadelphia 76ers.
The moral of the story? The Lakers are going to sweep the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2020 NBA Finals and Anthony will be the reason why. Thanks for coming to our TED Talk.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.