Earlier this month, ESPN’s panel of NBA insiders made their picks for the NBA Finals, and 50% of them predicted that the Los Angeles Lakers would be the last team standing. Before the season was suspended, the same group gave the Lakers a 28.9% chance of winning it all, which was the second-highest percentage behind the Milwaukee Bucks (60.5%).
The drastic change in percentage was indicative of how much the tone around the Lakers was shifting before season’s abrupt suspension, which was likely a result of them beating the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers in back-to-back games. However, ESPN’s real plus-minus (RPM) projections still don’t favor the Lakers in a Finals series.
While the current projections give the Lakers a 64.2% of winning the Western Conference Finals, they only have a 19.9% of winning the Finals, according to the projection. The Milwaukee Bucks have the highest percentage at 42.5%.
Here’s the top five, per ESPN:
Milwaukee Bucks: 42.5%
Los Angeles Lakers: 19.9%
Toronto Raptors: 12.2%
LA Clippers: 9.3%
Boston Celtics: 7.8%
Projections like this should always be taken with a grain of salt, but they’re especially suspect now. Take the Lakers for example.
Of the 16 players that the Lakers will take to Orlando, four of them have played a combined 52 minutes this season. That’s true even if you factor J.R Smith into the equation. While Talen Horton-Tucker, Kostas Antetokounmpo and Devontae Cacok might not swing a playoff series, Dion Waiters and Smith might, so it’s hard to predict how they might impact a game using RPM given how many minutes they’ve played this season.
So, you can take these projections seriously and react accordingly, or you can just wait until games are back next month. For your well-being, I strongly suggest the latter.