The Lakers are far from the orthodox seventh seed in the NBA playoffs. Since the trade deadline that reshaped their roster, the Lakers had the second-best record in the NBA and the best in the Western Conference.
The team second in the Western Conference in that span that matched their win total? The Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers first-round opponent in the playoffs. In reality, this is something closer to a conference finals than a first-round matchup based on recent form of the two teams, but the Lakers still enter with a legitimate chance at knocking off one of the conference’s best sides.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, then, that Vegas barely views them as an underdog.
While the final matchups between the No. 1 seeds and the No. 8 seeds aren’t known yet, it probably isn’t much of a shock to know that the Lakers and Grizzlies have the closest odds of any series, according to our friends at DraftKings.
The Grizzlies are only -140 favorites while the Lakers are coming in at +120 to win the series. There’s a strong argument for both sides and each has some sort of advantage.
Ja Morant is a one-man wrecking crew, and Jaren Jackson Jr. is one of the Defensive Player of the Year favorites. But LeBron James and Anthony Davis are two top-10 players in the league as well, and no team has been hotter than the Lakers over the last two months.
Memphis has the chemistry advantage, but they also have been quite...dysfunctional as the season has gone along, and they’ve navigated arguments with Shannon Sharpe and Ja Morant’s off-court issues and Dillon Brooks’ desire to fight everyone before, during and after games.
The Lakers don’t have the chemistry, but they also don’t have the dysfunction, at least since the deadline. There’s a yin to every yang with these two sides entering this series and it feels like the toss-up Vegas predicts it to be.
For me, it’s hard to imagine a healthy LeBron and AD losing a playoff series. They haven’t done so yet and the only series they lost, they looked to have taken control before Davis went down.
There are plenty of viable reasons this could be the year that changes, but until it does, I’m taking LeBron and AD in the playoffs and living with the results.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.