More Likely To Miss The NBA Finals: Lakers Or Nets | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com
In sports there are two types of standings to keep an eye on, those that tell you wins and losses, and those that make money from analyzing who the best teams are, the betting odds. So, while neither the Brooklyn Nets nor the Los Angeles Lakers have the best record in their respective conferences, both squads are favorites to win the NBA title this season, with oddsmakers predicting a Finals matchup between the franchises this summer. This begs the question: If you had to bet on either the Lakers or Nets to miss the NBA Finals, which one would you pick?
The slow decline of the Los Angeles Lakers was easy to predict after LeBron James suffered his high ankle sprain. James joined his co-superstar Anthony Davis on the bench last week, with the Purple and Gold sliding to fourth in the Western Conference standings in that time. Now, with both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers just a game and a half behind the Lakers, it appears LA will fall to the bottom half of the eight-team playoff field in the West, forcing Davis, James, and his teammates to take the hard road back to the NBA Finals this season.
Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers continue to hold down the top spot despite missing their MVP candidate, Joel Embiid, who has been out since mid-March. They are, however, facing strong challenges from both the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, each with their own MVP players in James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Both players have kept their squads within a game and a half of the East’s top seed heading into the last weekend of March.
The East is proving to be a top-heavy conference with only three teams truly in contention for the NBA Finals, while the West has twice as many teams winning 60% of their games. This is why the Brooklyn Nets can survive without Kevin Durant on the court and can still win while James Harden touts his own MVP case.
Truth be told, the Los Angeles Lakers were gifted an NBA title last year by the pandemic, since having all the games played in the Orlando bubble allowed the older legs and body of LeBron James to avoid traveling during the postseason. It’s clear now that despite his impressive offseason workouts, LeBron can’t handle the rigors of the NBA season since for the second time in his three seasons with the Lakers, he is injured, costing him time on the court. Only this time his absence will also cost the Lakers a higher spot in the standings as the shallow Lakers roster will not be able to stand up to the onslaught the Western Conference.
The question now becomes if the Brooklyn Nets have enough to win the Eastern Conference this season. Sure, when healthy their “Big Three” of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden can take down anyone on a nightly basis. But if the NBA knows James Harden is now the heartbeat of the Brooklyn Nets, does that mean the league knows they are beatable in the postseason since history tells us “The Beard” has always fallen short of the NBA Finals during his career?
It is so difficult for me to root for James Harden since he represents all that is wrong with the NBA nowadays. He is a high-volume shooter who is more interested in awards and style points on the court than actually winning, and like so many others before him, will make the Hall of Fame as a one-dimensional player, and is not the all-round player the true legends were before him.
I think it would be great if New York City saw another NBA champion, and clearly the Nets are closer to that goal than the surprising Knicks are this season; but is James Harden the hero the NBA needs right now, or just the one they have forced upon the game? Sadly, it is the latter, not the former … but to answer the question, the Brooklyn Nets if/when healthy should make the NBA Finals, and with all that’s happening in LA, the Lakers will be lucky to reach the conference finals before facing a better, younger team that won’t be scared of LeBron James anymore and knows if they play their best, the Purple and Gold can, and will be defeated by someone before the NBA Finals.
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More Likely To Miss The NBA Finals: Lakers Or Nets | TooAthletic.com
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