National Basketball Association

Easy Street

September 17, 2020

For LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, it's all coming together.

Already the co-favorites to win the NBA championship before the playoffs began ⁠— tied at +250 with the Milwaukee Bucks, per FOX Bet ⁠— the Lakers are now even heavier favorites at -167.

After winning their first two playoff series 4-1, they have their own performances to thank for that in large part.

However, the chaos around the playoff bracket surrounding the Lakers is also a factor.

LeBron's Lakers are staring down a field that is without the East's No. 1 seed, the Bucks, nor the second-seeded Toronto Raptors.

In their own conference, only the No. 3 seed Denver Nuggets remain.

The last time there was only one No. 1 seed and the next-highest seed was a 3 in the Conference Finals was 1990.

That bracket — 3 vs. 5 in the West and 1 vs. 3 in the East ⁠— shook out eerily similar to 2020's, with just the conferences reversed. 

The remaining No. 1 seed in 1990, the Detroit Pistons, went on to win the title after dispatching Jordan's Chicago Bulls 4-3 and hitting the Portland Trail Blazers with a gentleman's sweep in the Finals, 4-1.

Will LeBron and runningmate Anthony Davis enjoy the same fate? Colin Cowherd sure thinks so. 

He laid out a list of factors all leaning in Los Angeles' favor, not the least of which is a long list of past roadblocks that LeBron doesn't have to worry about this time around. 

The Los Angeles Clippers may have been LeBron's biggest obstacle for the Finals this year, but now that Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverly have been knocked out in Game 7 by the Denver Nuggets, everything's coming together for Los Angeles Lakers. Hear Colin explain why the sea is opening up for the star player, and take a look back at obstacles he's overcome throughout his career.

Perhaps the biggest roadblock, the Clippers, got cleared out by LA's upcoming opponent, the Nuggets.

That, ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose said, is a huge weight off for The King in his quest.

Skip Bayless also sees the Nuggets as not much of a threat to LeBron making the finals, ironically due to Denver's success in the playoffs thus far. 

After coming back from back-to-back 3-1 series deficits, it's impossible for Denver to catch the Lakers off guard, Bayless believes:

There are other considerations in the Lakers' favor, too.

With the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Leonard, Damian Lillard, and others bounced from the bubble, the Lakers won't face a single player that finished in the top 10 in player efficiency rating, a metric that measures for the most part how effective a player is on offense, the rest of the way.

Should they get past the Nuggets ⁠— and Nikola Jokic's 11th-ranked season PER ⁠— only Miami's Jimmy Butler has a PER that cracks the top 35 left in the East.

But not everyone's convinced it'll be smooth sailing for the Lakers.

Shannon Sharpe points to the unique circumstances of the NBA's bubble, such as the lack of a true home-court advantage, as an added hindrance to LeBron's mission:

Richard Jefferson also preached caution to those who were willing to anoint LeBron prematurely.

With just eight wins to go before LeBron can claim his fourth title, it's so close he can almost taste it.

The stars have seemed to align for him, but in the NBA, and especially this season, that can all change over night.


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