Clippers and Suns leapfrog Lakers in NBA Pacific Division odds
The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are riddled with injuries. Even though they are only four and a half games behind the Phoenix Suns, they are now longshots to finish on top of the Pacific Division.
The Suns have shocked the NBA with their consistency, and the Los Angeles Clippers continue to add new pieces to an already enviable core. Join us as we examine the closest divisional race in the league and predict who will come out on top.
Pacific Division Winner 2020/2021
Sun, May 16 2021, 6:00 PM
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors
Lakers have been hard hit by injury bug
Anthony Davis has now missed seven weeks of action with his calf injury. The original timeline had AD set to return soon. However, on Sunday, head coach Frank Vogel said Davis "is still a ways away." Fellow All-Star LeBron James received a 4-to-6-week timeline for his high ankle sprain suffered on March 20, but Vogel added on Sunday, "LeBron’s still out indefinitely."
Now new acquisition Andre Drummond is day-to-day with a toe injury, and Wesley Matthews is also day-to-day with a neck injury. These injuries are not major concerns for Lakers fans and NBA Championship future bettors, but it is devastating to their Pacific Division championship hopes.
The Lakers are only four and a half games back with 22 left to play. However, without these major pieces it will be extremely difficult to make up ground.
L.A.'s "other" team looks fierce
The Los Angeles Clippers have been little brother long enough. Even when the Lakers were down, the Clippers could never get over that hump, as they have only won the division twice in the past 42 years.
However, this year may be a little different. They have a true champion in Kawhi Leonard running the helm with many more supporting pieces than he had last year. Paul George is still there, but they also added solid veterans with playoff experience. Rajon Rondo just won a title last season running point for the Lakers, and now hopes to do the same for L.A.'s "other" team.
The Clippers also added Nicolas Batum and DeMarcus Cousins, and Serge Ibaka, Patrick Beverley, and Marcus Morris Sr. will also play key roles. The Clips may be in second place in the standings behind the Suns, but they are -125 favorites to win the division.
The Suns aren't setting just yet
The Suns still lead the division, but are currently the second choice to win it. The biggest reason for this would be expectation bias. No one expected the Suns to be able to compete for this division title, even after going undefeated in the bubble last year.
However, the Suns are a red-hot 27-6 since Jan. 28. The addition of Chris Paul and the rising talent of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton have Phoenix looking like a true contender.
"I just expect it." Chris Paul— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) April 1, 2021
Devin Booker goes for season-high 45 in #Suns win over Chicago.
"Just making shots, honestly."
After watching this, go through my Twitter timeline to see Bulls rookie Patrick Williams talk about guarding the #NBAAllStar guard. pic.twitter.com/wEOJnRjBwQ
The Clippers are favorites for a reason
Ultimately, the biggest issue for the Suns will be their depth. They will need to rely on unproven role players to make key plays down the stretch of the season. They also have a nightmare road trip in late April to face the Bucks, 76ers, Celtics, Nets, and Knicks in consecutive games before coming home to meet the Clippers and Jazz.
That brutal seven-game stretch could ultimately be the nail in the coffin for their division hopes. The Clippers' depth and veteran leadership will come out on top. Jump on their odds now, while you still can.