Lakers’ NBA Championship odds continue to improve after 2nd massive win
The Los Angeles Lakers have only played three games this season, but bookmakers have already seen enough to side heavily with the defending champs. L.A.’s odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship have improved from +275 on Dec. 22 to +230 on Dec 28.
NBA Championship 2020/2021
Mon, August 30 2021, 11:57 PM
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
That movement is a reaction to the Lakers’ dominant outings against the Dallas Mavericks, whom they crushed by 23 points on Christmas Day, and the Timberwolves, whom they steamrolled by 36 points on Dec. 27.
L.A. looked especially sharp against Minnesota, as the Lakers scored 40 points in the opening quarter and held the Timberwolves to 17% shooting from beyond the arc. It helped that Karl-Anthony Towns was unavailable, but not even KAT could have slowed down L.A. on a night when six players scored in double figures.
Here are three reasons why you should bank on L.A.
1. LeBron has yet to break a sweat
One of the biggest concerns entering the 2020-21 season was the physical health and readiness of LeBron James. The 16-time All-Star logged heavy minutes in the NBA bubble, and would be pressed into duty less than 75 days after powering the Lakers to their 17th title. Would King James, at age 35, finally begin to show his age?
So far, the answer has been a resounding no. James is averaging 20.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.7 assists and, most importantly, is averaging fewer than 30 minutes per game for the first time in his 18-year career. His playing time will almost certainly increase as the season rolls on, but for now the Lakers have the luxury of being able to ease their future Hall of Famer back into duty without sacrificing wins.
2. Reinforcements have arrived
One of the key reasons James has been able to watch from the sidelines has been the arrival of Dennis Schroder, whom the Lakers acquired in November. The fleet-footed point guard is averaging 14.3 points and 6.0 assists per game and has been able to relieve James of his ball-handling duties.
Make no mistake about it, James will still be L.A.’s primary playmaker when it matters most, but Schroder’s presence allows him to take possessions off without worrying about the offense falling apart. That’s a nice change of pace after a year in which the Lakers struggled to create open shots whenever James took a breather.
L.A. has also gotten a big boost from former Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, who is chipping in 17.0 points and 6.0 boards per game off the bench. The hyper athletic forward gives the Lakers a high-octane physical presence who can dominate second units and pairs well with Anthony Davis in L.A.'s devastating crunch time lineups.
3. Horton-Tucker is ready for a bigger role
The Lakers knew they had something special when they snagged Talen Horton-Tucker in a draft night trade with the Orlando Magic in June, 2019. However, it wasn’t until the preseason that the rest of the league also saw just how spectacular the Iowa State product is, when he averaged 23.3 points per game on 53% shooting from the field and 45.5% from the three-point line.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel is in no rush to throw Horton-Tucker into the fire just yet, but he looked solid against the Timberwolves on Sunday night, scoring 12 points in 20 minutes and chipping in three assists and a pair of steals. His ability to score and guard multiple positions gives the Lakers another dangerous weapon to bring off their dramatically improved bench.