While the Western Conference is full of teams capable of making a run in the 2020 NBA playoffs, the belief among most is that the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will meet to decide who will make the NBA Finals.
The Lakers have a better record, but the Clippers have won both head-to-head meetings during the 2019-20 NBA season.
Both teams have their positives and negatives, but one advantage the Clippers seem to have over the Lakers is depth. Each team has an outstanding All-Star duo, but the Clippers supplement theirs with the likes of Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, and the recently acquired Marcus Morris. The Lakers role players such as Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, and Dwight Howard are certainly capable but have also been inconsistent.
Both teams will soon be gearing up for the stretch run of the season in hopes of making a long playoff run and a meeting seems almost inevitable. But if that time comes, NBA executives believe the Clippers hold the advantage as one told Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:
“There’s no way the Lakers beat the Clippers in a seven-game series,” an Eastern Conference executive said.
Aside from the team’s depth concerns, one general manager pointed to another problem as to why the Clippers should be favored in a series and it is their ability to defend a big wing like Kawhi Leonard:
“Kawhi is too strong for Danny Green. [Kyle] Kuzma can’t do anything against him. We’ve seen what he does to KCP,” the former general manager said. “LeBron is really the Lakers’ best option defensively. They’re going to have to sacrifice in a series and put LeBron on Kawhi.”
In the two meetings so far this season, Green has done an admirable job on Leonard, making things tough and forcing him into difficult shots that he has done a good job of challenging. This general manager is right, however, in that James is clearly the best option in defending him from a physicality standpoint.
With so much already on James’ plate, asking him to also defend Leonard may be too much but if a trip to the NBA Finals is on the line, it’s hard to imagine him turning away the challenge.
The buyout market is still an option for the Lakers if they want to potentially add another option.
Jeff Green and Evan Turner have been mentioned while Moe Harkless would be an ideal addition if he is bought out by the New York Knicks. But regardless of what happens, the anticipation for a Lakers-Clippers showdown is already building across the NBA world.