NBA Play-offs: Can LeBron James bring title back to the Lakers?
This is it. The NBA season gets serious as the play-in tournament makes way for the play-offs and silverware is handed out.
The Disneyworld bubble in Florida has seen some characters come to the fore, see Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns go 8-0 but still fall short of qualification.
You then have Damian Lillard. It’s all been about ‘Dame Time’ as the Portland Trail Blazers star took charge and claimed the unofficial ‘bubble MVP’.
But it’s more make or break than Mickey Mouse now as we begin the play-offs where your MVP candidates usually take over.
LeBron James is LA Lakers
One of those players is LeBron James. After missing out on the play-offs last campaign they’re now 11/4 second favourites for the chip.
Having already secured top spot in the West, Lakers were coasting during the play-in tournament and ended with a 3-5 losing record.
But their focus was on the play-offs as load management was vital for both James and team-mate Anthony Davis.
After drawing the Trail Blazers in the first round, it’ll be dubbed as Lakers v Lillard. But despite Davis and Kyle Kuzma’s marked improvement it’s James who could do the most damage.
The three-time NBA champion was brought in to take Lakers back to the summit, it’ll be unexpected if they don’t make the Conference final – where cross-city rivals LA Clippers will surely await.
But will Avery Bradley’s decision to opt-out of the bubble and injury to Rajon Rondo be their undoing? LeBron it’s over to you.
Bucks, Clippers and other NBA title contenders
Our traders have Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks as the 5/2 favourites for the chip. It’s no surprise given they were the best team in the regular season.
Their form suggests they should be making the NBA finals, but it may all depend if Antetokounmpo can keep his head in the clutch moments going forward. Bucks’ main man has just returned from a one-game suspension for head-butting Washington Wizards’ Mo Wagner.
If anyone is going to stop Lakers in the West it’s their nearest neighbours, the Clippers. Doc Rivers brought in both last year’s Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Oklahoma’s Paul George to do just that.
They’re 14/5 third favourites to go all the way. Dallas Mavericks are first up, and it won’t be easy with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis plotting their downfall.
The fourth contenders are the 9/1 defending champs, Toronto Raptors. Having lost Leonard in the close season they’ve levelled up defensively – leading all teams with an efficiency of 101.8, while they lead in turnovers during the bubble at 18.7 per game.
Toronto should dispatch first round opponents Brooklyn Nets quickly, giving them precious time to plan their next move.
But who do you reckon will take the chip? Take our poll and have your say on Twitter @Ladbrokes
2019/20 NBA Outright odds
Milwaukee Bucks – 5/2
LA Lakers – 11/4
LA Clippers – 14/5
Toronto Raptors – 9/1
Houston Rockets – 12/1
Boston Celtics – 14/1
Denver Nuggets – 20/1
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.