Restart rankings: 1
Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 49-14 Pace: 101.1 (12) OffRtg: 112.6 (4) DefRtg: 105.5 (3) NetRtg: +7.1 (2)
Our last real memory of the Lakers is them beating the Bucks and Clippers in one weekend, holding two top-six offenses to just 96.3 points per 100 possessions, with LeBron James seeing the bulk of the matchup time against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard. (They did lose to the Nets that Tuesday). But, though that was two of the last three games they've played, it was also three months ago. And we're still at least seven and a half weeks from the next game that means anything.
We can be confident that James will be both ready for and serious aboutthe resumption of the season. If the Lakers can get back to defending like they did over those last few weeks - they saw the league's biggest drop in points allowed per 100 possessions from before the All-Star break (106.3, fifth) to after it (101.6, second) - they have a good shot at winning title No. 17.
Given how lethal the Lakers are in transition and how much they depend on a scrambled defense -- 28.5% of their points, the league's highest rate, have come via fast-break points or second-chance points -- you can't put enough emphasis on their own defense. They've been better defensively with Davis at center (101.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) than they've been with him at the four (106.4), though those Davis-at-center minutes are more likely to have come against opposing reserves and it remains to be seen how much we see of him playing center in the postseason.