NBA legend and basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal says the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t concerned with where they are seeded right now. According to Shaq, he heard from a source within the Lakers that the team would rather play the Phoenix Suns in round one as opposed to the Golden State Warriors.
“I’ve heard from a powerful source inside the [Lakers] organization … they’re right where they want to be. They’d rather play Phoenix in the first round than Golden State”
"I've heard from a powerful source inside the [Lakers] organization…they're right where they want to be. They'd rather play Phoenix in the first round than Golden State"
— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 🗣️ (@_Talkin_NBA) February 9, 2022
With a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis the Lakers can be confident that they can play with any team in the league. The problem is you can’t guarantee health, and Davis hasn’t been playing at an All-NBA level consistently.
We won’t come at a Hall of Famer like Shaq if he said he has sources within the organization he used to play for, but we wouldn’t put it past him if he was trying to light a fire under the Lakers.
The Lakers shouldn’t be concerned with seeding and avoiding teams in a potential playoff matchup. They need to make the playoffs first.
According to the analytics website FiveThirtyEight, the Lakers are predicted to finish with a 38-44 and only have a 34 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers (53 percent) and Minnesota Timberwolves (90 percent) are predicted to finish with better records and have much higher odds at playoff berths.
Let’s say the Lakers turn it on post All-Star break and rip off 11 straight or 13 of 15. Not likely, but we’ll go with it. They’re still likely to have the same problems they’ve had all year.
The Lakers are 22nd in aNET rating, 24th in aORTG, and 17th in aDRTG. Not a recipe for success winning best-of-seven series against the best teams in the league.
The Phoenix Suns are second in aNET rating, 3rd in a ORTG, and fourth in aDRTG. The Warriors are first, 11th, and first respectively. The Lakers in their current state don’t want to face either of these teams in a playoff series.
It’s possible the Lakers are feeling frisky and have convinced themselves that since they were up 2-1 on the Suns in last season’s playoffs before injuries took their toll things would be different this time around.
The Lakers rely heavily on elite play from three players over the age of 33 and a fourth that has missed parts of the last four seasons with injuries. The biggest predictor of future injury is previous injury. Starting at age 31, injury rates increase.
LeBron and Davis would have to be the best players in a potential series four times out of seven. Is that possible? Sure. Is it likely? No.
Yes, Chris Paul is key to the Suns attack and he is 36 years old. But the rest of the Suns’ most important players DeAndre Ayton, Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges are 23, 25 and 25 respectively. They’re younger, healthier and hungrier.
The Suns advanced to the Finals last year and had a 2-0 lead on the Milwaukee Bucks before losing four straight. They’ve approached this season like they want to get the bad taste of losing the Finals out of their collective mouths.
It’s unlikely they would let a sub-.500 team like the Lakers stop them from getting back to the big stage.
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