I’m going with yes. Anybody who was in the bubble with me can tell you my predictions are spotty at best. And this is a tricky exercise because we don’t really know what rosters will look like. So why pick the Lakers? For me it just comes down to this: If you assume Anthony Davis will re-sign (and I do assume that) then the Lakers will bring back the strength of their team: Davis and LeBron James. The rest of the roster should improve. I think the Lakers will find a better piece or two to fit around James and Davis, LeBron will drop off slightly—but only slightly—and the Lakers will be the best team in the league again.
Yes. Anthony Davis will return. LeBron James, who will be 36 and in his 18th season in the league, will develop some new superpower to add to his game, further aging it like a fine wine. Their friendship will grow from a Step Brothers bond to an I Love You, Man connection. Who can get in their way? The Clippers? Ha. The Bucks? Overrated. Their biggest concern might be the Warriors, who will return a healthy and extremely well-rested Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. But the Lakers have survived the ultimate adversity together. They were together in a bubble for more than 100 days and left liking each other. It's hard to imagine that anything will get in their way.
Before this year, it had been since 2011 since at least one of the NBA Finals’ participants hadn’t competed for a title in the year prior. And while the Lakers don’t seem to have the same aura of invincibility that the Steph Curry–Kevin Durant Warriors or early-2010s Heat teams had, the Big 2 of LeBron James and Anthony Davis obviously puts L.A. back in contention and makes them worthy choices to repeat (or at least get back to the Finals).
Across various sportsbooks, the Lakers opened as the odds-on favorites to win next year’s title, though three of the top four favorites (the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors) are in the Western Conference. Throw in improving franchises like the Nuggets and Mavericks and star-driven teams like the Rockets, and the West will again be loaded next year. Still, if you’re picking one Western Conference team to reach the Finals, it’s hard to argue against the Lakers. They’ll have to retool some of their roster, as a number of role players have player options or are unrestricted free agents, but like any title team, they’ll also continue to attract veteran talent. From the East, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Miami, Philly and Boston will also all enter next season with title aspirations. And it wouldn’t be shocking to see a Brooklyn Big 2 or improved Bucks team, in particular, take home the crown. For that reason, give me the field over the Lakers for 2020–21.
If you’re asking me to pick the Lakers vs. the field, it’s an easy choice. The 2021 Lakers won't exactly be the 2017 Warriors. But it’s hard to pick any single team over the Lakers at the moment. LeBron James and Anthony Davis remain the league’s best duo, and as we’ve seen time and again, James can mine the best out of any supporting cast.
The collection of title contenders entering 2020–21 is as deep as any time in recent memory. The Nets and Warriors will join last year’s extensive pack of possible champions, and there are at least seven Western Conference teams with a plausible path to the Finals. Are any of them truly better than the Lakers? Not without a major acquisition. I'll take the Lakers to repeat in 2021 as LeBron furthers his case as the greatest player in league history.
The Lakers did not have to face the top seeds in either conference to win this year's title, but the 2021 season should make make things more entertaining. The competition will be back to full strength next season. The Clippers will be in their second season with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and the Nuggets can continue to contend. Meanwhile, the East will see the debut of the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving partnership in Brooklyn.
If LeBron James and Anthony Davis can continue their partnership and stay healthy throughout the season, their already-established connection can play as an advantage to repeat and emerge with the title.
Will is a strong word. It's hard to proclaim definitively that the Lakers will repeat in 2021 as things will change between now and then. The Warriors are set to be healthy and reloaded, the Nets present a new threat that could possibly emerge from the East and it remains to be seen what the existing contenders do to get better. With all that said, the Lakers should enter next season as the favorites for the two reasons they won this year, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and because they likely can improve the roster as well. When LeBron went to L.A., I think we all sort of thought if he could just get one that would be the peak reached, but his title window has been extended and the James reign over the NBA continues.