Former NBA Star Makes Controversial Lakers vs. Nuggets Prediction

The Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers have an exciting series coming up
Mar 2, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over Los
Mar 2, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over Los / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes will be on the superstar battle between LeBron James and Nikola Jokic in this upcoming series between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers, but the supporting casts on both sides will be equally as important to determining the outcome of this series. For former Memphis Grizzlies guard Gilbert Arenas, he sees D'Angelo Russell being the key.

"If [D'Angelo Russell] plays the way he's been playing this season, we're winning the series," Arenas said. "We lost by one, two, three points last year with [Russell] averaging three points per game. So if [Russell] is averaging the 15-20 he's been averaging, it's a while different series... He had to get benched last year."

For accuracy, Russell averaged 6.3 PPG in last year's Western Conference Finals matchup with the Lakers, shooting just 32.3% from the field. While it's hard to say that better play from Russell is the difference between the Lakers getting swept and winning that series, which is what Arenas seems to be suggesting, an improved version of Russell is something the Lakers will need in this rematch.

The Nuggets are not overlooking the Lakers despite last year's sweep, with Nikola Jokic and his teammates regularly downplaying last year's series as it pertains to this year's rematch. Denver understands that they will need to play well in order to take down the Lakers again, as not only are the Lakers talented, but they are highly motivated.

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Farbod Esnaashari

FARBOD ESNAASHARI

12-year NBA veteran that's covered the league on Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Bleacher Report, and ESPN