Lakers get disrespected in latest ESPN win projections

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angles Lakers are expected to be an improved team and strong contenders for the NBA championship this season, but forecasts by ESPN have them as a .500 club that is a borderline playoff team.

The network’s prediction for the Lakers is 41.5 wins, eighth-best in the Western Conference, somewhat below what many might think. For example, in betting odds set by FanDuel Sportsbook, the Lakers’ over-under for wins is 47.5. FanDuel also gives them the fifth-highest odds to win the NBA title, behind only the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns in the West.

A .500 season may not matter in the big championship picture, based on what happened in the 2022-23 campaign. The Lakers did not reach .500 until late March last season and finished 43-39. They had to survive the play-in round, but then stormed through the playoffs all the way to the 2023 Western Conference Finals, where they were swept by the eventual NBA champion Nuggets.

The ESPN formula put forth by writer Kevin Pelton incorporates a component for health, luck and playing time, and that’s where the Lakers may fall short compared to other teams. Anthony Davis has played more than 56 regular season games just once in his four seasons in L.A., and there reportedly is a plan to load manage LeBron James more than he has been in the past. The absence of their two biggest stars for any length of time could reduce the wins total.

But after a very successful offseason, the Lakers would seem better equipped for success even without James, as they were for part of their late push to the postseason in the 2022-23 campaign.

Austin Reaves continues to impress after re-signing following a breakout season, and they also were able to retain D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura while adding Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince, Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood.

It is a deep and talented roster that should be one of the best in the Western Conference, if not all of the NBA. The Lakers surely must be optimistic that they will not be struggling to make the playoffs again this spring.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.