After the successful acquisition of All-Star center Anthony Davis last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers have successfully transformed themselves from one of the worst teams in the NBA to a legitimate title contender in the deep Western Conference. As of now, the Lakers continue to live up to expectations, sitting in the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference with a 41-12 record. However, despite their current standing, the team’s road to the 2020 Finals is still not expected to be easy, especially with the emergence of their Staples Center co-tenants, the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers may be four wins behind the Lakers, but they have defeated them in their two faceoffs in the 2019-20 season. In a recent interview with reporters in Chicago at McDonald’s Black and Positivity Golden “Beyond the Court” panel, former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson shared his assessment about the two mighty teams in Los Angeles. Like most people, the NBA legend is expecting both L.A. teams to meet each other in the Western Conference Finals before facing Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in this year’s championship series.
Though he’s a 100 percent supporter of the Purple and Gold, Johnson admitted that the Clippers have a better roster, bench-wise, and said that the Lakers need a legitimate “third scorer” behind LeBron James and Davis in order to have a strong chance of winning in a best-of-seven series.
“If you look at man-for-man, (the Clippers are) probably better than (the Lakers) in terms of the bench,” Johnson said, as quoted by Mark Medina of USA Today Sports. “But to Anthony Davis and LeBron James, to me they are going to be the key and they are going to have to dominate in that series. Then we’re going to need that third scorer.”
Both the Lakers and the Clippers boast a starting lineup featuring two All-Stars. While the Lakers have the duo of James and Davis, the Clippers have reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on their side. However, the difference in talent in their second unit is very noticeable and it’s clear that the Clippers have the advantage, especially knowing that they have the likes of Lou Williams, Landry Shamet, Montrezl Harrell, and Reggie Jackson coming off their bench.
Although they did not make a major move before the February 6 trade deadline like the Clippers did, the Lakers are still trying to find ways to improve their current roster. In a Twitter post, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the team is planning to sign Markieff Morris following his buyout with the Detroit Pistons. Aside from seeking upgrades on the buyout market, the Lakers are still hoping that Kyle Kuzma will finally live up to expectations as their “third superstar” when the real battle begins in the 2020 playoffs.