Lakers’ dream seeding scenario, matchup for 2023 NBA Playoffs

Instead of season-ending surgery, LeBron James traveled far and wide for a third opinion on his foot injury and dedicated three sessions per day to returning to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup.

According to LeBron, his ramped up ramp-up was motivated by the Lakers’ realistic chance at grabbing the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

“To hell with the play-in,” LeBron said after his surprising return on Sunday. “We actually can be a top-6 seed. That definitely changed my mindset on me coming back and trying to be a part of this. So, well, I don’t really want to say ‘changed my mindset’. It just enhanced what I was trying to do as far as my workouts, as far as my treatment and everything.”

In the first practice after the All-Star break, Darvin Ham said his goal was to earn the No. 6 seed. The Lakers are 10-6 since the hiatus, despite not having LeBron or D’Angelo Russell for the majority of those games. As of this post, they sit 37-38 — 1.5 games behind the No. 6 seed and 2.5 games out of No. 4.

Ahead of the Lakers’ five-game road trip — which begins on Wednesday with a rematch against Patrick Beverley and the Chicago Bulls — let’s glimpse forward and speculate on what the ideal final standings would look like from a Lakers perspective.


If the Lakers end up in the Play-In, they’d probably like to face the New Orleans Pelicans, among the realistic possible opponents (the Dallas Mavericks are a mess, but the Lakers want no part of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in a winner-take-all game).

Los Angeles is 3-1 against New Orleans, who will likely be without Zion Williamson.

Anthony Davis gets extra-jazzed against his former employer. He’s scored 26 more points against the Pelicans than any other team this season. Across four meetings, he’s averaged 29.3 points and 14.3 rebounds. In their two most recent games — post-deadline and sans Zion — the Lakers smoothly handled the Pels by 18 and 15.

Regardless of the venue, the Lakers should take care of business vs. NOLA. Ideally, they’d do it as the No. 7 seed, so they can host the game then immediately advance into the 16-team bracket.

First Round

Whether the Lakers qualify for the first round outright or get the No. 7 seed via Play-In, the Sacramento Kings would represent the most favorable matchup.

Granted, the Kings took the season series from the Lakers 3-1. Sacramento fields two All-NBA candidates in Domantas Sabonis and De’Aron Fox (the NBA’s best clutch player in 2022-23). The Kings boast the top-rated offense, an electric home-court vibe, and a playoff-tested head coach.

The Lakers won’t care. LeBron missed the first head-to-head matchup and AD missed the other three. Plus, Sacramento is a novice group. Playoff basketball usually comes down to halfcourt defense and experience; the Kings lack both. Mike Brown’s team ranks 25th in Defensive Rating. Only Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter, and Matthew Dellavedova have meaningful playoff exposure.

“The reason that Darvin Ham is talking about sixth is that they’re targeting the Sacramento Kings,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst posited in February. “The Sacramento Kings are in third. I think they’re very likely to finish third. That’s the team that they want in the first round, an inexperienced team. That’s their dream scenario.”

The Lakers, with a healthy LeBron and DLo, would relish the opportunity to “upset” a young Sac squad (the Lakers would be the betting favorite in this series). Considering how the Lakers season began — a Nov. 15 loss to the Kings dropped them to 2-10 — they’ll simply be happy to advance. Then they can turn their attention to the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, or whomever else.

The post Lakers’ dream seeding scenario, matchup for 2023 NBA Playoffs appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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