Let’s get you caught up on the latest buzz from around the NBA:
Lakers Gaining Momentum
Los Angeles is one win away from reaching the Western Conference Finals for the second time during LeBron James‘ tenure. Both James and Anthony Davis are probable for Game 5 and the former MVP isn’t worried about being ready to close out the series.
“I think we’ll be ready. One thing about when you play Golden State, you don’t have an opportunity to relax. You just don’t,” James said (via Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times). “So I’m not worried about us going in there comfortable. You just can’t do it versus Golden State. It’s not possible.”
While there were many forecasts that went astray in my annual 48 Bold Predictions piece heading into the season, having the Lakers making a mid-season trade that vaulted them to the WCFs, is one that may hit. I had L.A. trading for Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson in a Russell Westbrook deal rather than the one they made, though their 3-way deal that brought in D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt gave them the depth boost that the team’s core needed.
Still, I’m bearish on the Lakers’ title chances. Reaching the Western Conference Finals is only the halfway point in the journey to winning a title and trusting this team to stay healthy for another month is a gamble I wouldn’t make. Closing out Game 5 and getting some additional rest ahead of the matchup against the Nuggets/Suns will go a long way toward Los Angeles’ chances though.
This is the first time all season that the Lakers have been favored to win the West 😳 pic.twitter.com/AzkBckd2xF
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 9, 2023
Cavs Trade Rumors
The Cavaliers reached the postseason this spring for the first time since LeBron James left the second time, though Koby Altman & Co. are not going to rest on that success.
The team is prioritizing finding a wing with range as it looks for upgrades. Isaac Okoro is among the players that the Cavs are willing to part with as they look for upgrades, according to former FortyEightMinutes’ scribe Sam Amico.
Okoro’s development is an interesting subplot as Cleveland optimizes its roster. On one hand, the third-year wing has improved his three-point every season since being drafted with the No. 5 overall pick. On the other hand, he’s clearly not quite ready for a significant role on a true-contending team.
2020 NBA Re-Draft
1) Anthony Edwards (1)
2) Tyrese Halburton (12)
3) Desmond Bane (30)
4) LaMelo Ball (3)
5) Tyrese Maxey (20)
6) Onyeka Okongwu (6)
7) Devin Vassell (11)
8) Patrick Williams (4)
9) Immanuel Quickley (25)
10) Kenyon Martin Jr. (52) pic.twitter.com/aHanx5Pjxm
— Chris W. Crouse (@ChrisWCrouse) May 10, 2023
If we were re-drafting the 2020 draft, I’m not sure Okoro would be in the top-10 pick. He’d certainly go in the first round, though there are reasons to worry about him ever living up to the top-5 draft billing.
If the Cavs are dangling him in trade talks, surely teams will be interested. However, the Auburn product is eligible for a rookie-scale extension this summer and as was the case with Collin Sexton, Okoro’s projected next deal will play a role in what a team is willing to surrender to bring on the 22-year-old.
Ricky Rubio and Cedi Osman are other names that are rumored to be available in Cleveland. Yet, Okoro likely remains the key that’ll unlock a more significant on the wing if Cleveland goes that route.
Two Sentences On Sixers-Celtics
Coaching experience matters in the playoffs.
Doc Rivers has the edge over Joe Mazzulla, as I mentioned on a recent episode of Outkick’s Hot Mic.
#LIVE from @6thandp in #Nashville. #Thursday edition of OutKick Hot Mic w/ @HuttonOutkick & @TheChadWithrow
– #OutKick SR #SEC Reporter @TreyWallace_
– NBA/Business Analyst @ChrisWCrouse
– NBA Playoff Storylines https://t.co/ZqVRdv16bY
— OutKick (@Outkick) April 20, 2023
Bonus sentence: The Sixers are real contenders to win the NBA Finals.
Hawks Draft Notes
Atlanta has brought in 12 prospects so far in the pre-draft process, including UCLA’s Tyger Campbell. Campbell was one of the 45 prospects invited to this year’s G League Elite Camp, which takes place later this month in Chicago.
The Hawks own the No. 15 overall pick, though many of the players they’ve worked out so far are not expected to go in that range. The team also holds the No. 46 overall pick.