Back in March, before the NBA went on hiatus, when ESPN polled its forecast panel for playoff picks and title favorites, only three teams were deemed worthy of winning the 2020 championship: the Clippers, the Lakers, and the Bucks.
Three months later, with an entirely new posteason set-up awaiting teams in Orlando, the same three teams are the only ones projected to win a title, but the odds have changed. The Clippers were the favorites of only 10.5% of voters in March but earned 23.5% of the votes this time around. They were tabbed to get to the Finals by 38.2% of voters, or 13 of the 34 analysts. The Lakers are currently betting favorites, despite Milwaukee topping 60.5% of ballots in March.
The Clippers have barely played any games since the last time this poll was conducted. Two routs against the Rockets and the Warriors and a loss to the Lakers separate these votes, but the pandemic changed everything.
A Clippers team that had difficulty staying healthy all season and played a handful of games with its complete roster has had months to rest and recuperate for the final postseason push. Furthermore, playing at a neutral site erases the homecourt advantage that the Lakers would have had in a theoretical Western Conference Finals. Before getting to that point, though, the Clippers might actually miss their home games more than the panel realizes; they had the best home record (25-7) in the Western Conference.
What do you think of ESPN’s prediction that the West will come down to the Battle for Los Angeles? Did they give the Lakers too much credit for beating the Clippers once? Are they underrating Milwaukee and the rest of the Eastern Conference? Let us know.
On to the links...
- A new report from ESPN reveals that team personnel will have to submit medical records to a panel of physicians before descending on Orlando. The panel can’t technically make any decisions about who is or is not allowed in the bubble, but the evaluation process will take place nonetheless.
- LeBron James is leading a group of athletes in a new nonprofit initiative called More Than A Vote to encourage black communities to vote and also expose the voter disenfranchisement they have been subjected to. Eric Bledsoe, Draymond Green, Trae Young, and Udonis Haslem are the active NBA players who will be taking part.
- Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report looks at some free agents who could be impactful for the NBA stretch run. The Clippers could clear a roster spot after Joakim Noah’s 10-day contract expires.
- Over at The Athletic, Ethan Strauss consulted with a sports-focused doctor on how the NBA can keep its bubble safe, and Jovan Buha lists five Clippers-specific storylines to keep an eye on.