LakeShow Returns to Play: A Preview of the Lakers Tough 8 Game Schedule in Orlando

The strangest of NBA seasons now has its blueprint to completion. For the Lakers, it starts on July 30 against the Clippers and doesn’t get much easier. Seven of the eight regular season games in the NBA restart have the Lakers matching up against teams that are top 6 seeds. The lone weak opponent is the Sacramento Kings who are the 11th seed.

In the grand scheme of things, the tough schedule means very little. The Lakers have cemented their playoff spot long before Covid-19 made its way to the US. And seeding is a mute point since there is no home court advantage. Even if you are worried about seeding because you want to face lesser teams come playoff time, the Lakers have a 5.5 game lead over the Clippers. Losing that lead in 8 games is almost impossible.

Despite having little to no downside, the tough schedule could have a huge upside.

Upside to Playing a Tough Schedule

The Lakers gain nothing by running up wins over lesser squads. It’s far more beneficial to get a look at teams they might actually see in the playoffs.

Just take a look at some potential playoff matchups. The Lakers will get a look at the Rockets, Clippers, Jazz, Thunder and Nuggets in the 8 game restart. All of which are potential teams the Lakers could run into in the playoffs.

Take a look at the Rockets. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are a duo unlike any other in the league. Getting a close up look at their offense just a week two before a potential playoff matchup could be huge.

What about the Utah Jazz. They will be without sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic for the playoffs, So getting a look at them without a focal offensive threat is beneficial.

The Lakers get the best of all possible worlds here. They’re able to play hard, probe and press a potential playoff opponent if they want, or they can lay back. Play everyone or play nobody, because winning and losing doesn’t matter.

Seeding Means Very Little

The main focal point of the Lakers during the 8 game restart is oddly enough not about their own games. It will be about who they will play in Round 1. The Memphis Grizzlies are the current 8th seed and most likely opponent. But teams like the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland TrailBlazers and Sacramento Kings are all possibilities.

All of those potential matchups would make for entertaining round 1 series. But none of those teams are true threats to upset the Lakers. But the seeding of 2-7 will be something to keep an eye on. The Lakers will play the winner of the 4 vs. 5 seed matchup. And the possible matchups for that alone are hectic.

Currently, three teams (Utah, Oklahoma City, Houston) are within 1.5 games of third-seeded Denver. Seventh-place Dallas is only 1.5 games behind No. 6 Houston and No. 5 OKC and only 2.5 games behind No. 4 Utah. The conference could get flipped on its head in this restart, creating real matchup problems for the Lakers in round 2 and 3.

While we have no clue how the hiatus impacted teams and players, on paper, the No. 2 Clippers and No. 3 Nuggets still feel like the toughest challenges. So keeping the status quo would be beneficial because the Lakers would then only have to beat one of those teams en route to the NBA Finals.

However “on paper” likely means nothing now. What seems like a favorable draw now might turn out to be the worst case scenario. We have no clue how teams will react to the conditions.

Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith

Avery Bradley has opted out of the restart because the health of his son trumps everything. So this means Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, who have yet to play a minute for the Los Angeles Lakers, could become important role players throughout the restart and playoffs.

The chance of both players finding significant time is unlikely. But in the scenario that both are needed, they need to be ready. Expect the Lakers to use the 8 games to get both of the players up to speed with the system, and into game shape. Waiters hasn’t played much in the past few seasons due to injuries. Smith hasn’t played all season, hence the reason he was picked up off the couch.

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