Oct 22, 2019

Los Angeles is now the center of the NBA universe

Kendall Baker, author of Sports

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It's been eight years since a team other than the Warriors or Spurs won the Western Conference. That's bound to change this season — and two of the teams that will be battling for supremacy play in the same city.

The big picture: While title contenders are only just now returning to Los Angeles, it's been the center of the NBA universe for a while now.

  • Players spend the offseason there, most free agent meetings happen there and the number of L.A.-based NBA reporters has exploded.
  • "Everything's going to run through the city this year. As a national writer, how can you not have a footprint on it?" said Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, who lives in Oakland but estimates he now spends 70% of his time in L.A.

The Lakers: It's LeBron James, Anthony Davis and … an assortment of role players (unless Kyle Kuzma makes a leap).

  • Yes, it's true, the Lakers lack depth. But the James-Davis partnership is as lethal as it gets, and they're virtually unguardable in the pick-and-roll — especially if guys like Danny Green are hitting corner threes with consistency.

The Clippers: While the Lakers were forced to blow up their roster to acquire Davis, the Clippers were able to acquire Kawhi Leonard and Paul George while keeping much of their roster intact.

  • As a result, L.A.'s "second team" is the NBA's best, at least on paper. They're talented, deep and could be downright scary defensively.
  • Plus, they're working on that whole "second team" thing, too — going after an untapped following of "grinders, outsiders, artists and counter-culture types who might be put off by the Lakers' preening Hollywood image."

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