ESPN just released its post-free agency NBA Power Rankings, and while the Lakers' addition of Russell Westbrook leaves LA and Brooklyn as the only teams in the league with three bonafide superstars on their roster, the Lakers are one spot below the Milwaukee Bucks as ESPN labeled the purple and gold the third strongest team in the NBA. Jalen Rose and David Jacoby reacted to this development, and one of the hosts, particularly the former Indiana Pacer, did not seem surprised at all.
"The Bucks just won the NBA championship, and did you see what Giannis did in the finals, proving he can be a closer? Did you see Jrue Holiday with the crucial stops, locking people up?
Jalen Rose, ">Jalen & Jacoby
The Bucks are the defending NBA champions and will be back next year with virtually the same core, sans PJ Tucker. While that is a significant loss for the team, they still have their three main guys, and the chemistry of this team is only going to get better with continuity. Giannis and Middleton have been teammates for eight years, something that the Lakers and Nets cannot boast for their collection of stars. However, Jalen brings up another good point in favor of the Bucks that relates to injuries, which plagued the league last year.
"The Bucks play in the Eastern Conference, which means around fifty of their games are going to be against Eastern Conference teams. They're going to have a better regular season than the Los Angeles Lakers."
">Jalen Rose, ">Jalen & Jacoby
Now, this is where the argument gets interesting. The Bucks are the defending champions, partly because they were the team that was able to stay healthy throughout the postseason. Yes, they lost Donte DiVincenzo for the Playoffs, but apart from the one game Giannis missed with what looked like a serious knee injury, the Bucks were in full force in the postseason.
For the Lakers, not only are they in the Western Conference, but they are one of the oldest teams ever to be assembled. Of course, the talent is there, but their age and lack of continuity raise serious concerns about their ability to stay healthy and build championship-level chemistry in such a short amount of time.
“They're going to be resting a lot. You know that's why the Lakers got Russell Westbrook, so that LeBron James can lighten his load in the regular season”.
David Jacoby, ">Jalen & Jacoby
The Brooklyn Nets are the top-ranked team in ESPN's rankings which comes as no surprise, but even with the Lakers having the star power that they do, isn't it a little disrespectful for us to put a newly formed team ahead of the defending champions? We have seen a glimpse of what Brooklyn can do when healthy, but with the Lakers, can anybody confidently say that this will work out? Can we even put the Lakers ahead of the Phoenix Suns at this point?
The Phoenix Suns added vital role players in Javale McGee and Landry Shamet to a championship contender. While many will argue that injuries played a big hand in Phoenix's success last season, the Suns won with some of the most beautiful team basketball we have ever seen. Phoenix will also have the sour taste of a Finals loss in their mouths, and with the valuable experience they gained from last season's campaign, how can one convincingly say they should rank below the Lakers?
Basketball is a team sport, and therefore we should review teams as a unit versus just the rosters they have on paper. The Milwaukee Bucks have shown they can win an NBA championship, but the Lakers with Russell Westbrook haven't. The Lakers will not be judged on the power rankings by any means; they need to focus on staying healthy and winning that 18th championship for Los Angeles. If they can do that, they will be starting the 2022-2023 season as number one in these rankings, but it still won't matter.