Lakers favored to repeat as LeBron James says, ‘We absolutely can’

LeBron James ran the numbers in his head and came up with the “simple” answer: The Los Angeles Lakers can repeat as NBA champions.

James enters Lakers training camp surrounded by what he labeled “younger” teammates in a compacted offseason with a to-do list that still includes re-signing free agent All-Star Anthony Davis.

That has not deterred sportsbooks, who have overwhelming installed the Lakers as heavy favorites to win the 2021 NBA title.

That includes BetMGM, where the Lakers are being offered at +250 to repeat as champions. The next closest team is the Brooklyn Nets at +550.

The Lakers are being offered at +115 by BetMGM to win the Western Conference, well ahead of the city-rival Clippers at +375 and the Denver Nuggets at +1000.

Does LeBron James have enough left in the tank?

James, whose 36th birthday is Dec. 30, enters his third season in L.A. and 18th overall looking to defend the NBA title and remain healthy. He played a career-low 34.6 minutes per game last season in 67 regular-season games. But James also played 21 playoff games (averaging 36.3 minutes) in the NBA bubble in Orlando and the NBA Finals ended just six weeks ago.

LeBron James, Jared Dudley
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Those figures are the context serving as the backdrop to the question James was asked Tuesday: Can the Lakers repeat?

“We can. I mean, it’s that simple,” James said Tuesday on the podcast “Road Trippin’,” hosted by Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye and Allie Clifton. “We absolutely can. … First of all, it all starts with health. You have to have some luck. You have to have health. If we can stay healthy.”

James said “don’t worry about me in the preseason” and pointed to his age as the reason he is unlikely to be on the floor for the Lakers’ four-game preseason schedule.

LeBron: Lakers ‘did get younger’ with moves

It will make for an interesting early chemistry experiment for head coach Frank Vogel, but James believes the pieces in place on the current roster are superior to the 2020 championship team. Key acquisitions include point guard Dennis Schroder, sixth man and power forward Montrezl Harrell and former Raptors and Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.

“We did get younger,” said James. “We have a 27-year-old point guard (Schroder). We got the 27-year-old Sixth Man of the Year award (winner) in Trezz. We got younger. We got Marc, who is a Defensive Player of the Year and his IQ, not only playing against him in the NBA, but also playing against him versus Spain with the national team.”

Davis opted out of his contract and is widely expected to rejoin the Lakers, who met with him Tuesday night, per reports.

James hinted at skepticism over the NBA plan to start the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22 and said money is “the biggest reason” players are being asked to return after an abbreviated offseason. Already, the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards are delayed in reporting to training camp by positive COVID-19 tests.

LeBron James
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

“I’m very intrigued on seeing what the protocols are going to be,” James said. “There’s been discussions, there’s been talks. They wanted to make sure that we can get the season going. Obviously for a lot of different reasons.”

On Wednesday, James’ agent told reporters that the four-time MVP had signed a two-year, $85 million maximum contract extension to remain with the Lakers through the 2022-23 season.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)