There still more than a half of regular season left to play, but the league leaders are already moving to their positions in the standings. Ahead of Thursday’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets, sports analyst Stephen A. Smith gave his prediction on which two teams will meet in the NBA Finals.
Smith was confident that it will be the Lakers and the Nets provided that the players on both teams are healthy. There will be no Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis in today’s game, but they will be needed for their teams to reach the ultimate stage of the season.
For the Lakers, the key is LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Smith says. The combination of these two superstars is enough to overcome the rest of the Western Conference teams, according to him.
“Yes, I do,” Smith responded on First Take to a question if he thought Los Angeles and Brooklyn are a lock to meet in the Finals. “If Anthony Davis were 100%, I think the Los Angeles Lakers are going to the Finals. If the Brooklyn Net are 100%, there’s nobody in the East that’s beating them. I’ve stated it from day one and I maintain that position that the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers will meet for the NBA championship come July.
“My attitude is very very simple. I think that when you look at AD and you look at LeBron James, as great as the Utah Jazz are looking right now, as much of a threat as the Denver Nuggets could end up being, Portland could end up being, etc., I think LeBron and his brilliance combined with the greatness of Anthony Davis and the way Frank Vogel and his staff have those guys playing defense, they get themselves ready for playoff competitions. It’s all about matchups. Nobody is better at exploiting matchups than LeBron James. All right, so that’s what I think about the Lakers plain and simple.
When it comes to the Nets, Smith views them as the best team in the Eastern Conference, despite playing ‘awful’ defense. According to him, Brooklyn is a case where great offense makes up for defense. He also proceeded with explaining why other teams in the East are not as good.
“When I think about the Brooklyn Nets, I think that Kyrie, James Harden, and Kevin Durant are just lethal. They are absolutely sensational offensively,” Smith said. “I think in this particular case a great offense makes for a better defense. I don’t think they’re going to be an elite defense by any stretch of the imagination. Max [Kellerman] has highlighted how awful they have been. Nevertheless, we found ourselves looking at them and we said ‘You know what, they’re getting a little better defensively particularly at key moments in fourth quarters I’ve seen them do it.
“And then you at how lethal they can be offensively. Not just from the perimeter, not just scoring overall, but what they do from the free-throw line. They don’t miss free-throws. I think that’s pivotal. I think when you look at the Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons as great as he is he doesn’t even attempt perimeter shots. I don’t think that you beat them without him doing that even though they have Seth Curry and Tobias Harris. I look at Boston, I question their depth. and I don’t know what’s going on with Kemba Walker. I look at Miami, they are sliding fast, they are not what they used to be. The Milwaukee Bucks, they’ve been struggling. If Giannis can’t make perimeter shots as I’ve seen on many occasions, you don’t have a prayer in hell against the Brooklyn Nets and specifically Kevin Durant.”