Into the Bears’ Den: Our ‘Hot Take’ NBA and Grizzlies predictions

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Parker Fleming (@PAKA_FLOCKA)

The Lakers are more of a playoff team than the Timberwolves

NBA internet is probably having a panic attack while reading this, because I put down its golden team. However, hear me out, it’s not that crazy to believe that the Los Angeles Lakers can snag an 8-seed.

Yes, the past few years, they have been a punchline. Their young talent makes them intriguing for years to come, but their veteran talent is leaps and bounds better than Minnesota’s vets.

In their starting five, they have Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, two guys who are playoff-tested. Deng had a superb playoff outing last season (13.3 points on 42.1 percent shooting from 3). Timofey Mozgov was, at one point, a key cog to Cleveland’s Finals run two years ago, before he fell victim to injury and the Warriors’ “Death Lineup.” He can patch the Lakers’ interior defensive deficiencies.

Add those two guys with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, and you have a solid starting five. Russell has shown out so far in the preseason. Granted, it’s preseason, but he’s showing that it’s his time after a horrid rookie season. Jordan Clarkson is one of the most underrated players in the league with his combo guard scoring abilities. Julius Randle was a double-double machine, even during his rookie season.

Off the bench, they have Lou Williams, Larry Nance, Jose Calderon and (at the moment) Brandon Ingram. Williams’ scoring ability is still a commodity for any team’s second unit. Larry Nance has the defensive versatility to become one of coach Luke Walton’s favorite players. Jose Calderon is a capable second unit floor general who can knock down some 3s. If Brandon Ingram is off the bench, he can be brought along slowly, while still contributing at a Rookie of the Year level.

Both of these teams are going to be scary good in the future. However, if any of these teams make the playoffs, I’ll go with the Los Angeles Lakers. Luke Walton should be able to turn this team into a replication of the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns.