The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks share the best record in the NBA at 24-4 and are on pace to become the first pair of teams in league history to win 70 games in the same season.
They each have MVP candidates – 2018-19 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Bucks, and four-time winner LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the Lakers. Both teams combine top-tier defense with high-powered offense.
In this week’s special edition of NBA hot topics, the focus is on the Bucks and Lakers who play Thursday (8 p.m. ET, TNT).
Who has the better chance of winning 70 games – Lakers or Bucks?
Medina: The Lakers. They have two superstars, while the Bucks have one. So even if the Lakers sit LeBron James or Anthony Davis to rest or heal an injury, they will have the other star player handle the workload. Although they have depth, the Bucks do not have as much of a luxury to sit Antetokounmpo. The Lakers have also proven they can win games in various ways, including by going on double-digit romps or overcoming double-digit deficits.
Velazquez: I don’t think either of these teams will reach the 70-win mark, but I’ll go with the Lakers here. While both teams have a similarly difficult remaining strength of schedule, the Bucks are more likely to have some wiggle room in the standings at the end of the season and won’t turn down an opportunity to throttle down a bit in April. There’s also a reasonable chance the Bucks’ January trip to Paris could involve at least a slight hangover on the back end.
Zillgitt: Normally, I’d go with the East team because the West has been deeper in recent seasons. That’s not the case this season. The West has two teams with losing records in the final two playoff spots, and through Tuesday’s games, the East has a better record against the West. But I’ll stick with the East since the Bucks have depth, play in an easier division and Milwaukee has a slightly easier remaining schedule, according to powerrankingsguru.com.
Of these MVP candidates, who is having the better season – Antetokounmpo, James or Davis?
Velazquez: So far, it looks like the Maurice Podoloff trophy is likely to stay with Antetokounmpo. He’s been otherworldly, taking a step up even from his MVP campaign of a season ago with 31.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in just 31.2 minutes per game – the 58th most minutes per game of anyone in the NBA. More impressively, his 34.8 player efficiency rating would be the best over a full season in history. James and Davis have been outstanding, but individually neither has outdone Antetokounmpo.
Medina: Antetokounmpo. He is averaging more points at a better shooting percentage (56.4%) than both James (25.9 points on 49.8% shooting) and Davis (27.4 points on 49.9% shooting). Though that has happened partly because Antetokounmpo remains the No. 1 option, he still has not compromised his efficiency. James and Davis should be lauded for perfecting their dynamic right away. But they also can make opponents feel compromised defensively. Antetokounmpo has a strong supporting cast around him, but he is not teaming up with another star who also commands double teams.
Zillgitt: There was some thought that James’ injury last season marked the beginning of his decline. Not true. With that said, I’m leaning toward Antetokounmpo whose Bucks have the No. 2 offense and No. 1 defense, and with Giannis on the court, the Bucks’ offensive and defensive ratings are better than James’ on-court-ratings. It’s another career year for Antetokounmpo who is averaging four more points this season than last and has improved his three-point shooting by 6.5 percentage points.