Since entering the season as title contenders, the LA Lakers have had a bumpy road. With six games remaining, they are 11th in the Western Conference. Between the questionable fit of Russell Westbrook and injuries, it has been a downtrodden year for the NBA's most prestigious franchise.
While things may look bleak, the Lakers (31-45) still have a chance to sneak into the playoffs. They are in a neck-and-neck battle with the San Antonio Spurs (31-45) for the final spot in the play-in tournament. Plus, the Lakers host the ninth-place Pelicans (33-43) on Friday night. (Both teams hold tiebreakers over Los Angeles.)
While the Spurs are the more feel-good story, FS1's Skip Bayless is pulling for LeBron James and company to overtake San Antonio:
"I am, from my heart, rooting for your man LeBron James. Just because I want to see the Lakers in."
One thing the Lakers have going for them is that they are starting to get healthy. Reports emerged Thursday that All-Star big man Anthony Davis plans to return Friday against New Orleans. He has been sidelined for 18 games because of a foot injury.
Anthony Davis' return could save Lakers' season
With the LA Lakers in a tight race for the final two spots in the play-in tournament, Anthony Davis' return could help salvage their season. In the 37 games he's played, Davis averaged of 23.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. Los Angeles went 20-17 in those games. The Lakers are 11-28 without him.
His return could prove to be extremely beneficial, but it will depend on what kind of shape Davis is in.
"There's a huge X factor," Bayless said. "He's coming back at what percent of Anthony Davis? How rusty is he? How healthy is he? How driven is he?"
While on the floor, Davis is still one of the NBA's top big men. Between his pick-and-roll play with LeBron James and what he brings on defense, his presence could turn things around.
"All I know is that guy has nuclear capabilities," Bayless said.
On a four-game losing streak and 4-14 since the All-Star break, LA desperatley needs a spark. More importantly, being at full strength will be essential to win two play-in games.
While the 2020 NBA Champs still have a shot at the postseason, their road ahead is not doing them any favors. Their final stretch of games includes the Denver Nuggets (46-31) twice, Golden State Warriors (48-20) and NBA-leading Phoenix Suns (62-14). James has been incredible this season but will need all the help he can get.
Depending on when Davis makes his return and how quickly he can look like himself again could be the deciding factors for the Lakers' playoffs hopes.