Lakers

Which Lakers’ Title Team Would Win a 7-Game Series?

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There has been a debate circulating the Internet. After the Los Angeles Lakers emerged out of the bubble with the franchise’s 17th championship, fans quickly began to compare them to the club’s last title team.

Kobe versus LeBron. Pau versus AD. Vogel vs. Jackson.

People have been so enamored by the matchup that there is even a Reddit page. The matchup is strictly hypothetical, but we can get a pretty good idea with numbers and some research.

Eras

2010 NBA hoops were much different from today’s game. There was no three-point revolution, the pace of play was down, and your bigs didn’t need to shoot. So which era would they play in?

This is the first of many executive decisions. Players will be placed in 2020 because I want scores to be higher and role players to have more impact on the outcome. Also, it would be interesting to see how players like Pau would adapt to shooting more like his brother Marc has. Kobe was also widely inefficient in this series due to the lack of spacing and intense defense. He shot just 40% from the field and 32% from three.

With the era going to 2020, some stats for the Lakers are going to need to change. The 2010 club finished the regular season with a pace rating of 92.8 (14th). The 2020 Lakers finished 11th with a pace of 100.9. That would have surpassed the Warriors for number one a decade earlier (100.2). The lowest pace in 2020 was the Hornets at 98.1!

It is safe to say the league has changed.

So to see 2010’s updated points per game with pace taken into effect, we will take the average pace in 2020 of 100 and apply that to their scoring. Next level NBA did this with all eras and found this formula:

Original PPG x (Today’s Pace / Original Pace) = Adjusted PPG 

These were the results:

Compare that to the 2020 Lakers:

The 2010 Lakers went from scoring 101.7 to 109.6 points per game. That is much closer to the 2020 club’s mark of 113.4 points.

Comparisons

Winning percentage (due to the shortened pandemic season)

10: 69.5% – 57-25

20: 73.2% – 52-19

Offensive Rating

10: 108.8

20: 112.0

Defensive Rating

10: 103.7

20: 106.3

Net Rating:

10: +5.0

20: +5.7

Playoffs Record

10: 16-7

20: 16-5

Simple Rating System (rating taking point differential and strength of schedule into account)

10: 4.78

20: 6.28

Effective Field Goal Percentage

10: 49.6%

20: 54.2%

Assists

10: 21.1

20: 25.4

Rebounds

10: 44.3

20: 45.7

That’s Why We Play the Games

Now looking at the stats and comparisons, it seems like a landslide. The 2020 Lakers are better. End of the story, let’s chalk it up and move on to another subject. Well not so fast…

Remember earlier when I mentioned this is strictly hypothetical, but we could get pretty close? Well, some people wonder this question along with us and created a website dedicated to solving the question.

The good people at Whatifsports.com allow us to sim any matchup in NBA history, even if it never happened. Want to see the 72-10 Bulls versus the Kevin Durant Warriors? Done. What about Giannis versus Bill Russell? No problem.

For this matchup, we are going to do a seven-game series with the 2020 Lakers having “home-court advantage” due to having a better winning percentage. Let’s jump into it.

Rules

2020 version. No Avery Bradley, but Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith are included because they were in the bubble. Players will also receive their NBA finals minutes. Check out the full box scores at the end of each game to see everyone’s stats and a play-by-play for every game.

GAME 1

In the first game, things were close at halftime. The ’20 team was leading 55-53, but still a competitive game. A fourth-quarter run would put all hopes away for the away team with the ’20 squad winning the quarter by seven. The final would end up being 105-92. LeBron James was a man on a mission dropping a 28/13/13 triple-double along with three steals. The 10’s shot only 25% from deep (6/24) and 36.8% from the field (35/95). The 20’s switching and versatility proved too much. Even with an off day from Anthony Davis, the home team was able to win the opener.

Notable Performances

2010

  • Kobe Bryant: 21 points (7/26), 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 turnovers
  • Pau Gasol: 18 points (8/17), 14 rebounds
  • Lamar Odom: 22 points (8/23), 18 rebounds

2020

  • LeBron James: 28 points (10/18), 13 assists, 13 rebounds
  • Anthony Davis: 15 points (5/15), 10 rebounds, 5 assists
  • Kyle Kuzma: 18 points (7/13), 6 rebounds
  • Rajon Rondo: 8 points (3/8), 6 rebounds, 10 assists

FULL BOX SCORE

FINAL: 105-92 (’20 LEADS SERIES 1-0)

GAME 2

Kobe and the ’10 Lakers knew they could not go down 0-2. LeBron is undefeated when he has a 2-0 lead in a playoff series, so this game was paramount. The game was contested earlier with the ’10 squad up 58-53 at the half. Jackson must have given a passionate speech at halftime because in the 3rd the older Lakers went up 90-80, led by 15 Kobe Bryant points. The Black Mamba would not relinquish that lead as the team went on to tie the series with a dominant 124-109 victory. Six ’10 Lakers scored double figures, including all five starters. LeBron dropped a 31-point triple-double, but no other ’20 Lakers scored more than 14.

Notable Performances

2010

  • Kobe Bryant: 39 points (15/29) (3/4 3P), 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 7 turnovers
  • Pau Gasol: 17 points (6/13), 13 rebounds (5 offensive), 7 assists, 3 blocks
  • Ron Artest: 13 points (5/11), 9 rebounds
  • Lamar Odom: 15 points (7/15), 10 rebounds
  • Derek Fisher 14 points (4/8) (4/5 3P)
  • Shannon Brown: 12 points (5/7) (2/3 3P), 9 minutes

2020

  • LeBron James: 31 points (13/22) (4/9 3P), 12 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 turnover
  • Anthony Davis: 14 points (6/17), 6 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Kyle Kuzma: 13 points (5/11), 5 rebounds
  • Alex Caruso: 13 points (3/6), 3 steals

FULL BOX SCORE

FINAL: 124-109 (TIED 1-1)

GAME 3

This game highlighted the differences in play style. The 2020 Lakers won wire-to-wire while shooting 15/40 from downtown compared to the 2010 Lakers’ 6/24. The assists were in favor of the ’20 team as well 29-18. LeBron showed once again why he is the greatest player of his generation with his third triple-double in as many games. He and AD combined for 61 of the team’s 118 points. This was a route.

Notable Performances

2010

  • Kobe Bryant: 33 points (12/26) (1/6 3P), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals
  • Pau Gasol: 12 points (5/13), 14 rebounds
  • Ron Artest: 10 points (3/12)
  • Andrew Bynum: 14 points (6/12), 12 rebounds (5 offensive)

2020

  • LeBron James: 35 points (14/26) (6/11 3P), 12 rebounds, 15 assists
  • Anthony Davis: 26 points (9/19), 8 rebounds

FULL BOX SCORE

FINAL: 118-102 (’20 LEADS SERIES 2-1)

GAME 4

Game 4 marked the most competitive one of the series. It was back-and-forth the whole way. A stranglehold.

It was near impossible to gain any momentum. Both teams shot under 43% for the game. In the first half, the ’20 squad could not buy a bucket. They were down 39-46 at the half. The three-point shooting that won the team Game 3 was the reason they ultimately lost Game 4.

The 20’s made 8 triples but on 40 shots. The ’10 team shot only 12 threes and made four of them. This game would be all about the rebounding with ’10 winning slightly 56-55. The ’10 Lakers’ interior presence allowed them to shoot 31 free throws. The ’20 Lakers only mustered 11. Kobe would have the first 40 point game of any player. Game 5 moves to the ’20 team’s home court, but now it is a three-game series.

Notable Performances

2010

  • Kobe Bryant: 40 points (12/27) (14/15 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Pau Gasol: 16 points (6/13), 16 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Lamar Odom: 14 points (7/20) (0/5 3P), 17 rebounds

2020

  • LeBron James: 25 points (10/25) (3/12 3P), 6 rebounds, 8 assists
  • Anthony Davis: 18 points (9/17), 10 rebounds, 3 blocks
  • Rajon Rondo: 7 points, (3/9) (1/6 3P), 5 rebounds

FULL BOX SCORE

FINAL: 101-90 (TIED 2-2)

GAME 5

This game was not close. The ’20 team was angry at how they got shut out in Game 4. At halftime, they were up 57-40, with the final being 116-85. The key to success was shutting down Kobe. After scoring 40 points last game, he had only 18 on 22 shots. The whole ’10 team shot 38% from the floor (33/86). Compare that to the ’20 team’s 48% on fewer shots (39/81). LeBron had his 4th triple-double in five games.

Notable Performances

2010

  • Kobe Bryant: 18 points (7/22), 9 rebounds
  • Pau Gasol: 24 points (10/20), 9 rebounds, 5 assists
  • Ron Artest: 6 points (2/12) (0/6 3P)

2020

  • LeBron James: 30 points (10/19) (4/8 3P), 12 rebounds, 10 assists
  • Anthony Davis: 22 points (8/22) (0/5 3P), 16 rebounds (5 offensive)
  • Kyle Kuzma: 10 points (3/5), 7 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Markieff Morris: 11 points (4/9), 5 rebounds
  • Dwight Howard: 8 points (4/6), 4 rebounds

FULL BOX SCORE

FINAL: 116-85 (’20 LEADS SERIES 3-2)

GAME 6

We jump into this game with the score tied 73-73 going into the fourth. Pau buries a mid-range jumper followed by Derek Fisher being fouled on a three-pointer. 78-73. Kuzma misses a three and Odom hits an 18 footer. AD comes back and stops the run with a layup. 80-75. Kobe comes down the other end and misses a jumper. Pau gets the rebound and Bryant converts on his second opportunity. 82-75.

LeBron’s jumper is tipped by Pau and Ron Artest makes the transition layup. 84-75. James finally gets his first points of the fourth with a free-throw line jumper. 84-77. For the next minute, neither team can score, until Gasol hits a mid-ranger with 7:41 to play. 86-77. Caldwell-Pope makes a right-wing three off a sweet dish from LeBron. Jordan Farmar splits his free throws. Kuzma makes a three and Anthony Davis makes a runner on the other end. 87-85.

After 3 Andrew Bynum scores, a Kuzma jumper, Danny Green Layup, and Dwight dunk, the game is 93-91 (2010 Lakers advantage). There is 1:50 to play. Pau Gasol has the ball in the post and makes a no-look pass for a Lamar Odom straight away 3. 96-91. Kuzma misses his 3 and Rondo’s follow is blocked by Gasol. On the other end, Fisher makes a great find for an Artest dunk. 98-91. Finally, AD makes a jumper to make it a five-point game, but there are only 37 seconds left. Kobe makes four free-throws and a meaningless Danny Green triple ends it 106-96.

The two best words in sports. Game 7. Pau Gasol becomes the hero as this legendary matchup gets a fitting ending.

Notable Performances

2010

  • Kobe Bryant: 26 points (8/23), 8 rebounds, 5 assists
  • Pau Gasol: 18 points (6/12), 13 rebounds, 3 blocks
  • Lamar Odom: 18 points (8/13), 16 rebounds

2020

  • LeBron James: 24 points (9/24) (2/8 3P), 8 rebounds, 10 assists
  • Anthony Davis: 26 points (9/18), 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 5 steals
  • Rajon Rondo: 0 points (0/4), 9 rebounds, 7 assists

FULL BOX SCORE

FINAL: 106-96 (TIED 3-3)

GAME 7

This game would determine who is better. Whoever won this would have bragging rights. Most importantly, is the debate between LeBron vs. Kobe. NBA fans were robbed back in ’09-’11. Now, we get to see what would happen in a one-game, winner takes all.

In the first quarter, the ’20 Lakers came out firing. AD and Bron would combine for 17 of 2020’s 32 first-quarter points. The entire ’10 team would only get 21. In the second, Kobe and his teammates went on a run. The ’20 Lakers would go up 38-31 mid-way through. After that, the ’10 team would outscore them 20-10. Lamar Odom would have six of these points. 51-48 ’10 Lakers lead at the half. 

The third would be a struggle to gain any ground. With 1:38, Shannon Brown would make 2 free throws to make the score 81-80; ’20 Lakers on top. Then, Markieff Morris would hit a left-wing triple, and Ron Artest would split free throws. LeBron would hit an and-one floater but miss the extra point. On the other end, Kobe would miss a three, and Pau would miss the follow. With the shot clock turned off, James would hold for the final shot. With the buzzer sounding, The King would bury a jump shot to give his team a seven-point lead.

Seven points would unfortunately be the closest the ’10 team would come. In the fourth, the ’20 Lakers took command, winning by 16. It is an anti-climatic ending to a classic series but is the result we are left with. 

LeBron hoists up the Finals MVP while a pissed Kobe watches the ring ceremony, promising revenge. 

Notable Performances

2010

  • Kobe Bryant: 27 points (11/29), 2 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Pau Gasol: 14 points (7/15), 13 rebounds (5 offensive), 3 steals, 2 blocks
  • Lamar Odom: 18 points (7/13) (0/4 3P), 11 rebounds, 2 steals
  • Andrew Bynum: 12 points (4/6), 5 rebounds, 1 block, 2 steals
  • Jordan Farmar: 7 points (3/4), 5 assists, 2 steals
  • Derek Fisher: 5 points (2/8), 3 rebounds

2020

  • LeBron James: 25 points (11/19), 6 rebounds, 14 assists, 4 turnovers
  • Anthony Davis: 34 points (13/22), 10 rebounds (4 offensive)
  • Kyle Kuzma: 9 points (4/10), 9 rebounds (5 offensive)
  • Alex Caruso: 12 points (4/7) (2/5 3P), 4 rebounds
  • Markieff Morris: 8 points (3/7) (2/5 3P), 6 rebounds (3 offensive)

FULL BOX SCORE

FINAL SCORE: 114-98 (’20 WINS SERIES 4-3)

Takeaways

The Kobe vs. LeBron matchup lived up to the hype. Kobe averaged 29.1 PPG on questionable efficiency, while LeBron averaged a triple-double. Both had their games and their teams only went as far as they would take them. 

Rebounding mattered a lot. Teams who won the rebounding battle were 4-3 in these games. One of those losses, the ’10 team had one less. Odom, James, Gasol and Davis all averaged double-digit rebounds for the series.

The clash of styles was evident. The ’20 Lakers shot more 3’s in every game, but it still went to seven games. The mid-range interior presence of the ’10 team won them a couple of games. Pau Gasol became a force from the elbows and spacing was not a matter because their defense led to fast break scores.

This series could have gone the other way. If the ’10 Lakers won Game 7, no one would blink an eye. The series was so competitive, both deserved to win. Sadly, someone has to lose. Both are worth champions and two of the greatest teams ever assembled. 

This was strictly hypothetical. If things did not go the way you hoped, don’t fret. If this website did a simulation of the 2016 finals, the Warriors would probably win 9/10 times. It gives a good idea and allows us to visualize our fantasies, but at the end of the day, we will never see this matchup.

What do you think would happen if these teams played?

Follow us on Twitter @LakersLead for the latest Lakers news and insight. 

About Max Levy

Lakers social media manager and insider

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