The Los Angeles Lakers head to Texas this weekend as they face two clashes with the San Antonio Spurs. Both sides have found themselves sitting towards the bottom of the Western Conference, but for one of them, that was the plan all along.
The Lakers hope to rescue a dreadful campaign after Thanksgiving and they can start with two victories over the Spurs in this double-header, having beaten them on Sunday.
Ahead of the pair's matches on Saturday and Sunday night, below is a look at how they're both shaping up for the meetings, with Anthony Davis standing out after a brilliant run of form for the Lakers.
What: NBA Season 2022/23
Where: USA and Canada
When: 18th October 2022 - June 2023
Odds (Outright): BOS Celtics +425, MIL Bucks +550, GS Warriors +650, LA Clippers +700, PHX Suns +800
While both of these sides sit in the bottom three of the Western Conference, that was the plan all along for the Spurs. Coach Gregg Popovich joked at the start of the season that no fan should bet on them winning the title and they're a massive +50000 shot for this year's championship.
The Spurs have a respectable 4-2 record against Eastern Conference sides this season, but within the west, they've found things tough. They've won just two of 13 games, which bodes well for the visitors.
They're certainly in the mix in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, having lost four straight coming into this clash. They've lost 13 of 19 games this season overall, while things are likely to get worse as any of their standout players immediately become trade chips.
Jakob Poeltl and Doug McDermott already look set for an exit, with the pair not quite in the right age range for the Spurs at 27 and 31 respectively. However, they've done enough to put the Spurs ahead of a Lakers side which started the season with championship aspirations.
Even after 20 years in the NBA, LeBron James remains one of the elite players in the league. However, his own struggles mixed with the issues the Lakers are having have seen him drift out to +25000 for MVP, showing just how dramatic this fall has been for the Lakers.
While they missed the postseason completely last term, they fell out of the picture late after injury issues. While LeBron has missed time again this season, LA have a 2-8 record from the games he has played this term.
Despite that, there's hope that LeBron's return from injury can galvanise the team to improve. He missed five games on the bounce and the team won three of the last four without him in the side, but they have had Anthony Davis in brilliant form of late.
AD has posted at least 30 points in his last four matches, including a huge night against the Phoenix Suns last time out. He's also crushing opponents off the glass, averaging over 17 rebounds per night across the last five games.
For years the Lakers' vision has been to get AD firing as the main man in the team, opening up all kinds of freedom for LeBron to exploit.
However, Davis has been claiming most of his points in the paint, having scored none of the four three-point attempts he has made in the last five games. The fear will be that AD's dominance blocks off the space LeBron loves to drive into.
With AD firing and LeBron returning, Lakers coach Darvin Ham will hope that he's finally found the right formula for the team. He demoted Russell Westbrook to the bench and that move seems to have paid off, with Westbrook's shooting percentage increasing since the move.
Westbrook has posted a double-double in four of the five games which LeBron missed, so getting those three together and firing finally could be a massive boost for the Lakers. He had previously been offered to the Spurs, but they rejected an offer for McDermott and Josh Richardson.
The latest reports suggest the Lakers want to see some improvement before moving Westbrook, but ironically, he's helping to drive that.
With signs of life coming for the Lakers, it isn't completely out of the question that they make a late push for the top 10. They're currently +300 for a Play-in spot, a price which will likely move if LeBron returns and their three top earners click.