Are the Portland Trail Blazers for real, Are the Lakers tanking or are they actually that bad?
Raining in Portland
My oh my, is it fun to have the NBA back! The Moda Center hasn’t seen a shooting performance like this in a while. Undefeated at 4-0, the Trailblazers last night saw their draft product Anfernee Simons light that ball up as he even got huge recognition from LeBron James. He shot an outstanding 7-12 from 3, and the crowd and league were amazed by his performance. I know this Simons breakthrough is also helping Damian Lillard feel a little better about trusting the process in Portland and resigning for a major contract with them instead of leaving for a bigger market organization. What they have going on so far is special. Their roster is honestly perfectly structured. They have their floor general in Damian. Their shooters in Anfernee and Josh Hart.
Their strong big man in Jusuf Nurkic. Good forwards in newly acquired Jerami Grant and Justice Winslow. And rising potential in their draft selections, Shaedon Sharpe and Greg Brown III. The team that had the worst record last year 27-55, seems to be on track to flip that this season. With Portland making tough decisions to get rid of Lillard’s right-hand man CJ McCollum and other veteran talents last year in Norman Powell and Robert Convington, they not only seem to have found replacements but substantial upgrades for this team’s chemistry. While teams like the Warriors, Clippers, Suns, and Nuggets may seem like the teams to beat, the Trailblazers have already defeated two of these already, and don’t be surprised if they give them a run for their money later in the year.
What’s going on with LA?
I don’t think we’ve seen a Los Angeles Lakers squad shoot this poorly ever. With them shooting an abysmal 21.2% percent this season from the arch, things aren’t clicking at all, and LeBron’s patience may run out if this persists. With him already admitting the team can’t shoot after the first game, with the media consistently attacking him with that same question after every loss, he’s trying now to avoid it and shrug it off. And all eyes seemed to be pointed at Russell Westbrook. Should the Lakers have gotten rid of him sooner? He’s currently shooting 11/38 this season and 1/10 from three. While a little over dramatic, reporter Stephen A. Smith on ESPN said he’s really sorry for the Lakers organization and if this continues from Westbrook, they may need to send him home. While I don’t think Westbrook will become a free agent, I do think Lakers is upset with their struggles and will most likely try to right ship by making some trades for perimeter assets.
Are the Lakers losing for Wembanyama?
If they want to win, what do I mean by that, you ask? Well, what if they’re tanking? Well, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is very aware that teams could be trying to tank this year for 7’4 Victor Wembanyama, the French prospect that plays similar to Kevin Durant-esque and can also cause havoc in the paint. While losing most of your games doesn’t guarantee the first pick, it definitely helps your chances with the current draft lottery system in play. The lottery system started in 1985, which simply tossed each non-playoff team into a hat and randomly drew for draft order, affording each non-playoff team the same odds of securing any one of the lottery picks. In 2017, the NBA, in an attempt to moderately discourage this practice of losing on purpose, flattened the lottery odds so that the three teams with the worst records all have an equal 14-percent chance of landing the top pick.
So while teams like Oklahoma City, LA, and others are rather not great performers or don’t have the equity to reel in big free agent acquisitions in the offseason, with the current system in play, it’s better to have 14 percent than around 10. Can Adam Silver really prevent this? While he says they’re hosting hundreds of meetings on this issue, I don’t know if there really is anything that he can actually do at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see if the Lakers try to fix their shooting woes or if they play the game of probability in their hopes to match LeBron with Victor next season.