When the Lakers played the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday, for the first time in a long time, the game had playoff implications. Win the game, and cut Portland’s lead on the 8th seed to 1 game. Lose the game? The lead grows to 3. Well with pressure of a huge 2 game swing, the Lakers collapsed in the 2nd half and lost in a blowout. Further more, Portland won Wednesday to bring their lead up to 3.5 games. Just to pour salt on the wound, the Spurs murdered the Lakers to extend Portland’s lead to 4. But he Lakers have not been in the hunt this late into the year since the 2012-2013 season, when we needed Kobe to give his Achilles to get us in. Here are some thoughts on it.
How they got here
While it is awesome the Lakers are in playoff contention, most of this is because of the west becoming top heavy. The Warriors, Spurs, and Rockets are all on pace to clear 60 wins, while the Clippers, Grizzlies, Jazz, and Thunder make a very strong middle pack, there is a huge drop off after that. The Lakers are on pace to win about 30 wins and are in playoff contention, that should show something. Again, it would be awesome to make the playoffs but its not because the Lakers have been outstanding. That being said being on pace for 30 wins, with maybe the toughest schedule in the NBA so far, and a huge amount of injures is impressive for this team. Even then many loses have had the Lakers blow double digit leads. Its not a stretch to say the Lakers can double their 17 win total for last year.
Well the Lakers are back 4 games. That is within reach, but also a bit of a hole to climb out. So should they go for it? Or Should they trade contributing vets? Maybe even tank again? Its all a matter of perspective. As the Lakers season lightens, the rest of the leagues will get more heavy. Place that with the Lakers injuries being hopefully behind them, and they are is very good position to make a run. But this year was never about making the playoffs, it was about continuing the rebuild. Trading Lou Williams or Nick Young for assets does just that. While they may be within playoff reach, they are only 2 games ahead of Dallas for last in the west. I’ll rank what I feel would be best for the team below.
1. Trade veterans
If the Lakers can trade Lou Williams for a pick in between 15-22, you have to do it. According to draft net the talent available the talent their is mostly able to fit the needs of the Lakers position wise, and this class is loaded. Young won’t be able to fetch as much, as he is a high risk player. But if we can get couple 2nd rounders, you do it. And so far I have only talked about picks. Young players who are misfits like Mario Hezonjia or Nerlens Noel, someone the Lakers have shown interest in, should be trade targets too. This year was always about rebuilding. Assets help you do that.
2. Make the playoffs
From what Mitch said, the Lakers will being staying still for this year. If that is the case, you go for the playoffs. You gain experience, confidence from making the playoffs, and motivation after being swept by the Warriors.
3. No trade, no tank, no playoffs.
This is the most likely case. The team collapses at the end of games because of their youth. Lack of experience is difficult to overcome and young teams don’t win. Like stated earlier, Mitch said a trade is not likely. And for the “no tank”
This just isn’t possible. For the Lakers to tank they need sit there best players or go to Byron-esque offense. Both would be detrimental to the development of the team. Sitting the best guys mean the young guys. Another year of iso ball destroys the culture Luke has built thus far. Again, this isn’t an option.
The Lakers being in playoff contention is awesome, but more assets is better. I will root for them to make the playoffs, but not at the cost of our future. Ultimately it will be up to Mitch.