NBA Roundtable: Examining the Lakers' greatest weakness
BetAmerica has teamed up with Covers and Oddschecker to break down the latest news and trends from around the Association. This week NBA columnists Jason Logan, Sam Farley, and Ryan Murphy discuss the Bucks’ boycott, the Lakers’ kryptonite, and the league’s most attractive coaching vacancy.
The NBA playoffs nearly came to an abrupt end after the Milwaukee Bucks’ walkout last week. What are the odds that the league will actually crown a champion in Orlando?
Jason: Given everything that’s gone on this year, I’d have to set this as a flat -110 Yes/-110 No. While players are getting restless and worn out from just the basketball side of things, this has more to do with everything outside of the bubble. As a fan, I’d love to see them crown a champ but I’m not sure society will allow for that. There are bigger things than basketball at stake and much bigger things than betting on basketball. That’s for sure.
Sam: After the boycott began I thought that it was unlikely we’d see players return, especially after reports that LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers walked out of the initial meeting. As a fan, I’m very glad to see them back and I think the players and the league have worked hard on roadmapping their demands. I believe we'll see a champion in Orlando.
"We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable."— ABC News (@ABC) August 27, 2020
Sterling Brown and George Hill read a prepared statement from Milwaukee Bucks players after they decided to boycott playoff game to protest shooting of Jacob Blake. https://t.co/azTJO3IxPt pic.twitter.com/6yTTmz3Efo
Ryan: Before we get into any odds, the real number we should be discussing is 0. That’s the number of positive cases that have arisen in the NBA bubble since players first began reporting on July 7. By contrast, the state of Florida has reported more than 260,000 cases during that same span. It’s an extraordinary dichotomy, and it demonstrates the exceptional lengths the league has gone to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its players, coaches, and assorted personnel. Other issues will unfortunately arise, as they did last week with the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but the NBA and its players will overcome them, because they’ve shown an ability to overcome daunting challenges before. I’d put the odds at a robust -400.
The Lakers entered the bubble as the top seed in the West, but have struggled at times in Orlando and looked shaky finishing off the Blazers. What do you consider to be their greatest weakness?
Jason: Scoring depth. Beyond LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers don’t have dependable scorers who can create offense on their own. If either one of those players were to get injured, the Lakers’ schemes would go down the toilet and there would be no solution late in the shot clock. If Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is your Plan C, you have issues. And don’t even start with the Kyle Kuzma noise…
Sam: I agree with Jason. The Lakers biggest weakness is a lack of depth. Besides the “Big Two,” I think there is a glaring lack of talent, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. More to the point, I don’t think LeBron trusts his other teammates, which is a real problem. I just can’t see the Lakers winning a title this year.
Ryan: The Lakers have looked outstanding in transition, but their outside shooting has been nearly as scary as JaVale McGee’s rattail. L.A. ranks 13th in three-point accuracy among all remaining playoff teams and have been chucking up enough bricks lately to build a brownstone. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but I’m going to laser in on Kyle Kuzma, who’s making just 30% of his 4.6 three-point attempts per game. The Lakers desperately need him to find his stroke to provide better spacing and to allow Frank Vogel to rest James and Davis without falling into a deep hole.
Head coaching vacancies have now popped up in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New Orleans. Which of the jobs is the most attractive?
Jason: If I were a head coach, I’d look to New Orleans first. You have a budding superstar in Zion and two solid young players in Ball and Ingram to build on. Brooklyn is a ready-made contender, but you also have to manage the egos of Durant and Irving, Philadelphia won’t have much wiggle room for regression, and Chicago will always be haunted by the ghosts of Phil and MJ. Let the good times roll: give me the Pelicans project!
Sam: It certainly isn’t Philadelphia. The 76ers still have some outstanding players but I’m totally unsure how you move forward with that team without making drastic moves. Chicago is a flat-out no for me too. It’s really between Brooklyn and New Orleans. Brooklyn has the core of a very good team and could be title contenders sooner than people think with the right moves and the return of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. I expect them to try and land another big piece this offseason. The Pelicans have youth and a lot of very talented players, but they’re a small market team, so it’s much harder to build something lasting. For that reason, I am reluctantly taking the Nets.
Ryan: Brooklyn probably has the highest ceiling, but there isn’t enough Advil in the world to deal with the headache of coaching Durant and Irving. Given the choice, I’d be Bayou-bound in a heartbeat. Not only do the Pelicans have two of the most promising young stars in the league in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, but they also have Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick and Lonzo Ball under contract for another season. That’s a remarkably skilled group, and one that can outscore any opponent on any given night. Injuries ultimately derailed NOLA’s season in 2019-20, but with a little bit of luck they (and a whole lot of Zion) they could enjoy a deep playoff run next year.