If you missed anything from my take on the Eastern Conference New Year’s Resolutions, check out part one here. As for the other half of the NBA, there are multiple situations out West that teams need to make happen in order for them to ring in the New Year in the right direction. Sit back and enjoy three teams going in different directions all hoping for different outcomes before the end of the season.
Los Angeles Lakers need to keep slumping and stay entertaining:
As we stand after Tuesday’s game vs Memphis, the Lakers record will be 13-25, which is good for 12th in the conference. This season is lost, record wise. Did we really expect anything else from one of the youngest rosters in the league? Nick Young is on fire from three, D’Angelo Russell turned in a spectacular game on Sunday vs Toronto in a losing effort, Julius Randle is emerging as a building block that the Lakers will have to reward with a contract extension and Brandon Ingram is coming into his own playing his way into a bigger role. Add it all up and you have an exciting team that can’t even defend the chair I’m sitting in. The Lakers are giving up 110 points per game, which is good for the 4th worst in the league. Don’t get your hopes up cause this won’t change by season’s end. This year’s incoming draft class is loaded with talent. The Lakers keep their pick if it lands in the top three, otherwise, it belongs to Philly. This is the year to develop their impressive young core and go after a big name free agent (Gordon Hayward) then proceed to ship Luol Deng out of town. Becoming a long-term contender takes patience and the Lakers are showing that.
Portland Trail Blazers are in trouble with the current roster:
This has been a struggle to watch, despite having multiple bright spots. Mason Plumlee is quietly having a career year and looking like a bonafide power forward who can pass like few at his position in the league. Allen Crabbe is playing very well for the Blazers off the bench. He is the Blazers best knockdown three point shooter. When Portland is sharing the ball and Crabbe receives an open look from three with his feet set it’s going in without a doubt. Head Coach Terry Stotts really needs to take advantage of this and play Crabbe maximum minutes while Damian Lillard is out and CJ McCollum is forced to play point guard. The weakness the Blazers have is the inability to stop anybody inside the paint due to Myers Leonard being their only legit center on the roster. This is a massive problem that is killing the Blazers and contributing to giving up the third-most points in the league at 110.9 points per game. Atlanta is offering Paul Millsap on the trading block should Portland take a gamble on a one-year rental for an all-star player that would help this season. One thing is for certain, this team needs an upgrade at backup point guard. Shabazz Napier can’t be trusted for even five minutes on the floor in a playoff game. There will be plenty of options around the league in a small deal that will provide the necessary help. The big question is what do you do with Myers Leonard? Has he shown enough to receive a piece in return? Or do you have to include Noah Vonleah to make sure you receive an important player to come away the winner of the trade. These are questions that General Manager Neil Olshey has to face before the trade deadline.
Utah Jazz need to get Healthy:
In Tuesday’s game vs Boston, the Jazz had to start Shelvin Mack and have Raul Neto as the backup. This equates to constantly playing four on five basketball all game long. The Jazz have been hit hard by the injury bug this season with key off-season addition George Hill missing too much time, Derrick Favors has missed multiple games and the team’s best player Gordon Hayward starting the season on the shelf. The only good thing with these injuries is when Derrick Favors is out, Trey Lyles receives much needed minutes to develop and become a player in the rotation Head Coach Quinn Snyder can trust come playoff time. We all know when healthy, the Jazz will make noise in the Western Conference. The Jazz front office made good moves in the off-season to construct this roster similar to how Memphis has been the last few years. Only this team has better shooting with the likes of Hill, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles and Joe Johnson. This team only needs a few weeks to gel together and some injury luck and you will see Utah fight Oklahoma City for the division title.