Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lottery Teams We Hardly Knew Ye 14/15 - Lakers vs Sixers

A few days ago I watched the Lakers vs the Philadelphia 76ers and time stopped.

I knew this was going to be a rough one on the schedule but yikes, it was rough.

When I say time stopped, I mean that the game went to overtime and I literally couldn't bring myself to watch another five minutes of these two teams playing each other.

Let's get right into it.


There are obviously a few noticeable absences from the LA squad, including elder statesman Kobe Bryant and young hope Julius Randle, still out from a broken leg.

The product that did make it onto the floor isn't an accurate representation of the team going forward, but that's probably a good thing with the franchise doing everything possible to avoid giving up its top-5 protected pick and having its highest draft choice since James Worthy in 1982.

Of the players that did suit up there were a few standouts.

Chief among them were former University of Missouri starting backcourt Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown - who was recently inked to a multi-year deal after the Lakers waived Nash's retiring contract.

Clarkson looked comfortable attacking the paint, running the offence and while he did struggle defensively he has enough length to improve on that end.

After generating lottery buzz early in his final year of college, Clarkson fell to the second round and was picked at 46 by the historic franchise.

While the team is likely to pursue Rajon Rondo and a number of other big name PGs in free agency, Clarkson has shown enough that whiffing on those older guards might not be the worst thing for the Lakers.

Clarkson was most impressive finding his college buddy Jabari Brown on the perimeter to knock down shots.

Brown showed the polished offensive game you'd expect from a 22-year-old rookie but his competence from beyond the arc is a welcome addition to a Lakers roster starved of shooting since Jodie Meeks bolted for Detroit.

Jordan Hill had a quiet game and despite the physical tools he possesses, he's probably never going to put it together.

Sacre is a solid back-up or 3rd string centre, but there wasn't much else to like on the court in this game.

With Randle presumably pencilled in at power forward going forward the Lakers (if they can keep their draft pick) should be looking for a young perimeter player with upside or a big man who can anchor their D.

Karl-Anthony Towns is likely out of reach unless they get the first pick, but his huge upside makes him  the perfect player to lead the next generation of Lakers alongside Randle.

D'Angelo Russell's versatility to play the point or shooting guard are attractive qualities given Clarkson's performance this season and Kobe's injury concerns, but his lack of athleticism makes him somewhat risky given the importance of this pick.

Justise Winslow is the best combination of upside, NBA-readiness and filling a team need for the Lakers.

His aggressive style on the court will endear him to Bryant and his ridiculous athleticism/confidence gives him a great chance to benefit from the Lakers legend's tutelage.

If they  decide to roll with a point guard then Mudiay has to be the pick as the best chance of a superstar PG in this draft with his athleticism, size and vision.

Really, it's more about free agency than the draft until Bryant retires but Randle and whoever they pick now will likely be left to pick up the pieces of this once-proud franchise once the Mamba moves on.


The abomination that is Sixers basketball the last two years might be coming to an end sooner than expected.

Nerlens Noel has proved himself far more capable on the offensive end than expected coming into the season and Embiid is approaching good health.

Noel showed soft touch on a few hook shots and has that DeAndre Jordan/Andre Drummond ability to elevate and throw down dunks in an instant, but his jumper looks ugly as hell.

His chemistry with Wake Forest standout Ish Smith is tangible and Philadelphia has to hope their future starting point guard can get along with their young big man equally well.

While he impressed offensively, Noel struggled to make an impact on the defensive end playing power forward.

With Ryan Kelly dragging him out to the perimeter and away from the paint he wasn't able to anchor the defence like he had done at centre earlier in the season.

The plan going forward has been for Noel to use his speed to guard power forward's next season with the bigger Embiid guarding Cs.

But although Embiid was very impressive defending the paint in college, it might be selling Noel's prowess short having him floating around on the perimeter with the stretch fours.

Minnesota castoff Glenn Robinson III showed his athleticism and decent offensive fundamentals, but the Michigan product might never be more than a minor role player off the bench for a good team.

Thomas Robinson, the former top-5 pick who has bounced around endlessly since 2012, was a hard player to get a read on.

I changed my mind about him several times this game which is fitting given consistency is his biggest issue.

He showed no interest in the defensive end early on, couldn't find a way to contribute offensively and just seemed to carry this air of entitlement, like rotating on D and passing the ball were beneath him.

But as the game wore on he settled in a bit more and by the end was directing the D and calling out player movement from the PF position.

The challenge for Brett Brown will be to keep Robinson motivated and manage his considerable ego.
Despite his journeyman career, Robinson still seems to be in denial about taking responsibility for his lack of consistent playing time before arriving in Philly.

Until the Kansas product can put the onus on himself to improve and drop his bad habits it's hard to see any team gambling on him as a long-term piece of their future, but there were glimpses of a useable skill-set in his performance in the game.

Like the Lakers there is a lot more to the Philly roster than what took the floor.

Injured players Tony Wroten and Joel Embiid are both key pieces going forward - although Wroten will need to fight to maintain a starting PG role depending on what player the Sixers draft.

However, a wing player with a defensive mindset, shooting and a relentless motor would be the ideal result of this year's draft.

Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson are ideal candidates in the lottery and D'Angelo Russell as a combo also makes sense.

There's a lot of talk that the Sixers should take Okafor if he's available, but with Embiid and Noel already on the roster, it feels like there'd be diminishing returns on another PF/C taken with a top-5 pick.

A guy like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would also make sense with one of their later draft picks as a defender too.


After baffling fans by trading away Michael Carter-Williams, the Sixers' public relations team has its work cut out for it keeping the Philly faithful on board, but the encouraging play of Noel this season is an indication that the plan might be working - despite the ugly basketball that has come from it.

Whatever happens with this team, you have to hope the Sixers keep Brett Brown around long enough to coach a roster that is ready to compete for the playoffs after he's suffered through these losing 

As far as the Lakers go, they'll always be a free agent destination, but there are big question makes surrounding their playing style, the role Bryant will play going forward and whether they are rebuilding or just a terrible basketball team this year.

If the Cavaliers don't make the Finals and Love cops the blame there's a chance he ditches the Lebron show to return to his college stomping ground in LA.

Worst-case scenario for the Lakers is losing out on their top-5 pick if a couple of teams leapfrog them into the top 3.

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