TRADE VALUE TBD
Out of all the offseason moves made by Danny Ainge, the value of two trades is still largely unknown. First, the trade to acquire Kyrie. Isaiah Thomas was shipped to Cleveland, along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and two picks. One of those picks happens to be one of the most valuable around the league– the Nets unprotected 2018 pick, still left over from the Pierce/Garnett deal. The Nets look like they might not be the worst team in the league this year. We don’t know how Thomas will come back from his hip injury, so we still don’t fully know the value of this trade.
The other trade, whose value is still TBD, is the draft night trade of the 2017 #1 pick, sent to Philadelphia for the 2017 #3 pick (swap) and an additional 2018 1st round pick with protections. The pick is the Lakers 2018 pick, but only comes to fruition if it falls in between 2-5. This means the Lakers have to be pretty bad this year. If not, it becomes the higher of the 76ers & Kings 1st rounder in 2019, as long is it isn’t #1 overall. If it is, it becomes the lower of the two teams. This would be the worst situation, but also by far the least likely.
DID THE LAKERS WIN?
Last year, one of my favorite twitter accounts to follow was “Did the Nets Win?” It was a simple yes or no tweet, with the score after every game. Simple and somewhat pointless, it reminded me every time I saw it, how well-positioned the Celtics were for the future. Now, the account has changed to “Did the Lakers Win?” This year, the Celtics have the potential to benefit from the Lakers dropping as many games as possible, rather than the Nets. It’s a great card to hold over our greatest rival. Celtics fans have another reason to cheer for a Lakers implosion. We get to let the Nets go on with their lives. Danny Ainge put that franchise in such a fierce stranglehold, it almost felt wrong to be happy about.
Can the Lakers be bad enough this year to fall in the 2-5 range? Could they end up being worse than the Nets? If that happens, Ainge would look like a genius. Both the Lakers and Nets are starting to play a little better this season, than in previous years. They both added some veterans to help with the process, but so far it hasn’t resulted in anything crazy. The two teams played each other on Friday night, and the Lakers came out with the win. Let’s take a look at both teams, and see who has a better chance at a worse record this season.
Showtime in LA was seemingly back after the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball. Through 10 games, he has yet to truly captivate the city, like some thought he would do right away. Despite some rough performances, he has shown the ability to get his teammates involved. The Lakers are starting to show a willingness to pass we haven’t seen with them since before the Kobe era. Ball’s presence is being felt, even if he isn’t posting gaudy scoring numbers.
The Lakers might have picked the steal of the draft 27th overall, in Kyle Kuzma. This guy is showing he can score at a high level, and he is ready now. While the team is still high on Brandon Ingram, it is becoming more apparent every game that Kuzma is more of an offensive threat than Ingram, at least right now. The Lakers are starting to catch on, giving him his first start on Friday against the Nets. He recorded a game-high 39 minutes, notching 21/13 on the night. Add Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant to Kuzma & Ball, and the Lakers might have had the best draft in 2017.
FOLLOWING THE CELTICS?
In addition to the top-notch draft the Lakers had, they added some true veterans they are hoping will help them win right now. All the while building something similar to what the Celtics are trying to do–a sustainable culture of winning with youth, that outlasts the Golden State era. The additions of Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were very underrated. Lopez had an all-star caliber season last year with the Nets, and posted 34 points against his old squad on Friday. KCP has hit big shots throughout his career. He has already put his clutch gene to use this season, tying the game with a big time 3 late against the Blazers on Thursday. He is also a great defender, something the Lakers have been missing on the wings.
The Nets are far from showtime. Most of their fans probably can’t tell you when the game starts. However, they are finally starting to turn a corner. While their drafts have been sparse, due to selling their future to the Celtics, they did pick up Caris Levert in the 1st round last year. The team is very high on him, and he is looking like a potential 2nd scoring option for them. They have done their best to surround him with young, gritty players that want to win.
The backcourt in Brooklyn was supposed to be newly acquired D’Angelo Russell & Jeremy Lin. Much like the Celtics, one of their best players, Jeremy Lin, suffered a season-ending injury in their season opener. Russell has turned it on since, and is looking like a borderline all-star. How long can he keep it up? He is looking like the franchise cornerstone going forward. Even if it is the Nets, his development will be something to watch this season.
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO WORSE
Who is going to be worse this year, the Lakers or the Nets? Things are back to normal when Celtics Nation would rather see the Lakers lose. They definitely have a brighter future than the Nets, and should separate themselves from the bottom feeders of the league in the next couple of years. They are leaning heavily on young guys to win now. It is going to be tough for them to compete for a playoff spot this season. The way they have been playing right now, sitting at 5-5, they do have an outside chance.
The Nets, however, have virtually no shot at the playoffs this year. They are finally good enough to compete, but not for a playoff spot, even in the East. We should expect them to have their best record since the infamous Pierce-KG trade, but nothing more.
The Lakers beat the Nets heads up, and I think they will end up ahead of them in the standings at the end of the season as well. The only thing that could be a factor is the conferences. Obviously, the Western conference is much tougher than the East. Teams play conference opponents four times a year, so the Lakers are going to be going through the gauntlet, while the Nets will have more opportunities to steal games.
At the end of the day, I don’t think the Lakers pick will fall between 2-5 in 2018. We will have to wait a year, and get the better of the Kings/76ers picks. It is somewhat unfortunate because this draft class is supposed to be stacked (again), but the Kings have only won 1 game so far this year, and are looking more than a year out from being a serious team. In all likelihood, we will end up with their pick in 2019, and it could very well be a top 5 pick. We just might have to wait for it. Let’s not forget this is in addition to trading down to draft Jayson Tatum. This is a win in itself.