The Portland Trail Blazers may have only had the 24th pick in the first round this year, but they hit the lottery for opening night. On October 18th, Portland will host the new and improved Los Angeles Lakers at the Moda Center and most notably, Rip City residents will get the first look at LeBron James in action in purple and gold.
The newly-assembled Lakers, dubbed the Meme Team, make their highly anticipated debut with the recent signings for future-coach Rajon Rondo, sweet-nothings whisperer Lance Stephenson, noted Miami performer Michael Beasley, Shaqtin’ a Fool MVP JaVale McGee, and of course the King in waiting, LeBron James. These are only the additions to an already established young Lakers core, waiting for its breakout season. Josh Hart was recently named MVP in Summer League only adding to the lore that his future may be even more promising than last year’s rookie, Lonzo Ball. While Lonzo came under scrutiny for an awkward looking shot, his basketball IQ has never been questioned and his passing ability spoke for itself during the 2017-18 season. Filling out the rest of the roster averaging an age of 25 and a half, is Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, two Lakers who created their own stir in their respective ways. There’s no doubting that the Lakers have formidable pieces that could make a difficult match up for Portland in the upcoming season. The question is now, does the Portland team as it exists now, have enough assets to truly show LeBron what it’s like to play in the Western Conference?
While the Blazers offseason was far less eventful off season than Los Angeles, the front office did add two consistent three-point shooters with Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry. Stauskas shot 40% from beyond the arch last year and while Curry was sidelined last year with a fractured tibia, he shot 42.5% from the three point line in the 2016-17 season. These percentages are both higher than Pat Connaughton and Shabazz Napier, who the Blazers opted not to resign this year, but not by much. However, I believe the loss of Ed Davis and his rebounding will affect the Blazers more than anything. The big man averaged a total of 7.4 rebounds per game but 5 of those were defensive rebounds. While these numbers are not anything to write home about, Davis’ defense made an impression on a team that occasionally has been a defensive doormat. Without supplementing the loss of Davis in the off season, more front court duties will be relinquished to existing players Al-Farouq Aminu, Zach Collins, and Jusuf Nurkic who recently signed a 4-year contract. Maybe even Meyers Leonard when the front office feels the need for him to clock in for his generous paycheck.
The ghosts of Blazers summers past seem to be here for the ride, as we still tread water dealing with contracts from the 2016 off season and continue to pay Leonard and Evan Turner over 22% of our current salary. While Nurk’s contract was more conservative than what would have been done two years ago, it still seemed eerily similar to a time when we would overpay someone merely on their potential ceiling, versus the actual reality of a player. Nonetheless, the excitement of seeing LeBron’s Lakers coming-out right before Mark Mason introduces the team opening night, might make this game one for the books.