Washington at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: WAS -9
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Los Angeles Lakers possess the second-worst record in the NBA, and the team is quite hoping it stays that way. Los Angeles has dropped eight of its past 10 to fall to 21-52 on the season, in hopes of obtaining a top-three pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Should L.A. fall outside the top-four, it will surrender its pick: so the matter is crucial.
Accordingly, the Lakers shut down its veterans Luol Deng and Timfoey Mozgov for the remainder of the season. Given that the team is already defending so poorly, this seems to assure many results like what NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes are expecting tonight, as the visiting Washington Wizards enter the game as 9-point favorites at Staples Center.
The Lakers are 10-19 against Eastern Conference teams, but are giving up 112.1 points per game this season, which is the second-worst defense in the West.
In some senses, the rest of the season can serve as an experimentation ground for head coach Luke Walton. The Lakers let go Sixth Man of the Year candidate and leading scorer Lou Williams at the trade deadline, to clear the usage up for D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram—all of whom could eventually become stars. But that is the thing for the Lakers, they are yet unsure which talent to bet on developing, and which are going to be merely good NBA starters.
Russell has his nights of looking like a superstar, but he has a questionable shot selection. Randle is a poor defender and undersized, but he is very much like Draymond Green on the offensive end, able to create for his teammates with his passing ability and abilities to get to the basket. Ingram sometimes disappears from the games entirely, but he is just a 19-year-old rookie, and presumably he can mature into a high impact player. He is not yet. Even Jordan Clarkson, who appears to have reached his ultimate upside, is capable of creating and having his big nights.
Larry Nance Jr. appears to be the consummate energy player. The pieces are in place, but the team defense has been so abysmal that each individual defender looks even worse, and Randle’s size deficiencies are perhaps exposed to their maximum with no real rim protectors and lazy perimeter defenders around him. Los Angeles has some nice chips in place to make moves, but team president Magic Johnson knows it ultimately will take a superstar.
What he does not know is whether he already has one to “home grow,” or whether it will take a free agent like Paul George, to give Los Angeles the legitimate star it needs to keep pace with the plethora of talent-saturated teams in the Western Conference. To be sure, they are a team on the rise, but how quick that rise is, and how high it goes, is really still very difficult to determine.
Washington has added a couple key bench pieces, and Bojan Bogdanovic heads that list as a major performer now that he is on a legitimate team, not the Brooklyn Nets.
Bogdanovic is averaging 15 points and three rebounds per game while shooting blistering percentage since joining Washington.
Bogdanovic is good for 40.5 percent of his threes as a Wizard while attempting over five per game. He was a missing piece, but there are others.
Washington still has one of the poorer second units in the league, notwithstanding that Brandon Jennings was expected to provide some kind of lift (he has not). Jennings is seeing just 15 minutes a game through 15 appearances, and really he is not offering much that the Wizards were not already getting from its wildly inefficient second unit.
Second year forward Kelly Oubre Jr. remains a relative key to the Wizards attack because they are a far better team when he is engaged after coming off the bench. That said, this is a team still so heavily reliant on its starters, all of whom play 32 minutes per game, or more (with Wall topping out at nearly 37 per night).
Can Washington sustain this method? It really depends on if it can keep its star backcourt from burning out. Bradley Beal leads the team in scoring at 23.1 points per game, but Beal is attempting 17.1 shots per night and playing 35 minutes a game. When the rotations tighten up in the postseason, that may increase slightly further still.
Will Beal be able to handle the workload? He has been shown to be injury prone thus far through his career, so betting on it is hardly a sure thing. The only sure thing at this point is that Washington will be in the postseason and at this point represents a tough challenge for any opponent perhaps except the Cleveland Cavaliers.