After six years of being one of the worst NBA teams in the league, the Los Angeles Lakers are set to return to the Western Conference Playoffs in the 2019-20 season, thanks to LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and their quality supporting cast. Though it still remains unknown when the season will resume, some people have already started talking about the Lakers’ potential opponents in the opening round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs. As of now, several teams are in a tight race for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, including the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers.
If James and the Lakers had the power to choose their opponents, former NBA champion Channing Frye believes that they would prefer to face the Ja Morant-led Grizzlies than the Damian Lillard-led Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
“I know this, the Lakers are a really good team and would rather see the Grizzlies than see the big, battle-tested, physical, veteran Trail Blazers,” Frye said, as quoted by Yahoo Sports.
Before the NBA suspension due to the spread of coronavirus, the Grizzlies and the Trail Blazers were sitting in the No. 8 and No. 9 spots in the Western Conference, respectively. Though the Grizzlies are the ones currently in the playoff race, it’s hardly a surprise why Frye thinks the Lakers considered the Trail Blazers as the tougher opponent to beat in a best-of-seven series.
The Grizzlies may be one of the most promising teams in the league right now, but with the lineup mostly consisting of young players, they obviously lack playoff experience. Meanwhile, while they have yet to end their decades of title drought, the Trail Blazers are battle-tested in the postseason and have a roster filled with All-Star caliber players and established veterans. In March, James himself said that the Trail Blazers shouldn’t be underestimated in a best-of-seven series.
“You got a Dame Lillard who can go for 50, a CJ McCollum that can score 40, a Carmelo Anthony that if he gets hot, which we know in the postseason could go for 35/40 as well… When you have that type of experience with Portland, they can make things happen,” James said.
The Trail Blazers have somehow benefited from the league’s hiatus as it gives the two important members of their frontcourt — Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins — more time to recover from their respective injuries. Though it would still take time for them to regain their rhythm and build chemistry with their new teammates, the return of Nurkic and Collins would undeniably increase the Trail Blazers’ chances of earning the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and make them a more competitive team in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.