Anthony Davis is an Offensive Powerhouse
Since the Orlando restart, LeBron James has not been the point producing player we are used to watching. That’s not all on him. The Lakers clinched the top seed in the West early and it’s been more about managing minutes. Meanwhile, his younger teammate Anthony Davis has been making up the slack. Averaging over 33 minutes per game leading up to the playoffs, Davis has averged more points per game than James. This type of offensive production has made him the most expensive player on Draftkings salary cap board.
Phoenix Suns Ended Hot
The Phoenix Suns have were sensational during the seeding games but still came up a little short. That doesn’t change the fact that they were the betting favorites at Real Football 365 up until their last game of the season. The Suns managed to go 8-0 during their “second season” in the bubble, including big wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat. It may not have been enough to qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference, but perhaps the Suns are a team to watch in the future.
Kyle Kuzma’s Defense
The magic of Disney World seems to have rubbed off on Kyle Kuzma. Known as a subpar defender for most of his career, Kuzma’s defense has been a major bright spot in what’s been a relatively average start for the Lakers. Kuzma is young. He’s currently the only Laker rotation player under the age of 26 and along with Alex Caruso, has the least post season experience on the team.
He was expected to take the next step this season offensively, however he’s not provided the ball-handling skills necessary for a third-scorer. He’s not improved behind the three point arc and worse, has struggled with shot-selection. He’s taking more more long look 2’s and making fewer runs at the rim. But where his offense has faltered, his defense has picked up.
The Lakers entered the bubble with the third best ranked defense in the league. According to had ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus, Kuzma ranked a dismal 60th at his position. Kuzma’s weakness stems largely from his poor footwork on both sides of the ball. However since arriving in Orlando, opponents are only shooting 43.5 percent from the field against him. The change seems to be the result of both improved fundamentals and superior effort. His lateral movement is now much more fluid, and he’s not struggling to as much to change direction.
Nobody is sure where this has come from, but it’s certain that Laker coach Frank Vogel will take it. It’s just the type of play that gets you more minutes in the playoffs.
Portland Trailblazers Were Surging
Coming out of the seeding round there was a lot of talk. Could the Trailblazers knock out a No. 1 seed with LeBron James in the first round of the playoffs?
The Lakers looked dismal in Orlando. They completed the seeding games with a 3-5 record and with an offense that ranked 2nd to last in the league. Were they tired? Disinterested? Who knows?
Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers were surging. Portland star Damian Lillard ended the seeding round with a 51 points game against the Philadelphia 76’ers, a career high 61 point masterpiece against the Dallas Mavericks, and a 42 points night to clinch a playoff play-in birth against the Brooklyn Nets.
Of course, the Lakers found their legs after the first game and dispatched Portland in 5 games to where 8th seeds normally go. It certainly fun while it lasted.
The Toronto Raptors Are Still Very Good
The Toronto Raptors were not suppose to be any good this year. That was the conventional wisdom after Kawhi Leonard decided to head home to the West coast after pretty much winning everything in Toronto. Oh how wrong we all were.
The Raptors had the third best record in the league when COVID put a temporary pause to the season. Now the team is making a case that they’re even better post-Leonard than it they were with him. They went 7-1 start in the seeding round, swept the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, and are about to play the Boston Celtics in a pivitol Game 7 after a big double overtime win. The defending champs are defending like champs.