After several months of arduous wait, the NBA has finally resumed action.
The remaining games are slowly shaping up the Playoff picture. As the eighth seed takes a musical chairs rotation every day, let us take a look at the top five potential match-ups that the hot favorite Los Angeles Lakers might face in their first round of the Playoffs.
Most Dangerous Match-Up - Portland Trail Blazers
Everyone is raving about the underdog Portland Trail Blazers. With the Golden State Warriors totally out of the NBA bubble race, the dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum forms arguably the most potent backcourt. On any given night, the Lakers would need to pick their poison between giving up 50 points to Lillard or daring McCollum to drive in the lane, should the Lakers choose to double team any of them.
With the return of a healthy Jusurf Nurkic, the Blazers have regained their paint presence and offer a body for battling offensive and defensive rebounds on a nightly basis. Nurkic is also a new breed of European big players with nifty passes and eyes for playmaking, which adds to his effectiveness. This is key as Nurkic has proven his prowess in the last Playoffs with dominant performances.
In addition, the Blazers bench now has someone who is well versed in how LeBron James operates, who is non-other than Carmelo Anthony. The rejuvenated Carmelo seemed to have found his second spring with the Blazers and is making every game count this season. With his lethal catch-and-shoot offense as well as his experience in playing against and with LeBron, Carmelo can prove to be an asset if this one-eight match-up materializes.
Most Entertaining Match-Up - New Orleans Pelicans
The 2019/2020 season began with a bang when the blockbuster Lakers-Pelicans trade went down.
Whether it is the redemption opportunity for the exiled former Lakers, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, or the superstar match-up between LeBron and Zion, or even the clash of two high-octane shooting squads, the headline for this one-eight match-up is sure to be exciting.
Touted to be the face of the New Orleans Pelicans and the new NBA, Zion has yet to prove that he is worthy of comparisons to LeBron. Should this first round Playoff match-up become a reality, the world will witness what the kid has to show to prove his mettle.
The viewers can also look forward to an epic duel between former teammates and buddies. Kyle Kuzma, being the only young Laker left on the roster, is bound to face the music if he does not show that he can be the viable third option and third superstar behind LeBron and Anthony Davis. Similarly, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram would definitely be making the best of their time on the court to show the Lakers what they have been missing trading away this talented trio.
Most Lopsided Match-Up - Sacramento Kings
Since their ascent last season, pundits have touted the Sacramento Kings to make the Playoffs with a respectable win-loss ratio of near 40-42. However, at this stage, the young Kings have not clinched their Playoff berth.
Injuries have also plagued the team throughout the season. From DeAaron Fox to Cory Joseph to Alex Len to Nemanja Bjelica, the injury list kept preventing a full roster rotation from finding its rhythm. Marvin Bagley III is the most recently injured Kings player, who has been sidelined in the NBA bubble due to a lateral foot sprain.
Despite having a head coach with championship experience in Luke Walton, the Kings have not shown the consistency of a good team.
For a team that is top five in pace previously and has a great transition offense, the Kings have fallen off their standard this season. This makes the team more vulnerable without their dependable offense.
In addition, the Kings have not been showing up against the top Western Conference teams and the chances of a sweep in the first round are likely if this one-eight match-up occurs.
Most Unexpected Match-Up - Memphis Grizzlies
With a bunch of new players with relatively little or no Playoff experience, the Grizzlies were thought to be one of the bottom teams moving into this season.
Since the Andre Iguodala trade happened, the Grizzlies have never been looked upon as a Playoff favorite. Perhaps playing with this chip on their shoulders, the Grizzlies seem to be overachieving beyond common expectations. We have seen this young team overwhelm some of the strongest defenses and offenses across the league in a refreshing fashion.
Nobody thought that the young rookie, Ja Morant, could be such an instant sensation and great leader on the floor. He scores buckets, attacks ferociously, and play makes for the team. When he is on the floor, he splits defenses and opens up the spacing for his teammates to make good shots.
Memphis has a tough collection of hustlers. From the pesky Grayson Allen to the energetic duo of Jaren Jackson Jr and Josh Jackson, youth explosiveness boosts their backcourt defense and offense.
Jonas Valančiūnas, Kyle Anderson, and Justise Winslow bring on the physical tenacity and hustling mindset to the team to further propel them in close game situations and calm the young minds during clutch situations.
Needless to say, this one-eighth match-up is bound to be unpredictable and exciting to watch.
Most Contrasting Match-Up - San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are in a rebuilding stage after their big three stars retired, namely Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Ii, and Tony Parker. The Los Angeles Lakers are now a well-oiled machine with many veteran players who hold championship experiences under their belt.
The Los Angeles play big, with three quality big men in Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee,e and Dwight Howard, who can clog up the paint and harass opponents driving into the restricted area. The San Antonio Spurs are still trying to figure out how to anchor their defense without Tim Duncan.
The Lakers rank second place league-wide, with a stellar defensive net rating of 105.3. The San Antonio Spurs are a mediocre 19th rank, with a defensive net rating of 113.1.
The San Antonio Spurs are sporadic and volatile in their performances. They can be really good at times but have not gotten a clear range of schemes to fall back on. The Lakers, on the other hand, run a well-defined but predictable style of basketball, which is easier for opponents to scheme against.
The one-eighth match-up cannot be any more contrasting than this.
In conclusion, all NBA fans are starved for meaningful basketball for several months and the Playoffs are definitely going to be interesting to watch with so many possibilities even in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. So stay tuned for more action!