Where Lakers, Clippers match amongst NBA surprises, disappointments

There have been loads of surprises within the NBA this season, which reaches the midway level this week.

The Lakers (19-22) shook off a 2-10 begin to climb into postseason rivalry regardless of a rash of accidents to All-Star ahead Anthony Davis and key position gamers. LeBron James, the ageless surprise in his twentieth season, continues to play at an elite stage.

The Clippers (21-21) have struggled currently throughout a six-game dropping streak after climbing into the highest 4 of the Western Convention standings with a victory over the Raptors in Toronto.

The Instances’ NBA crew — Dan Woike, Broderick Turner and Andrew Greif — take a look at a number of the surprises and disappointments of the season.

How do you fee the Lakers’ first half? Something shock you or is that this what you anticipated?

Broderick Turner: The largest shock is that after beginning 2-10 and searching like a rudderless staff the Lakers stayed the course and now are in a very good place to at the least be in a play-in recreation. Bought to provide lots of credit score to new Lakers coach Darvin Ham for staying so constructive and preserving this staff aggressive. It’s not a balanced roster by any means, however he has squeezed loads out of this group regardless of Anthony Davis being injured but once more.

Dan Woike: Considered in totality, it needs to be thought-about disappointing. The Lakers have spent zero days above .500 and also you’d need to squint actually, actually exhausting to persuade your self that this staff is headed for something however an early-ish offseason. However during the last month, from Anthony Davis’ stretch of dominance to LeBron James’ latest play, there’s been sufficient good things to not abandon all hope. If something, that’s been the shock — this staff’s means to flirt with nice basketball regardless of its apparent weaknesses. However until there are some modifications, it doesn’t look like it’ll be something greater than flashes.

Identical query for the Clippers: How do you fee them?

Andrew Greif: Even NBA scouts whose enterprise is analyzing the league don’t know what to make of the Clippers’ championship advantage after a 21-21 begin. Should you had instructed the staff’s decision-makers in September that after a 15-month knee rehabilitation Kawhi Leonard could be averaging 20.2 factors, 6.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.6 turnovers whereas 47% capturing over his final 13 video games, it could be purpose for a sigh of aid and an indication of fine information. Should you had additionally talked about they’d have solely performed 4 video games at full energy, and have been nonetheless 21-21, that additionally might need been thought-about one thing near above-average end result.

But when Leonard is steadily constructing towards his peak, that may’t precisely be stated of the staff as a complete, which hasn’t displayed any consistency. Whereas accidents outdoors their management have been the first perpetrator, the Clippers at instances have additionally performed like a staff pinning its hopes that instances shall be higher within the full-strength future with out a lot urgency to point out for within the current. The excellent news? That additionally describes most of their Western Convention rivals, too.

BT: It’s has been a uneven season for the Clippers to date. Their two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, haven’t performed collectively sufficient due to accidents and that appears to have thrown this staff off its course.

DW: Within the Clippers’ eyes, it looks like it’d be a hit — Kawhi Leonard is again on the courtroom, the staff is slowly constructing towards the playoffs they usually’re working via the form of predictable midseason points a staff with this type of depth must deal with. That being stated, it’s seemed loads uglier, particularly currently, than they in all probability thought. With the Clippers, it’s nonetheless extra about projection than actuality.

Which NBA groups have been most spectacular?

BT: The Cleveland Cavaliers, to begin. Buying Donovan Mitchell has made this younger staff a contender within the Jap Convention. In some ways, the New Orleans Pelicans have been spectacular regardless of having Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram a restricted quantity of video games due to accidents.

DW: For me, it’s been Denver, New Orleans and Memphis within the West and Boston, Brooklyn and Milwaukee within the East.

AG: It was simple to look barely askew at Denver within the preseason and ponder whether a staff relying on Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., two main contributors coming off main accidents, might win the West. However two-time MVP Nikola Jokic’s beautiful greatness has given his teammates time, and now Denver very a lot appears the a part of a contender. New Orleans and Memphis look legit. Seemingly sure for avert-your-eyes-level tanking, Utah and Indiana have as a substitute performed entertaining basketball. Boston has been the East’s wire-to-wire commonplace, however Brooklyn (18-2 in its final 20 video games) has for sure been the league’s finest at first digging oneself right into a gap after which climbing out in file time.

Which NBA groups have been disappointments?

BT: The Clippers, for certain. That they had been pegged as championship contenders due to a deep roster and having two of the perfect two-way gamers within the NBA in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

DW: Chicago and Toronto within the East, and Phoenix and Golden State within the West.

AG: Golden State’s 3-16 highway file is baffling contemplating the staff’s road-warrior popularity within the postseason underneath coach Steve Kerr. Minnesota’s massive wager on Rudy Gobert has but to repay. By far essentially the most sudden season, nevertheless, belongs to Toronto, the preseason darling that’s 17-23.

Will the Lakers make a transfer on the commerce deadline?

BT: The query for the Lakers is whether or not or not they’ll make a adequate deal to make them championship contenders. Groups need the Lakers’ two first-round picks, 2027 and 2029, and L.A. doesn’t appear to be thinking about giving up each.

DW: Whereas the Lakers may not discover the magical needle-moving deal they’re hoping to uncover, it appears nearly inconceivable to assume that they’ll do nothing. The staff had curiosity in Bojan Bogdanovic over the summer season and will definitely reevaluate him as one choice within the upcoming month.

Will the Clippers stand pat on the commerce deadline?

AG: Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank has been a serial deadline opportunist, making a commerce every of the final 5 seasons within the weeks, days or minutes earlier than the moratorium on trades arrives. But it isn’t solely that previous habits that means the Clippers will make a transfer — it’s additionally their ill-fitting roster building, with a pair of wings on new contracts barely enjoying in Robert Covington and Amir Coffey, and doubtless one too many guards for a playoff rotation.

BT: The Clippers have been recognized to strike offers earlier than the commerce deadline. Positive, they may use a backup heart, however perhaps it’s higher to maneuver a job participant or two so coach Tyronn Lue can have a set rotation.

DW: They by no means do — they’ve acquired a bunch of movable contracts, some fascinating younger gamers and a artistic entrance workplace. I’d wager on a commerce.