Los Angeles Lakers: Barkley is right, Blazers can beat LA

(Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers /

Could the Trail Blazers be a real threat to the Los Angeles Lakers?

“If the Portland Trail Blazers get in the playoffs, they will beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round,” exclaimed Charles Barkley on July 16, 2020.

Damian Lillard said it first. He said the Blazers have a legit shot. Charles Barkley took it a step further and proclaimed the Blazers would beat the Lakers.

They both have a point. Forget the Blazers’ record, they were shorthanded all season long. Now they are at full strength.

Disregard concerns about chemistry with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins returning to the Blazers lineup, chemistry is going to be a problem for every team with all squads having gone without playing in months.

After a long layoff, shooting always comes back to players first; defensive timing and rotations come last. Portland will quickly shake off the rust because Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony, and CJ McCollum are great individual scorers, combining for 66.7 points per game this year.

The trio will be one step ahead of the Lakers defense for a game or two. This does not give the Lakers a comfortable margin for error, especially with Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo out.

Danny Green and Alex Caruso both rank in the top 10 in defensive real plus/minus among shooting guards. Both would theoretically be excellent options to guard Lillard or McCollum with their length and athleticism, but Dame and CJ’s offense is just better than their defense.

I see both Green and Caruso as better wing defenders. Losing Bradley really hurts their ability to guard Portland consistently. Bradley is their best on-ball defender on point guards. Green is much better when guarding wings.