ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes an annual “Crazy Predictions for the NBA Season” piece, and this year sees the Portland Trail Blazers, along with the Washington Wizards, imploding:
The implosions would come after the season; I have both these teams in the playoffs, though Portland’s spot (see below) is contingent on the Wolves trading Butler.
At some point, expensive 45- to 50-win teams that bump against the same second-round ceiling tend to break up. The results don’t justify the salary outlay. Relationships fray, or grow stale. People get bored.
Implosion here doesn’t necessarily mean dismantling. It means that at least one central figure -- player, coach, general manager -- won’t be around when the next season starts.
After breaking down Washington’s challenges, Lowe turns his attention to Portland and, while he acknowledges that the likelihood of a Lillard trade is a reach,he still considers the possibility.:
The most enticing mega-trade on the board not involving Anthony Davis: Lillard to the Lakers for a package centered around Lonzo Ball. Lillard is a perfect fit next to LeBron, and LeBron respects Lillard’s game, per sources familiar with the matter. The Lakers could absorb Lillard into cap space this summer without sending out giant matching salaries -- salaries they don’t have on the books.
That feels like a reach now. Lillard loves Portland. The Lakers are optimistic about how their young players will mesh with LeBron, and they should be. Unless a deal for Davis falls into their lap during the season, I’d expect (bonus prediction!) the Lakers to hold their cards into the summer.
But that is just one fake Portland-centric trade -- one endgame. This could be a pivotal season for the Blazers.
Other crazy predictions include the Milwaukee Bucks finishing ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers, Kevin Durant signing with the Knicks, and Terry Rozier winning Sixth Man of the Year.