The Los Angeles Lakers tank rolled to a loss to begin the week to the Washington Wizards, hit a pothole with a double overtime victory over the Bulls, then recovered to fall against the Knicks to reach a 1-2 mark since the last time we checked in.
On to the awards:
Tank Play of the Week
Can the Tank Play of the Week be in a game the Lakers ultimately win? I decided the answer was ultimately no, otherwise the Lakers epic collapse at the end of the Bulls game certainly would have qualified. To recap, Jordan Clarkson turned the ball over:
Followed by a Pau Gasol tip in:
And finally, Jordan Hill missing his go ahead hook attempt:
However, the Lakers somehow managed to survive that comedy of errors and sneak out of Staples Center with a victory, so the TPOTW must be bestowed elsewhere. The Lakers were never truly in the game against the Knicks, but they had some momentum going in the second quarter before Jeremy Lin decided to give this lucky fan a souvenir:
This one turnover was not particularly hurtful, but on a day when Lin struggled with turnovers it epitomized a truly ugly game of NBA basketball that the Lakers lost, and thus is good enough to earn Lin Tank Play of the Week "Honors".
Wesley Johnson- A promotion this week from Lieutenant to Commander for Wes, who earned the bump through sustained badness over a week long period with averages of 8 points on 9.3 shots with 4.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 2 turnovers, 28.6% shooting on three pointers and 66.7% on free throws. That is a truly special level of horrible, but Johnson could have secured this solely for his clutch tanking effort in the absolute must lose game to the Knicks on Sunday. On offense, Johnson scored 11 points on 4-12 shooting with 1 assist, and 3 turnovers as he used up repeated possessions in isolations so fruitless they could apply for humanitarian aid. On defense, Johnson was routinely torched by Carmelo Anthony on his way to 31 points, some of which were scored against other defenders, but he Melo really got going in the second quarter while being defended by Johnson, allegedly a defensive specialist.
With all of these "contributions", Wesley was able to take command of the tank and lead it for the week. Congratulations?
Derrick Rose earns an honorable mention here for his play against the Lakers (17 points, 7-26 shooting, 6 assists, and 5 turnovers) being a major factor in their unexpected double-overtime victory over the Bulls. When your team is ever better off with Aaron Brooks in 2015, things are pretty bad.
However, a more dangerous mine in the road looms for the motley crew of the purple and gold tank than a single bad game from Derrick Rose, the Lakers remaining schedule. Take a look:
According to the very handy PlayoffStatus.com, the Lakers have the easiest remaining slate of opponents by winning percentage in the Western Conference, with their remaining opposition holding an average 47 percent winning percentage. Winning 47 percent of one's games may seem like a juggernaut compared to LA's 27 percent pace, but every edge matters. One of the teams that the Lakers' tank is racing to the bottom, the Timberwolves, have the second-most difficult remaining schedule of Western Conference teams. However, there is still reason to hope when looking at their Eastern Conference Tank Rank brethren:
The Celtics, Knicks, and Sixers all face slightly easier schedules to end the year than the Lakers do, but they also have played significantly easier schedules than the Lakers to this point, 50-51 winning percentage against the Lakers 55 percent opponents winning percentage so far. This means that the Lakers have won barely more than the Celtics, and slightly more than the Knicks and Sixers while facing a more difficult schedule. This math leaves open the possibility of more wins for the Lakers on the back half of their schedule than the front half allowed, thus putting the tank in grave danger.
An argument can also be made that today's Lakers team is worse than the one that played the first half of the season, which is fair. If the front office casts off a few pieces (*cough* Jordan Hill *cough*) for future assets before the trade deadline, this schedule related danger can be mitigated, but the road the tank travels on his rife with dangerous and unexpected victory opportunities, and it must tread carefully or be derailed.
Ricky Rubio: Minnesota may have a more difficult schedule to close the year then they have faced so far, but they are about to welcome Ricky Rubio back from injury.
Rubio has demonstrated phenomenal passing ability paired with defensive disruptiveness in his young career, and in spite of his awful shooting could improve the Timberwolves quite a bit just by virtue of being an NBA player. Minnesota is not going to all of a sudden start winning games at an even average clip, but a healthy Rubio should allow them to win at a higher pace than they have managed so far. Welcome to the front lines of the Tank Wars Ricky!
A look at the bottom-five teams, the odds of the Lakers' keeping their pick, and a weekly sim. Courtesy of Tankathon.
Bonus! Tank Target:
If the Lakers manage to lose enough to hold on to their draft pick, Kobe Bryant may have picked out a target for their tank that would be in the top 5 range of the draft if this article from Sean Deveney of the Sporting News is to be believed:
If there is some good to come out of the rotator cuff injury that sidelined Kobe Bryant for the remainder of the season, it is that the Lakers could lose a whole lot of games the rest of the way and finally be in position to draft a Kobe guy-this time, Arizona's Stanley Johnson.
Several times in recent years, Bryant has formed a connection with a top prospect in the upcoming draft, with an introduction and the possibility of workouts and friendship. Those players wind up signing with Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka.
Such was the case with Dante Exum last year, Derrick Williams in 2011 and James Harden in 2009.
But the Lakers could, finally, wind up with a Kobe draftee. According to league sources, Pelinka is in position to sign the fast-rising Johnson, should Johnson do the inevitable and leave school early. As Arizona has pushed its way up the rankings-they're 18-2 and currently No. 6-Johnson's stock has soared.
All of this is still obviously speculation, but with Stanley Johnson looking more impressive by the game it is an exciting possibility. Not to mention, as a local prospect out of Orange County's own Mater Dei High school with a nickname like "Showtime", Johnson could be a perfect fit for a Lakers franchise looking for not only depth on the wing, but marketable star power as well for it's post Bryant future.
Is Johnson a fit for the Lakers? Have any suggestions for column categories? Let us know in the comments and it could make it into a future edition of TANK WATCH.