The Crossover welcomes ESPN’s Zach Lowe to discuss trends at the NBA’s mathematical midpoint, including the sudden explosion of high-scoring individual games, capped by Donovan Mitchell’s 71-point outing. They also reflect on what they got wrong in the preseason, debate the merits of a Lakers trade and ponder the benefits of a midseason tournament. Plus: If you could go back in time and save one team from its worst offseason blunder, what would it be?
beck: I mentioned we’re at the mathematical midpoint. Just kind of looking back … we all make our silly preseason predictions and prognostications and rankings and things. And I was looking back at some of mine. I think the one that made me cringe the most was I had Rudy Gobert as my preseason defensive player of the year. Um, probably not gonna happen.
Lowe: I mean, that race is wide open.
beck: I still feel OK about Clips over Bucks in the Finals, though there’s like 17 possible Finals iterations at least. And that one, you know, we’ll see.
Anything that you firmly believed about a team, a race, a player, a situation before the season that at midseason you’re going, like, I may have been a little off?
Lowe: I was dramatically wrong about the Toronto Raptors. I thought the Raptors were gonna be good. Whatever their over/under was—I can’t remember what it was—I was like over, over, over. Um, they’re 4–10pm. Every possession is a slog, and they’re starting a home stand now that is gonna make or break their season. And they started it with an almost-miraculous-comeback-win-but-loss to Milwaukee last night in another game where their offense was horrible.
Their defense hasn’t been as good as I expected it to be. And you’re starting to feel the downsides of the kind of style that they’ve chosen of just all length, all size, all versatility. Well, you know, guards are good, shooting is good, and they don’t have enough of those things. Centers are good. Those downsides have come to roost. So that’s the one I was by far the most kind of wrong about. …
I was probably a little too low on Portland, but they’re just one game over 500. It’s not like they’re blowing the doors off people. And I guess, you know, for all the opposition I had to the Gobert trade, I still thought the Timberwolves would be a good regular season team. To date, they have been a not good regular season team. And … Utah’s the obvious one we were all wrong about, but those are the ones that stand out.
beck: I had on my quick hit list just underestimating Utah, Portland and Indiana. All those teams have been really fun and competitive. And yeah, within reason, like they’re not, you know, none of these teams are winning a playoff series. But those have been fun to see us be wrong about.
I thought the Grizzlies would struggle to replicate their success of last season. And that wasn’t so much judgment about them. It was more about the depth of the Western Conference and, you know, guys coming back in Denver and the Clippers and all. I just thought that the situation would make it tougher. …
Lowe: Well, and Jaren Jackson Jr. starting the season injured. I thought their downside was potential “uh-oh, we gotta avoid the play-in” … and they are really, really good, man. The Grizzlies are really good.
beck: They’re tied for first in the West as we record this.
Lowe: I’ve said this before … that’s a team, they hold their assets near and dear; they play for the big fish. If I’m them, if I can trade one little asset, one pick and one young player or something for like a medium-sized fish that can be my fifth-to-eighth best player, but is a proven veteran with a skillset that helps me, I think that team is good enough to do it now. Like I think they should go for it now.