LeBron James was supposed to make the Los Angeles Lakers better. They even opened the season among the favorites to win the championship, priced at 12/1. However, they enter Tuesday night at 29-31, fresh off one of their ugliest losses of the season. BetDSI has posted a prop on whether the team will even make the playoffs and the odds are significantly shaded toward them missing it. Can James and company activate “playoff mode”, as he suggested over the weekend, or will the Lakers miss the postseason altogether?
Will The Los Angeles Lakers Make The Playoffs?
The Case For ‘Yes’
The case for the Lakers making the playoffs is based on the fact that the teams ahead of them aren’t that strong. The Los Angeles Clippers have overachieved but they are not as good a team as they were before the NBA trade deadline, the Sacramento Kings have overachieved but they’re still just an average outfit and the San Antonio Spurs are a mixed bag this year.
Starting with the Clippers, one would have to think they’re a worse team now because they traded away Tobias Harris to the Philadelphia 76ers, a move which was designed to give the Clippers more cap room and the ability to sign a super-max player this upcoming offseason in free agency. The Clippers are saving money and trying to position themselves to land at least one really big fish, maybe two, in the free-agent frenzy to come. A James-led Lakers team should finish ahead of a Clippers team that’s trying to tank, right?
Then consider the Kings. This is a very talented team which has exceeded expectations so far this season. Buddy Hield has come into his own as an NBA player, markedly improving over last season. De’Aaron Fox is making the grade as a lightning-fast NBA point guard. He, like the Kings, is creating cause for optimism. Yet, this is a young team which has never before experienced a true playoff push. They have a lot of nice pieces but no superstar to put the team on his back.
As for the Spurs, they’ve been a mess lately. They’ve dropped seven of their last eight games with the lone win being a one-point victory at Memphis.
The Lakers could (and should) realistically move past one of these teams. Many people have counted out James in the past with teams that had less talent.
The Case For ‘No’
The case for the Lakers and LeBron missing the playoffs is not a hard one to make: the team chemistry is a mess. James was busted in a situation on Monday where it looked like he gave up on defense. The video went viral on Twitter. We’re talking about a player who was considered one of the top wing defenders in the league, who essentially gave up on the play. It didn’t help that after the game, he seemingly again called out teammates — albeit the message was cryptic.
The Lakers had a budding roster full of up-and-comers before James arrived and he hasn’t made them better. It also seems like the young cast is unhappy that James and the front office tried to trade a bunch of them away at the trade deadline for Anthony Davis.
Beyond the possible locker room friction is the fact that this team struggles in a number of key areas. Is the talent there? Yes. However, they are ranked 23rd in points per game allowed (113.5) and 26th when they’re on the road (116.4). Over the last 15 games, this team is 27th in terms of defense. On offense, only the lowly Atlanta Hawks (18.2) commit more turnovers per game than the Lakers (16.1). Los Angeles committed 17 in the loss at Memphis on Monday.
And while everyone wants to point out that the struggles are recent, they’re not. This team started out 18-11 and has just 11 wins in their last 31 games. That .355 win percentage in that span makes them one of the worst teams in the NBA.
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