The LA Lakers have had an underwhelming season. This is sad, considering they were once one of the most promising franchises in the NBA and the 2022 champions. Currently 11th in the Western Conference, the team’s odds of making it to the playoffs are in question. The team made a well-timed decision to lose Russel Westbrook and sign D’Angelo Russell at the trade deadline. But, this strategy alone has not been enough to push them to the playoffs. And with all the Western Conference teams bringing their A-game to every match, it remains to be seen whether the Lakers can salvage the season.
Western Conference Rankings
As of their most recent match, the Lakers are 11th in the Western Conference standings and 31-34. To recap, the first six teams in a conference secure an automatic spot in the playoffs, and teams 7 to ten have to battle it out in a play-in tournament to cinch the last two spots. The Lakers are currently 11th, which means they will not make it to the postseason if they do not, at the very least, move up a spot.
The Lakers need to make it to 10th place to enter the play-in tournament and at least 8th place to see the playoffs. Pundits are still torn over the odds of this, but the Lakers seem to be putting in the work. By the end of February, the team was in 13th place in the Western Conference – a very dark place to be.
LeBron James Injury
One thing that might work against the Lakers this season is losing not one but two star players so close to the postseason. LeBron James has missed the last three games due to a tendon injury in his right foot. Without James, who also sat out of some games at the beginning of the season, the Lakers are 6-10.
Most of this success is thanks to Davis, who picked up the slack when James rode the bench early in the season. Unfortunately, Davis sat out two months following an injury from which he is now only recovering. Making it to the playoffs without James might require the effort of the rebounding Davis and newly acquired Russel. However, Russell recently sprained his right ankle and might sit out a few games.
This leaves the Lakers in a precarious situation. Experts are looking to head coach Darvin Ham to spruce up the team with younger, healthier players who can keep the team running when players like Davis and James get injured. This should be easy to do with the 2023 March Madness tournament already underway. Since the NCAA event takes place just three months before the NBA draft, Ham can focus on spotting young talent even as punters scramble for a winning march madness betting strategy this year.
Meanwhile, the Lakers need to perfect their streak and win more games than they lose. With James on the bench, the team lost 110-102 to the Timberwolves on Friday – a loss they could not afford. Fortunately, they made it up with a 113-105 win against the Warriors on Sunday, which put them at 30-33 and gave them some room for error.
Going into the week, the Lakers are half a match from the 9th seed and the play-ins. They face the Grizzlies on Tuesday and the Raptors and Knicks later in the week. If they win these games and their home game versus the Mavericks, they should be on their way to the playoffs.
According to FiveThirtyEight, there is only a 2 percent chance that the Lakers will win the season. However, their odds of making it to the playoffs are currently 48 percent. The team’s previous 13th position made their chances at the play-ins very dim, but their percent move to 11th place is hopeful. It is up to the remaining players now how they handle the next several games.