Can the Los Angeles Lakers make the NBA Playoffs this season?
The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons so far. If they miss the playoffs this year, it will be their fourth year outside. Just for info, the Lakers have never missed the playoffs three seasons in a row before. Last year, they made it to franchise history as the first time they missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.
Naturally, the people asked last year can the Lakers make the playoffs before the season started. Kobe Bryant’s legacy was on the line, but he couldn’t do much. The Lakers lacked talent, and they did not have a good coach. Now, with Luke Walton on the bench, it seems like they have everything they need to answer the question Can the Los Angeles Lakers make the NBA Playoffs this season positively.
What the numbers say?
Can the Lakers make the NBA Playoffs?
The Lakers have a losing record to start the year. But they still have a much better record than what they had in any of the previous three seasons. Their projected win/loss percentage is close to 40%. That would not be enough in any other year. But this year, things are different. So, can the Lakers make the playoffs with a losing record?
It is certainly possible. Their defense is still atrocious, as they rank 27th in defensive rating in the league. Last year, they were 29th, only before the Philadelphia 76ers. But their offensive rating has seen a bump. We could expect as much with the addition of Walton. After all, he was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, arguably the best offensive team at the moment. The Lakers have also improved their pace of the game, playing more of an up-tempo basketball. And for young teams, getting more possessions is crucial in this modern era of the NBA.
The Los Angeles Lakers Roster
The Lakers signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov this off season. For a fan base that expected A-list free agents like Kevin Durant, those two were seen as a disappointment. But Deng has had one of the biggest impacts on the Lakers aside from Luke Walton. The seasoned veteran is one of the best professionals in the league, and he brings it night in and night out. His numbers do not pop, but he gives coach Walton more than 20 consecutive minutes of veteran presence on the floor, and countless off the floor. Mozgov has also been good so far for the Lakers. And rookie Brandon Ingram has been good so far. He is not spectacular as you would expect from a No.2 pick, but he is good. The Lakers are taking the steady approach with him.
But the biggest difference is the play of the second-year player D’Angelo Russell and third-year player Julius Randle. Russell is now free of the Kobe Bryant shadow, and he finally has a chance to shine. Playing close to 30 minutes per game, Russell has improved his numbers in every single aspect. With him playing better, can the Lakers make the playoffs is a question easier to answer? And it is not just him. The Lakers now have a steady and good rotation at guard play. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams know exactly what their role is. Williams is best served as the sixth man, and Clarkson is more and more comfortable as a starting combo guard.
Lakers vs. Warriors Highlights 11/04/16 – Can the Lakers make the NBA Playoffs?
The upper class in the Western Conference hasn’t changed in the past few years. The teams to beat are still the usual suspects: Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, and Rockets. But the bottom four teams have gone through a slight change. The Lakers are just outside the bottom four teams in the West. That leaves them in competition for the last two spots with teams like the Portland
Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, and Sacramento Kings. Aside from the Lakers, those were the teams fighting for the last spots in the West last year as well. The Mavs were also there, and they made it, along with the Blazers and Memphis.
The Portland Trail Blazers were expected to be better this year, but it looks like the team has taken a step back. Similar as with the Lakers, defense has been a huge issue for the Blazers this year. They are dead last in defensive rating, allowing more than 110 points per 100 possessions. And it seems like they have problems closing out games. The Blazers have lost few games this season, despite leading up to the fourth quarter.
The Utah Jazz is one of the safest bets in the West to make the playoffs this year. Same as the Lakers, they haven’t made it into the top 8 for a while. But the Jazz has a winning record, and they are playing much better this year. Their young core has finally come together, and with few seasoned veterans, the Jazz is reaping the benefits of patience. The Lakers hope to get to the same place, but Los Angeles is less patient.
The Denver Nuggets are another team that hasn’t made the playoffs in a while. To be fair, the Nuggets went through a Carmelo Anthony trade, and then some injuries to key players. But they are fighting, and until the season is over, they have a fighting chance. One team in the West will probably make the playoffs with a losing record this year, and few teams can be in that position, the Lakers included.
Last, but not least, are the Sacramento Kings. They are the most unstable team out of the mentioned. They can go on a three-game winning streak, and then lose five games in a row. They are not playing constantly good, and a Demarcus Cousins looms. If they trade Cousins during the season, they will fall out of competition.
How high can they go?
Lakers vs Thunder Full Highlights | November 22, 2016 Can the Lakers make the NBA Playoffs?
The Lakers can probably make the playoffs with a losing record at the end of the year. But they will have even better chances of making the playoffs with a winning record. So, the question now is not can the Lakers make the NBA playoffs, but how high can they go. Realistically, at the beginning of the season, the sixth spot was not out of the question. But with a losing record, they cannot hope for anything higher than the 8th place. The highest they can go is probably 7th seed in the West.
You can check out our Lakers Ticket pricing guide to see how much tickets cost versus each team.