Oddsmakers Expecting Lakers, LeBron to Miss the Playoffs
The last time LeBron James didn’t qualify for the NBA Playoffs the top movie at the box office was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the top song in the country was “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey and Steve Nash was about to win his first of two MVP awards.
Plenty has changed since 2005, but James might be feeling déjà vu as his Los Angeles Lakers head down the stretch of the 2019 regular season on the outside of the playoff race looking in.
After another embarrassing loss on Monday, this one to the lowly Memphis Grizzlies, James’ Lakers now sit at 30-31, 10th in the Western Conference and three full games out of the final playoff spot with six weeks to play.
James' Christmas Injury Started Downward Spiral
It’s quite the opposite of where they were on Christmas Day, when the Lakers were finishing off the Warriors to move to 20-14, good for fourth in the West and just 2.5 games behind Golden State and Denver for the top seed.
But the groin injury James suffered in that game sent the Lakers into a tailspin. They went 6-12 in the five weeks James missed, and even with him back in the lineup they’ve gone just 3-6 to find themselves in real trouble.
It begs the question with just 22 games remaining: Will James and the Lakers qualify for the postseason?
Oddmakers have serious doubts, and for good reason. FanDuel in New Jersey released odds on the Lakers making the playoffs, and it’s -270 that they’ll miss out and +165 that they’ll sneak in.
It’s not just that they’re three games behind the Spurs. It’s the fact that they’re tied for 10th and will need to jump three teams to get in. We’ll assume that the Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder, Blazers, Rockets and Jazz are all safely in.
Here’s how the Nos. 7 through 11 teams stand in the West.
- 7. LA Clippers (34-28)
- 8. San Antonio Spurs (33-29)
- 9. Sacramento Kings (31-29)
- T10. Minnesota Timberwolves (29-31)
- T10. Los Angeles Lakers (29-31)
Of those teams, only the Timberwolves have a more difficult schedule the rest of the way than the Lakers.
Los Angeles still has two games against Milwaukee and one against Toronto, Golden State, Denver and Oklahoma City, giving them the eighth toughest remaining schedule in the NBA. The Spurs are 17th, the Clippers are 21st and the Kings are 27th.
San Antonio just finished up their annual Rodeo Trip with an abysmal 1-7 record, the Clippers are just 6-6 in their last 12 and the Kings have lost three of their last four. And still the Lakers haven’t been able to capitalize.
Los Angeles Left with Mountain to Climb
James said he was activating Playoff Mode coming out of the All-Star break and began with an impressive come-from-behind victory over the Rockets at home. But the Lakers then followed that up with a loss to the tanking New Orleans Pelicans and the Grizzlies on Monday.
Even if the Lakers had an easy schedule, this is a team that also lost to the Hawks earlier this month and Cleveland back in January. They’re struggling everywhere.
It’s silly to count out James, but the young Lakers simply don’t have it this season. Whether it’s trying to acclimate to James or the distraction of the Anthony Davis rumors, the playoffs are a longshot at best for this group. Basketball Reference gives the Lakers just a 2.9 percent chance of making the postseason.
That seems a bit low given James’ ability to carry a team, but the Clippers are playing well, the Kings have been competitive despite their recent struggles and the Spurs should turn things around like they always do under Gregg Popovich.
It’s tough to see the Lakers jumping two of those teams – plus the Timberwolves – and making the postseason.
We like the Lakers’ odds at -270 to miss the postseason. James’ groin injury derailed what could have been an intriguing run for this young group but they’ll have to try again next season, potentially with Anthony Davis in the fold.
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