Los Angeles Lakers: Could LA miss the playoffs, or am I just a hater?

NBA Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
NBA Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The Vegas odds of the Los Angeles Lakers missing the playoffs rose after the DeMarcus Cousins injury, but do the oddsmakers know something we don’t?

Before we start digging into this, let’s just go over what we know. As the dust settled after free agency, the Western Conference appeared to be as stacked as we’ve ever seen it; the only two teams without a reasonable shot to make the playoffs are the Phoenix Suns and the Memphis Grizzlies, with the Minnesota Timberwolves not far behind.

That leaves 12 teams competing for eight playoff spots. Of those 12, seven had a reasonable claim as elite, title contenders, also unprecedented: The Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Denver NuggetsUtah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Lakers. That leaves one spot for the San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, and Oklahoma City Thunder to fight over.

At this point DeMarcus Cousins is still healthy, it looks like Iguodala is on the way, and the Vegas odds of the Lakers missing the playoffs was +550 (meaning you’d win $550 for every one hundred you bet that they don’t make the cut).

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As of this morning –  Saturday, August 24th – that line has been adjusted to a +240, which of course begs the question: does losing an already hobbled Boogie Cousins really drop your odds of winning enough games to make the playoffs by -310?

Or, are the odd-makers (who historically know things we the public don’t) aware of some deeper dysfunction surrounding this team that may cost them 5-6 games which could prove to be the crucial difference come April?

Now for a bit of a disclaimer: yes, I hate the Lakers. Growing up in Chicago and attending Bulls games, there was nothing so awful as showing up and seeing a sea of Kobe jerseys in your own building, sported by sunglasses-indoors wearing loud-mouthed frat boys of America. Their fanbase has the audacity to think Kobe could even sniff Jordan’s jockstrap. They get the most media coverage (guilty), they’re organization is synonymous with nepotism and just banking on stars wanting to play in Hollywood where it’s always warm and everyone is allegedly beautiful, and I’m just bitter.

Chicago’s cold, and we tend to be kind of fat. Not only that, but they embody this California “speak it into existence” fantasy mindset which this last June took the form of “Everyone Just Yell About How Kawhi is Coming, Deny Reality, and So It Will Be,” which I admit was truly satisfying to watch explode in their faces.

Still, I’m embarrassed I didn’t trust my hater instincts right away and bet against them early, because that 5.5-to-1 payout was a rare juicy cut, and not because I particularly thought it was LIKELY the Lakers would fall short. The bet really rests on the POSSIBILITY.

Back to what we know: The Clippers and Jazz are stacked, the Rockets and Blazers are locks, I’ll be damned if the Warriors aren’t still decimating teams with Steph running solo, and it would be pretty bizarre if the Spurs missed the playoffs for the first time in 23 years in what may be one of Pop’s final seasons. If I had to guess, the Lakers will show up somewhere between the 3 and 6 seed. But those guesses are predicated on the health of two guys whose health I’m not in the business of betting on.

I feel bad for AD, given all his injury struggles, and I want to believe that basically 12 months of rest will have him fresh for the long haul this year. However, it could also have his muscles out of game shape, and unused to the level of force 82 games, plus playoffs demands. But let’s just be positive for a minute and assume he’ll be good.

Let’s talk LeBron. No reasonable person has him less than No. 3 all-time, and most have him No. 2 or No. 1. (Since you asked so politely, my top-5 goes Jordan, LeBron, Magic, Kareem, Russell). But beyond his freakish athleticism, basketball IQ, playmaking ability, and dexterity for a man of his weight/size, one of if not the very most awe-inspiring things about LeBron has been his durability. The man is a 2002 Honda Accord, and he’s single-handedly breaking the mold for how effective a player can be after their Year-15 season.

But…last year we saw the first signs of Mr. Undefeated, Father Time, showing his face. LeBron missed almost 30 games, mostly due to a hamstring injury that he thought was only going to keep him out a week, but in the month he was gone his Lakers completely lost their grip on a playoff berth, slipping from 4th to 10th.

So sure, LeBron has had rest, he’s been putting on shows at his kid’s game (which is awesome, by the way. LeBron is definitely the GOAT based on off-the-court standards, truly an exceptional human being), but are we really going to say we think he plays in 75+ games?

LeBron and AD are both players that will require some nights off here and there to keep themselves healthy, especially if they’re eye-balling championship or bust. That’s exactly what could come around and hurt them, though.

With this deep a talent pool, it’s going to be like a magnified version of last year where only two or three games in the standings separate the 6 seed from the 1, and the supporting cast around those two isn’t exactly a stunning crew of vets and shooters like they’d hoped. Do you really trust Dwight Howard to anchor your team to victory 12 nights out of a season where your conference is an absolute bloodbath?

My point, with all of these, is that OF COURSE, I would never root for a player to get injured, but with such a slim margin of error that neither of your best two players can really afford to sit even a week, let alone two or more, to bet that both guys are healthy the whole year is kind of just… stupid.

Next. New Orleans Pelicans: Jrue Holiday is the most underrated player in the NBA. dark

The whole thing is predicated on the fact that the Kings were actually good last year, and should be better, the Pelicans look absolutely loaded, the Spurs have been making the playoffs longer than Grey’s Anatomy has been on the air, the Thunder aren’t as depleted as everyone seems to think, and the Mavericks have two legit stars that may end up complementing each other well enough to win 45+ games…Keyword “may”. What if Karl-Anthony Towns starts finally dominating? There are just too many x-factors and, frankly, too much money at stake.