The Los Angeles Lakers are in more trouble than they realize heading into the playoff push.
The injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis may have the Los Angeles Lakers in more trouble than we know. After barely managing to defeat a bad Orlando Magic team, how long will the Lakers be able to hold up without them?
James’ is expected to be out until at least late April and there’s been minimal update on AD’s return. The addition of Andre Drummond will help, but every contender in the West got stronger at the trade deadline. The Lakers sitting only five games from the eighth seed, and they may be fighting for their season in May.
The Lakers are unlikely to miss the playoffs due to the lower half of the Western Conference being weaker than it has in years. As of right now they sit a game above the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers.
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After the acquisition of Aaron Gordon, the Nuggets have turned into the most intriguing team in the West. The quadrant of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gordon, and MIP candidate Michael Porter Jr. gives Denver a very potent offense with a variety of ways to attack. Portland made a contending move, swapping Gary Trent Jr. out for sharpshooter Norman Powell. The Trail Blazers also received Jusuf Nurkic back from injury, and C.J. McCollum is quickly returning to form.
Both of those team should finish above Los Angeles, which leaves them fighting for three playoff spots with five teams. Of the four, the Dallas Mavericks are very likely to snag one of those spots. Luka Doncic is enjoying a MVP-caliber campaign, and if Kristaps Porzingis can remain healthy, they will scare someone in first round again.
That would leave only the seventh and eighth seeds available, which the Lakers would be competing with the Gregg Popovich-led San Antonio Spurs, the scrappy Memphis Grizzlies, and old guard of the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors.
The Spurs have somewhat entered a rebuilding process, but they’re still competitive with DeMar DeRozan leading the charge. The Memphis Grizzlies will never be an easy out with Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas. The Warriors are the wild card. Stephen Curry’s injury gave Golden State’s supporting cast room to grow, and his return will keep them in the playoff race, and possibly help them rise in the Western Conference standings.
You never know with the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans sniffing around either.
A bottom-seeded finish will likely set up a matchup with the Utah Jazz or the Phoenix Suns. Neither will be ideal for the returning James and Davis, but the timing of their injuries have put the Lakers in a bind. Dennis Schroader, Kyle Kuzma, Montrez Harrell, and Andre Drummond should be able to put the Lakers in a position to defend their championship, but they will have tough time getting there.
In the event they do, we know who’s waiting on the other side. A stacked Brooklyn Nets team. The Lakers have their work cut out for them heading into the playoffs, and that’s under the assumption that they will be healthy.