Kobe Bryant says his Los Angeles Lakers can make the playoffs this year. The basketball odds suggest otherwise. Are the Lakers two years away from being two years away?
Never in the history of basketball have the Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs three years in a row. But there's a first time for everything, and this year, it appears the Lakers are going to make some history. They're a distant ninth on Bovada's Western Conference futures market at +5000, miles behind the No. 8 Dallas Mavericks on the NBA odds list at +2800.
Kobe Bryant begs to differ. He expects Los Angeles to compete for a playoff spot this year; in a phone interview he gave Yahoo Sports on Tuesday, Bryant said the Lakers “absolutely” can make it into the postseason – not that they absolutely will, as some media establishments are reporting it. Technically, Bryant is correct. But really, does this franchise belong in our NBA picks? And if not, how long before the Lakers get back on their feet?
Let's start with the first question: No, not yet at least. There have been times over the past couple of seasons when the Lakers have been profitable, mostly when Bryant (17.6 PER, +0.3 BPM last year) has been injured and expectations are low. Bryant will be making his return this season from a torn rotator cuff; he says he's still working to add strength to his upper body, but even if Bryant's at full health, he's well past his prime at age 36, and highly unlikely to meet the expectations of a market that still bleeds Purple and Gold.
This year's unimpressive batch of offseason trades and free-agent signings doesn't bode well for L.A.'s chances, either. The Lakers weren't able to lure any of the big names, not even Kevin Love, a Santa Monica native who starred at UCLA before turning pro. They did swing a trade with the Indiana Pacers for center Roy Hibbert (15.4 PER, –1.0 BPM), and inked a pair of deals with PF Brandon Bass (16.3 PER, –0.5 BPM) and SG Lou Williams (19.9 PER, +0.9 BPM). But the Lakers also cut bait on center Jordan Hill (16.2 PER, –2.6 BPM), PF Ed Davis (20.0 PER, +3.0 BPM) and PG Jeremy Lin (15.6 PER, –0.8 BPM). That's not going to move the needle in the West.
If the Lakers are no longer a glamour free-agent destination now that Dr. Jerry Buss has joined the choir invisible, their best hope lies beyond the short term. Last year's 21-61 performance (36-41-5 ATS) allowed L.A. to draft Ohio State PG D'Angelo Russell at No. 2 overall; he'll combine with 2014's first-round pick, PF Julius Randle (No. 7 overall), to give the Lakers two potential franchise cornerstones moving forward. Since Randle missed almost all of last season with a broken leg, we'll give them both the requisite three years to develop into star players. Bryant should be long gone by then – except for his statue in front of Staples Center, that is.