Los Angeles dreams of playoffs



The Los Angeles Lakers’ vintage NBA poster.

George Elias, Staff member

When it was announced that LeBron James would take his talent to the West Coast, that was a big day for Lakers’ fans.

He agreed on a four year deal worth $153 million dollars — while everyone thought they hit the jackpot. The Lakers have had a history of being brought up in conversations about the all time greats, with names like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant to name a few.

They have not made the playoffs since 2013, when they were knocked out in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs, having played with a Kobe Bryant-less Lakers team due to a ruptured achilles earlier in the season against, you guessed it, the Golden State Warriors — signing LeBron gave hope for their five year playoff drought coming to an end.

The Lakers 2018 offseason consisted of signing veterans to support a young core — players like Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and bringing back shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — all were one year deals to keep the cap space limited for 2019’s highly coveted free agent market.

Fast forward to Feb. 28, 2019, questions about the Lakers ability to make it all the way to playoffs began to pop up. They are currently in a tough Western Conference sitting at tenth place behind the Kings and Clippers, with three games below the final spot. According to the Basketball Power Index, the Lakers have a 3 percent chance of actually making it to the playoffs and are 4-7 in their last 11 games. King James has never knelt this far down in the playoff picture since his second NBA season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, when he went 25-of-30. LeBron currently holds one of the greatest ongoing streaks for taking a team to the finals every season, since 2011.

Even LeBron’s performance and physicality has been shown to have dropped over the last decade — as the Lakers’ roster was hit with the injury bug all season. Health-wise, LeBron has not looked good in the wake of his groin injury suffered once again, from Golden State back on Christmas Day. His lack of explosiveness to the rim is evident and while he remains a defensive liability, teams take advantage of that when the Lakers play him at the center position. When starting point guard Lonzo Ball comes back from his own ankle injury, he could bring some defensive intensity they have been lacking.

The recent Anthony Davis trade drama has also not sat well with the Lakers young core — after their names were connected to a potential trade for the all-star power-forward, the uncertainty of their future in LA had them playing in fear of getting sent to another team. Post all-star break and since the trade deadline, they have not improved defensively. They added Reggie Bullock from the Detroit Pistons and Mike Muscala from their rival the Los Angeles Clippers, after failing to reach an agreement with the Pelicans for Davis. With the Lakers losing win-able games against teams not even close to the playoff race, this makes for a questionable post-season.

There are 21 games to go and whether LeBron will lead the team remains to be seen. The offseason however, will serve as a lure for free agents —  because the Lakers reportedly will have two max salary slots to pair up with LeBron’s contract.