Featured in this article:
- How will LA Lakers finish the season?
- How many total regular season wins will LA Lakers get?
Rumors are that LeBron James could return from a long injury absence sooner rather than later, but it’s probably too late for a Top-4 seed in the West.
The Los Angeles Lakers recently got one Top-10 NBA player back from a long injury absence in Anthony Davis, but as good as Davis might be he’s not on the level of teammate and four-time league MVP LeBron James.
LeBron hasn’t played basketball since March 20 due to a high ankle sprain, but he could return soon. The Lakers may need the King to do so in order to avoid the Western Conference play-in tournament. fla That Los Angeles finishes in the Top 6 of the West to avoid that event is a -600 favorite, with a final spot outside the Top 6 at +350.
The play-in tournament is likely here to stay because it prevents a bigger chunk of teams from tanking, which makes owners and the NBA’s TV partners happy.
It doesn’t prevent the utterly terrible teams this season from tanking — like the Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers in the East or the Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder in the West – but essentially everyone else.
As of this writing, there are 24 teams competing for a spot in the postseason, which is the highest the league has had in history at this point in the schedule games-wise.
The play-in tournament instituted last summer in the Orlando bubble because the NBA owners were hoping Zion Williamson, a mega-TV draw, and the New Orleans Pelicans would earn their way into the Western Conference playoffs. They didn’t, but the play-in tournament did bring a lot more drama.
Here’s how it works: The winner of a game between the teams sitting seventh and eighth in each conference would earn the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The loser of that game would host the winner of a game between the teams featuring the No. 9 and 10 seeds, and then the winner there would clinch the eighth and final playoff spot.
After a very long regular season, the last thing any players want to do is play an extra game or two, travel, etc., simply to reach the playoffs – and there’ always a risk for injury. Thus, outside of the chase for the No. 1 seed in each conference, landing No. 6 is arguably the second most important.
Los Angeles Lakers Season Finish
The Lakers currently sit fifth in the West, which would mean no home-court advantage against the No. 4 seed (currently Denver). Los Angeles is most likely not catching the Nuggets for the fourth spot, even though Denver has lost Jamal Murray for the season, but L.A. could slip into seventh if James doesn’t return soon. LeBron is somewhat a stranger to NOT having home-court advantage at least early in the playoffs, which is part of the reason his teams are 14-0 all-time in first-round series.
L.A. is 8-12 without LeBron in the lineup this year and 28-13 with him. The Lakers are 30th in the league on offense without LeBron. At age 36, James is averaging 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists, and he was among the MVP betting favorites before the injury. Alas, LeBron will not join Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to win the award at least five times.
LeBron has posted hints of an imminent return on social media. On Monday, he shared a video of himself running and taking a layup on Instagram. The caption started with “coming soon to a city near you.” The Lakers have been rather vague on his return.
Los Angeles Lakers Total Regular Season Wins
The Lakers’ remaining strength of schedule is middle of the pack with six at home and five away. They close a road trip at Washington on Wednesday, April 28, then have a three-game home-stand vs. Sacramento, Toronto and Denver.
Many are pointing to that potentially important Nuggets game as the latest possible return for James. The Lakers also have tough remaining games at the Clippers and Blazers and home vs. the Suns and Knicks.
If James returned by, say, next Monday (May 3), and Davis didn’t get injured again, the Lakers would likely only be underdogs once: May 6 “at” the Clippers, and that’s only if the Clips are fully healthy – which they aren’t right now.
At 36-25 and with 11 games left, James & Co. are given an over/under win total of 41.5, with the over a -150 favorite. With 42 wins, this is more than enough to avoid the play-in tournament considering current West No. 7 Portland has 32 victories and is struggling big-time.
Oddsmakers haven’t bailed on the Lakers yet as they remain +175 favorites to win the West and +330 second favorites on the NBA futures odds behind the Brooklyn Nets – who have their own injury problems with James Harden – to repeat as NBA champions. A Lakers-Nets NBA Finals exact matchup is priced +400.