An NBA Playoffs With LeBron James Is Looking More And More Likely

Updated: March 5, 2019
LeBron James Pic 1

The NBA regular season usually offers a few surprises.

The Denver Nuggets fighting for a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference against superpowers like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets would constitute a surprise.

But given the fact that more than half of the teams in the league make the playoffs, rarely something occurs during the 82-game campaign that is truly shocking.

LeBron James not making the playoffs as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers qualifies as shocking.

In the past eight seasons, some of James’ Miami and Cleveland teams didn’t play up to their potential in the regular season, but there was no doubt that they would receive a high seed and turn on the jets in the playoffs. That’s exactly what happened in the past eight seasons. James reached the NBA Finals with a supporting cast of various amounts of talent. Some years, it was expected – Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love were a part of LeBron’s teams that cruised through the Eastern Conference. Other years, James carried injury-laden teams on his back and used sheer will to reach the promised land over teams that, on paper, were considered better.

When James decided to join the Lakers in the offseason, many concluded that his eight-year NBA Finals streak was in serious jeopardy. For the first time since his initial run in Cleveland, James would not be flanked by two additional superstars. However, very few believed that the Lakers would miss the playoffs entirely.

But that’s the reality facing Los Angeles after a dismal loss at Phoenix. The Lakers are four games behind both the L.A. Clippers and San Antonio for the 7- and 8-seed with 19 games to play. That may not seem like an unmanageable distance to close, but it doesn’t take into account the talent of the teams ahead of the Lakers (Sacramento is also ahead of L.A. in the standings in the ninth position). ESPN’s BPI Playoff Index puts the Lakers’ playoff chances at a meager 1.1 percent.

At the beginning of the season, the odds on the Lakers to make the playoffs at the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas were at -450 – meaning you had to bet $450 to win $100 if the Lakers made it. They had the fifth-best odds in the Western Conference to make the playoffs. Now, those odds are +600 – so if you like to gamble against the odds, go make a $100 bet on L.A. making the playoffs. If the Lakers do, you’ll pocket 600 bucks.

Granted, James did miss 18 games with an injury, marking the longest span of games that he’s missed in his 17 seasons as a pro. But the Lakers have lost six of eight with James in the lineup. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Rajon Rondo have also missed large chunks of games due to injuries.

Fortunately for James and Lakers fans, this likely doesn’t mean that “The King” is finished. While he’s clearly on the back-nine of his career, this can’t be compared to Michael Jordan missing the playoffs in his first season with the Washington Wizards in 2000. Chances are, James will use the added rest gained by not playing an extra 20-25 games into June and come back healthier and refreshed in 2019-20. The Lakers also will have the cap freedom to try and add another superstar to their roster, and James has been very successful in the past when courting other max-contract players to join his quest for gold.

So while James’ 13-year playoff streak is on life support, it’s too early to consider writing the epitaph for one of the most prolific careers in NBA history.

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