LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers would unfortunately be watching the playoffs from home if the 2018-2019 NBA season ended through 56 games.
The Lakers are currently sitting in 10th in the Western Conference after a rough stretch of play with James out of the starting lineup. James missed 17 games as he dealt with a groin strain injury he suffered in a Christmas Day win against the Golden State Warriors.
Although the Lakers are currently out of the playoffs, they are only 2.5 games back of the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final spot. While that may look like a lot, there is still some optimism the team could make the playoffs.
General manager Rob Pelinka believes that if the Lakers do end their five-year playoff drought, they would not be a team the rest of the league wants to face, according to Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet:
Talked with Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, who was optimistic about Lakers’ chances going forward.
If Lakers make the playoffs, “I wouldn’t want to (play) us in any seven-game matchup, that’s for sure,” Pelinka said.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) February 8, 2019
It would be hard to imagine Los Angeles losing early in the playoffs with a healthy James on the roster given all his experience. The 34-year-old is a mismatch for every team and he could single-handedly carry the Lakers in a playoff series.
Something working in the team’s favor is that the Clippers traded Tobias Harris and may be looking to keep their lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Also, the Sacramento Kings, who are one spot ahead of the Lakers, are about to face a tough stretch in their schedule.
If the Lakers hope to end their drought, they will need to start playing with urgency on both ends of the floor. Hopefully, James and the young core can get their act together quickly and make a real run in the final 26 games of the 2018-19 NBA season.