Commentary

Lakers' title hopes are dead

Is there anything the Lakers can do to salvage their season?

Originally Published: January 11, 2013
By Bradford Doolittle | Basketball Prospectus
Kobe BryantChris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsThis is certainly not the way Kobe Bryant envisioned his Hall of Fame career ending.

The Los Angeles Lakers' season is pretty much dead. There are a lot of reasons for this, but at this point, their biggest enemy is math. Simply put, Los Angeles has already dug itself too big of a hole from which to climb out.

Before we get into the numbers, let's define what we mean here by a "dead season," because there is still plenty in play for the Lakers, or at least there would be if they were a different franchise. L.A. could finish with a winning record, though here's a bit of perspective: The team that some thought could win in the mid-60s, or even more, would finish 62-20 if it were to win every game for the rest of the season -- a 47-game win streak that would by necessity have to start with Friday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Lakers could still make the playoffs. If Mike D'Antoni is able to get Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant all healthy at the same time, he's got enough offensive firepower to win games. We've seen that at times. In fact, the Lakers' All-Star lineup (the aforementioned foursome, plus Metta World Peace) has averaged 115.3 points for every 100 possessions it has played together, per NBA.com/stats. That figure would easily be the best in the league if extrapolated to a full season.

However, there are two unfortunates to go along with that observation. First, the lineup has only been together for 117 minutes over nine games all season, and with Howard and Gasol ailing, those numbers aren't going to go up for a while. Second, the same lineup has a defensive rating of 104.9, which would rank 25th in the league. Still, combined with competent bench play, not a given on the Lakers' shallow roster, it's still a lineup that could get the Lakers into the postseason.

In any event, while the Lakers might still climb over .500 and squeeze into the playoffs, what they almost certainly can't do is win the championship, which is what marks this season as "dead." We can see that in L.A.'s current Hollinger playoff odds, which give the Lakers a 0.2 percent chance to win it all. That mostly conforms with the numbers at Basketball-Reference.com, which has L.A. with a 0.1 percent shot at a championship.