Say it ain’t so.
FiveThirtyEight came out with some preseason projections for all NBA teams and the numbers do not seem to favor the Lakers at all.
The Lakers are currently projected to finish with a 42-40 record, with a 50% likelihood to miss the playoffs and only a 4% chance of making the Finals. This runs contrary to what the Vegas odds have currently, as the Lakers are favorites at +175 to win the Western Conference.
The defending champions Milwaukee Bucks finished at the top with a projected record of 56-26, and a 99% likelihood to make the playoffs.
This statistical model is based on RAPTOR player ratings, where it takes into account each player’s number of points they contribute to their team’s offense and defense per 100 possessions. Say a player’s offensive RAPTOR rating is a 3.5-point boost, his team would see a 3.5-point boost while he is on the floor.
Obviously, plus and minus stats are very inconsistent and cause many people to roll their eyes, but different variables like the number of games a player plays are taken into account here. The play-in games obviously factor in here, since you could finish as a seventh seed, but see yourself outside looking in, if you lose the two play-in games.
Laker fans can take this with a grain of salt, especially when they see that the Kawhi-less Clippers are projected to make the playoffs with a 77% likelihood, and a head scratching 21% chance of making the Finals. Additionally, how are the Pelicans more likely to make the playoffs than the Lakers with a 77% chance?
Do not be surprised if the Lakers struggle to win consistently out of the gate, as we can tell the timing and chemistry isn’t quite there yet with the Lakers during the preseason. But it seems safe to assume we can expect the Lakers to be competing deep into the playoffs minus any injuries.