Lakers: Can Los Angeles Make The 2023 Postseason? – Sports Illustrated

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With your Los Angeles Lakers set to kick off their 75th NBA season this year, pundits all over the country are wondering just how far the new-look team will go during the 2022-23 NBA season.
Let's take a gander at what DraftKings has to say on the subject. One of the biggest sports betting sites in the game, DraftKings is usually pretty on-point when it comes to taking the temperature of Las Vegas bettors. 
As of today, DraftKings has Los Angeles ranked eighth in anticipated win total, setting its over/under at 45.5 games.
Keep in mind, last season, Los Angeles plummeted far below even the play-in cutoff line of the Western Conference's top 10 teams, going 33-49 just two years after winning it all. To be fair, only two players, All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, remained from that championship-winning club, after Los Angeles offloaded most of its assets first for guard Dennis Schroder and then for guard Russell Westbrook in successive offseasons, in two of the most epic miscalculations in recent basketball memory.
Botching two seasons (and, possibly, a third now) of what remains of LeBron James's All-NBA peak hardly seems like behavior meriting a lengthy contract extension, but Jeanie Buss opted to do just that, lengthening team vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka's deal with the club through the 2025-26 season.
DraftKings ranks Los Angeles above the New Orleans Pelicans (44.5 over/under), the Portland Trail Blazers (39.5 over/under), and the Sacramento Kings (33.5 over/under), but below teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks (both listed at a 48.5 over/under). After seeing Sacramento totally exploit L.A.'s two biggest weaknesses (three-point shooting and defense), this writer is bullish on the Kings being significantly better than their current Vegas line. 
Saddled with several injuries, including one to their best player, forward Zion Williamson, the Pelicans started out the 2021-22 season going 1-12. Head coach Willie Green subsequently turned things around, and the club subsequently went 35-34 the rest of the way. Its 36-46 season record was good for the ninth seed. New Orleans went on to win its two play-in tournament matchups, against the No. 10 seeded San Antonio Spurs and the No. 8 seeded Los Angeles Clippers, to secure the 1-8 quarterfinal playoff matchup, against the 64-18 Phoenix Suns.
The Pellies then went on to push the reigning Western Conference champs to a surprisingly close six-game series, thanks in large part to the play of ex-Lakers forward Brandon Ingram and new trade acquisition C.J. McCollum. With Williamson newly in shape and the team's intriguing young players set to continue their development, the Pelicans seem like a deeper, better team than this strange, guard-heavy Lakers roster. I would have listed the Kings below Los Angeles prior to the preseason, but Sacramento so roundly outperformed Los Angeles in their two preseason matchups, and enjoyed a sneakily good offseason of trades and below-the-radar signings. Given L.A.'s current talent, which features only four players who can really be positive assets on both sides of the ball (James, Davis, Patrick Beverley, and maaaybe Austin Reaves), I would actually rank the team around 10th in the Western Conference this year, below both the Pelicans and the Kings, with a record around .500 (41-41). 
That ranking arrives with one huge caveat: the team's most expensive player, Russell Westbrook, will probably be traded at some point this year. Depending on how long he remains an eyesore off the bench, he could help crater the team's playoff odds. Adding, oh, I don't know, Myles Turner and Buddy Hield in a Westbrook deal could help vaunt Los Angeles to a tier slightly above the play-in bracket, assuming James and Davis can stay reasonably healthy this season (they missed a combined 66 games last year).

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