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NBA PM: Will the Lakers Make the Playoffs?
Posted By Alex Kennedy On April 9, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
The Los Angeles Lakers were supposed to have one of the top seeds in the Western Conference clinched by now. When the Lakers managed to pair Dwight Howard and Steve Nash with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol last August, it was assumed that they’d be a super-team. With four potential Hall of Famers in their starting lineup, anything less than a championship would be a disappointment.
However, nearly eight months later, the Lakers have been a train wreck. Countless injuries, coaching changes and chemistry issues have contributed to this disaster of a season. With one week remaining in the 2012-13 regular season, the Lakers find themselves out of the playoff picture in the West, trailing the eighth-seeded Utah Jazz by half a game. The Jazz also hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers, which means L.A. will have to be nearly perfect over their final five games or hope for a collapse in Utah.
Bryant and Howard have guaranteed that the team will make the playoffs.
“It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will,” Bryant told Sports Illustrated back in February. “And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone – Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver, whoever. I have zero nervousness about that.”
“I believe 100 percent that we’re going to make the playoffs,” Howard said last week, when asked if he had the same confidence as Bryant. “I believe in our team. I believe in our system.”
The Lakers seem confident, but this playoff push won’t be easy given their remaining schedule. First, the Lakers will face the New Orleans Hornets at home and the Portland Trail Blazers on the road. Those are two winnable games, but their final three games are tough. The Lakers will finish the season with a three-game home stand, but they’ll be facing three Western Conference playoff teams in the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. All three teams still have something to play for over the next week – Golden State and Houston are battling for the sixth seed and San Antonio is trying to keep the top overall seed from the Oklahoma City Thunder – which is bad news for L.A.
The Jazz have two tough games remaining on their schedule. They shouldn’t have any problem beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, whom they play twice – at home on Friday and on the road next Monday. The Jazz are 2-0 against the Wolves this season. It’s the two games that sandwich their home-and-away with Minnesota that could give Utah issues. The Jazz will face Oklahoma City at home tonight and then face the Memphis Grizzlies on the road to close out their season next Wednesday.
The Jazz have been playing some of their best basketball of the season recently, winning seven of their last eight games. The team has really come together and taken their game to another level after struggling in the early part of March, when they lost 12 of 15 games and opened the door for L.A.
Utah is at full strength right now, whereas Los Angeles is still beat up. Metta World Peace, who had left knee surgery less than two weeks ago, will try to return for the Lakers tonight against the Hornets. His return would be one month ahead of schedule, so it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be. However, Nash is still sidelined with hamstring and hip soreness, which means Steve Blake will be starting in his place.
Even if Los Angeles is able to put together a miraculous run and make the postseason over Utah, it may just mean they earned the opportunity to be destroyed by San Antonio or Oklahoma City. The Lakers are 0-2 against the Spurs this season and 1-2 against the Thunder. In fact, the Lakers are just 3-14 against the top five teams in the West, which is why a deep postseason run seems improbable at this point.
However, it’s always risky to bet against Kobe come playoff time and crazier things have happened. Nobody thought the Lakers, one of the all-time great teams on paper, would be fighting for a playoff spot in mid-April, proving that anything can happen in the NBA.
In Case You Missed It: John Wall Interview
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall has been lighting up the league for the past month and a half. In March, he averaged 22.1 points, 8.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 turnovers. In April, he has been even better, averaging 25.0 points, 7.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds and just 2.0 turnovers. Wall has said several times that he believes he deserves a maximum contract, and his play lately certainly supports that claim.
HOOPSWORLD recently caught up with Wall to discuss his excellent play, optimism heading into next season, whether the Wizards would’ve been a playoff team if they stayed healthy, why he deserves a max deal and much more:
Oladipo Will Likely Climb Draft Boards
On Tuesday afternoon, Victor Oladipo officially announced that he will enter the 2013 NBA Draft. The small forward decided to leave Indiana because he has likely solidified himself as a top 10 pick in this year’s draft after a great junior season.
He was arguably college basketball’s most improved player from last year to this year, averaging 13.6 points and increasing his shooting percentages significantly to 59.9 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from three-point range. He also averaged 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.2 steals and nearly one block.
Oladipo was one of the best perimeter defenders in the country this season, finishing third in steals per 40 minutes among the top-100 prospects. Offensively, he had the seventh-highest field goal percentage in the country, which is incredible for a perimeter player, and he had the highest effective field goal percentage in the nation among the top-100 prospects. His efficiency rating was an impressive 28.9.
There’s a good chance the Oladipo climbs into the top five and possibly even the top three before all is said and done. NBA executives and scouts rave about Oladipo and believe his game will translate well to the league. He seems to have an endless amount of energy that allows him to play extremely hard on both ends of the court. His athleticism, strength and speed allow him to defend multiple positions.
His elite-level defense coupled with his offensive improvements has NBA decision-makers drooling over the 20-year-old. One scout called Oladipo “the best athlete in the draft by a mile” and added that “Oladipo is on top of a lot of teams’ draft boards.”
Oladipo’s draft stock was already on the rise, which is why he left school, but don’t be surprised if his stock continues to climb between now and June.
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