2015-16 NBA Odds Predictions: Can Kobe Bryant and the Lakers Make it to the Playoffs?

Posted by Alex Murphy on Wednesday,August 19, 2015 7:08, EST in

Following a mixed offseason that saw the Los Angeles Lakers miss on some players they wanted and also claim a couple of prized players, different NBA bettors and pundits have varied opinions in regards to how the Lakers will perform in the 2015 NBA odds. For some, the Lakers did enough to retool the team, which should ensure that they make it back to the postseason games. For others, the changes in LA are decent, but after finishing with the fourth-worst winning record in the league in 2014, it is too far a climb for the Lakers to reach the playoffs. Which of these two sides should we believe and bank on in the basketball betting lines?

2015-16 NBA Odds Predictions: Can Kobe Bryant and the Lakers Make it to the Playoffs?

 


 

The Trades…

Despite not being able to reel in a top free agent, the Lakers still filled a couple of needs in the team, claiming a trio of key veterans from the free agency, who could help the team to improve. Firstly, the Lakers added last year’s Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, a player who is capable of bringing depth on both sides of the Lakers’ rotation. Secondly, the addition of former Boston big man Brandon Bass will give the team some solid presence in the center of the field. Though Bass is not much of a sharp shooter, his ability to knock down dunks and help in the defense should give the Lakers a chance to play better defense and frustrate teams with small-statured players. Thirdly, the acquisition of two-time All-Star Roy Hibbert from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for a second-round pick was an iffy move, but it could prove valuable if Hibbert can get his game up in the interior defense, a place that Los Angeles failed to control last year. Plus, with all these veterans, the team now has a solid to group of experienced players to lead the promising LA youngsters.

And speaking of youngsters, the Lakers had a good draft, using their second overall pick on former Ohio State standout guard D’Angelo Russell, a player many regarded as the best two-way guard in the draft class. Using their other picks, the Lakers acquired two potential rotational players in former Stanford forward Anthony Brown and former Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr., both who are capable of injecting pace and versatility in the offense, something that was glimpsed in their time at summer league.

The Returnees…

A big reason the Lakers struggled last year was that their squad was dogged with costly injuries. Julius Randle, one of the top players from college in 2014, missed all but one game last season because of a broken leg and absence had a devastating effect on the team. The return of the  second-year forward to the LA fold should thus be a huge boost.

Meanwhile, NBA superstar and legend Kobe Bryant suffered a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder in January, sidelining him for the rest of the season. Before that, he also missed a couple of games due to on and off knee problems. Though Kobe’s age has understandably taken some sting off his youthful explosiveness, the just-turned 37 year old was a solid performer in the 36 games he played last season, averaging 22 PPG.

Plus, as a two-time NBA scoring champion, 17-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion, and two-time Olympic gold medalist, there’s no doubt that Bryant’s return from injury is priceless to the team, offering motivation and veteran leadership to the youngsters, while also helping the offense to rack up points.

The Playoff Debate…

Speaking recently to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, Kobe said he believed that Los Angeles was very capable of reaching the playoffs.

“Of course it (Los Angeles) can (reach the playoffs),” said Kobe. “Absolutely. We have talented players in their respective positions. We have some really young players. How exactly will the pieces of the puzzle fit? We really don’t know. We are going to [training] camp trying to piece this together just like every other team does. We have to figure out what our strengths are, figure out what our weaknesses are. And every time we step on the court we are going to try to hide our weaknesses and step up to our strengths.”

Judging by the added free agents and newly acquired rookies, there’s certainly a lot to smile about. Yes, the team could have still used a big-name power forward and guard, but with the players available, the Lakers could still make some major improvements and challenge for the playoffs, especially if they can capitalize on their strengths, as stressed by Kobe.

Furthermore, the new additions and the returning players won’t be going alone. The Lakers have a good number of talented players in their fold. For instance, there is sophomore guard Jordan Clarkson, who is coming off a very productive and promising rookie season that saw him develop his game tremendously. Also, there is Nick Young and his trigger-happy shooting arm (11.3 FGA per game in 2014), along with other talented players who are bound to keep the rotation strong. With such support, it would not be too ambitious to dream of a solid run by LA.

Needless to say, the competition in the West is not going to be easy. The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies should all make the playoffs, barring any major injuries or collapses. This is mainly because they all bring back talented teams or have retooled up their squads. Not to forget, the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, and Phoenix Suns are all likely to be in the run for the playoffs, making matters even tougher for the Lakers.

Nonetheless, the motivation of Bryant playing his possibly last season and the impetus offered by the new additions should push the Lakers to an improved season, one that could see them make it to the postseason games. In reality, it looks really difficult, almost impossible even, bearing in mind the gruesome competition in the Western Conference. But on paper, it all looks very possible, so don’t be surprised to see the Lakers beating the NBA betting odds and squeaking their way into the playoffs, probably as a 7th or 8th seed.

Sources
ESPN.com (http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/13202908/los-angeles-lakers-lou-williams-agree-contract)
NBA.com (http://www.nba.com/playerfile/jordan_clarkson/)