L.A. Lakers Won't Make the Playoffs Unless They Hit These Numbers

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 19, 2013

This is weird. The Los Angeles Lakers are 39 games into the season and we're talking about the hoops they'll have to jump through just to make the playoffs.

L.A. is 17-22. Only four other teams in West who have worse records.

ESPN's Numbers Never Lie published a short video with some stats and facts addressing the obstacles the Lakers will have to face just to play an 83rd game.

The No. 8 seeds from the last five years had a combined winning percentage of .584, which projects to an average of 48 wins.

That's 31 wins away from where the Lakers are now, and there's only 43 games left in the schedule. To get to 48 wins, L.A. would have to go 31-12 to finish out the year.

In other words, the Lakers must become an elite team over second half of the season just to give them a shot at reaching the playoffs. 

As Michael Smith points out, of those 43 games left, six of them will come against either the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers or San Antonio Spurs.

Hey, maybe they're due. The Lakers are a combined 0-7 against these teams this season.

Now let's look at the stats and figure out what is going wrong, and what needs to be done.


Defensive Categories

Team Defense

 Only four teams in the entire NBA give up more points than the Lakers. Obviously that can't continue if they even want to sniff postseason air. There's not much to it. They just have to lock down and be  better defensively as a team. 

Points allowed: 101.4

Number they need to get to: 96.6

Perspective: The Washington Wizards give up 96.6 points per game, so this isn't exactly like asking them to move a mountain.


Forcing Turnovers

Only five teams in the NBA force less turnovers than the Lakers. It isn't bad luck that opposing offenses just happen to be comfortable operating against the Lakers' defense. Points off turnovers are huge. Four and five-point swings can decide a game. Think of it like a pick-six in football, only on a smaller scale.

Turnovers forced per game: 13

Number they need to get to: 14.4

Perspective: Forcing an extra 1.4 turnovers per game could equate to a six or seven-point differential, depending how successful they are in converting them.


Offensive Categories


Only two teams turn the ball over more than the Lakers. I understand a lot of that is a result of Mike D'Antoni's system, but maybe that's why he's been pretty unsuccessful.

Turnovers per game: 15

Number they need to get to: 13.8

Perspective: A team that's struggling with chemistry and fluidity can't afford to waste possessions. Most playoff teams turn the ball over less than 14 times a game. 


Free Throws

No team takes more free throws than the Lakers. They average 28.4 attempts per game, 1.6 more than the team who takes the second most, and 12.3 more the team who takes the least.

But they only make 19.6 free throws per game. Dwight Howard isn't an excuse. If he's going to miss an average of nearly five free throws per game, which is what he's doing, than the rest of the team has to make up for him.

Free throws made per game: 19.6

Number they need to get to: 22

Perspective: Oklahoma City makes 22.4 free throws a game, and they lead the league. If the Lakers are going to spend more time at the stripe than everyone else, they have to make more than everyone else, or at least come close. Again, this team just can't afford to give away free points or possessions.

The Lakers have a long road ahead of them if they want to extend their season. They need to find ways to minimize their weaknesses and take advantage of their strengths.

They can't just be better in the final 39 games. They have to be elite, which is what was expected of them when this roster was constructed.

Some of these categories pull more weight than others, but improvements to each one will give L.A. a chance at catching fire and making a run.


Stats obtained from Yahoo! Sports


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