Where Do the Lakers Rank Among Biggest All-Time Playoff Busts?

Where Do the Lakers Rank Among Biggest All-Time Playoff Busts? article feature image
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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) at Madison Square Garden.

  • LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are going to miss the NBA playoffs despite reaching -520 to reach the postseason before the season began.
  • Where do the Lakers rank among the biggest playoff misses over the past five years according to oddsmakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers are going to miss the playoffs. The team has been all but eliminated from postseason contention for sometime following injuries, ham-fisted maneuvering by Klutch Sports and a block by Mario Hezonja. With a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET) it will become official.

It was always going to be difficult for LeBron James to extend his streak of eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances after leaving the East and joining an inexperienced Lakers squad. Though none of us thought it would be because LeBron would miss the playoffs.

The last time LeBron didn’t play past the 82nd game of the season was in 2004-05, just his second year in the league with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Oddsmakers expected James’ run to continue and for his talent to be enough to end a five-year playoff drought for the Lakers.

Before the season began, LeBron and Co. were -520 to make the NBA Playoffs — the fifth best odds in the West. At -520 odds, the implied probability of making the postseason was 83.9%.

LeBron missing the playoffs is surprising but where does it rank among the biggest playoff misses in recent history? To find out I pulled data from SportsOddsHistory to rank the five biggest playoff busts in the past five seasons.

1. 2015-16 Bulls: -2250 odds to make the playoffs

Chicago won 50 games the year before and finished third in the Eastern Conference. Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol had been All-Stars in 2014-15 and Derrick Rose appeared in 51 games, the most he’d played since the 2010-11 season.

The consensus was that the Bulls were a clear top-four team in the East heading into the 2015-16 season and could possibly challenge LeBron and the Cavs in the playoffs.

But the Bulls missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Injuries played a part, as Gasol was the only regular to start more than 70 games. First-year coach Fred Hoiberg struggled in the transition after Tom Thibodeau was fired and the team regressed.

Chicago went from 11th in offensive efficiency to 23rd and the defense was average. The team missed out on the playoffs by two games.

2. 2014-15 Thunder: -1500 odds to make the playoffs

Injuries derailed OKC’s season. Kevin Durant fractured his right foot before the season began causing him to miss the team’s first 17 games. Russell Westbrook missed 14 of those 17 games with a fractured hand. Durant eventually returned but played only 27 games that season before being shut down to undergo a third surgery on his right foot.

In addition to the injuries, a late-season slump kept the team from the postseason. The Thunder dropped seven of their last 11 games and lost a tiebreaker to the New Orleans Pelicans for the 8-seed. Oklahoma City missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and coach Scott Brooks was fired a week after the season.

3. 2018-19 Wizards: -850 odds to make the playoffs

The Wizards didn’t have the same hype coming into the season as the Lakers, but Washington was more likely to make the playoffs than LA according to the betting market. Injuries, a common theme, help explain the Wizards’ shortcomings.

John Wall played only 32 games and has participated in just 73 of a possible 164 games since signing a four-year, $169.3 million supermax extension in July of 2017.

Wall had season-ending surgery in January to remove bone spurs in his left heel. He will be out for about one year, which means the 2019-20 campaign is likely already lost as well.

4. 2015-16 Wizards: -650 odds to make the playoffs

John Wall was a two-time All-Star, Bradley Beal was expected to take a step forward while Paul Pierce, Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat would give Washington some much needed veteran leadership. This team had a good mix of young and old, and was expected to reach the playoffs for a third straight year.

If I told Wizards fans back in 2015 that the team would reach the postseason only twice in the next four years and never get past the second round they wouldn’t have believed me.

5. 2018-19 Lakers: -520 odds to make the playoffs

LeBron’s streak of 13 straight playoff appearances is going to end. It is unclear what a postseason will look like without James. The playoffs begin on April 13 and for the first time since 2005 LeBron will watch them from home, just like the rest of us.

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