Handicapping the Lakers Playoff Chances Without Kobe
by Trevor Whenham - 4/18/2013
It wasn’t certain until the last night of the season, but the Lakers have done what often looked improbable — they have made the playoffs. Not only that, but by beating the Rockets on closing night they have secured the seventh spot and avoided the Thunder in the first round as a result. Now they get to start fresh — albeit in a series that opens on the road against a consistently excellent team while playing without their superstar.
There are a lot of people that have been counting the Lakers out all along and even more who don’t give them much of a chance of winning more than a game or two in these playoffs. It is probably right to be skeptical. The Lakers are indeed decided underdogs. Things aren’t as bleak or certain as people might think, though. For the sake of playing devil’s advocate, here are five reasons why the Lakers might be worthy of a closer look than they are likely to get from most bettors even with Kobe sitting at home:
The team is old, beat up, poorly thought out, and horrifically coached. But they are still stacked.
There are a lot of issues that this team has faced along the way, and it is far from a certainty that they can stay healthy throughout whatever playoff run they have. It’s important to remember, though, that, even without Kobe, there is a whole lot of talent on this team. Dwight Howard has had a lousy attitude, but he’s wildly-talented and he dragged a far less-talented team than he has around him here all the way to the finals when he was in Orlando. Pau Gasol has lost a step, but he’s healthier than he has been in a while and he’s a special talent. Steve Nash is hampered with hamstring issues, but he’s incredibly wily. Metta World Peace is a big-game performer with a trick or two left in his bag. Steve Blake is underrated and playing particularly well right now. Even without Kobe, that is far from the worst lineup in the playoffs.
Kobe isn’t all positive
Kobe is a special player — one of the all-time greats. He has a killer instinct and is as clutch as a guy can be. He’s a winner, and he has proven it over and over again. There is a dark side to his genius, though, and it’s only getting worse as he ages. He’s a bully, and the struggles this team has gone through this year are a result of that tendency as much as anything. He has made it very difficult for the team around him to gel and adapt, and his coach is terrified of him. On top of that, he’s allergic to passing, and he hampers ball movement with his maniacal insistence on being the king of his domain. Without him the Lakers will be lacking a serious weapon, but they will also be looser, less paranoid, and they have a chance to have some fun for the first time all year. That could be significant.
They have a rallying point
Teams that have something to play for can be dangerous. It’s possible that the team can rally around their fallen comrade. More significantly, they can rally around the fact that no one will give them a chance to win more than a game — never mind a series — because Kobe is gone. These are prideful players, and they are probably sick of hearing about their leader. This could be enough to give them a big boost.
Howard has no excuses
We have long known how good Dwight Howard is. What wasn’t clear until the last year or two was just how much of a baby he is. There is seemingly no end to the things he can find to whine about, and it has affected his play. Now he doesn’t have any excuses. He’s unquestionably the man now, and this team will go as far as he can carry them. I’m not one hundred percent convinced that he has what it takes to live up to this challenge, but this is all he could ask for. An angry, motivated, loose Howard is the worst nightmare for opponents.
The public will overcompensate like crazy
The public has harbored serious doubts about this team all year, and the tide of public opinion has definitely turned against them. They have been talked about constantly, but it seemed like far more people wanted them to miss the playoffs than to make them. The sentiment was that they didn’t really stand a chance in the first round in the best of conditions. Without Kobe — the second most publicly revered player in the league — the casual bettor is going to have absolutely no faith in these Lakers. I’m not arguing that the Lakers are in a good position to win a series or more. What is certain, though, is that they are in a much better position to deliver value than they have been in the playoff in decades. They are a completely overlooked and disrespected team. That just doesn’t happen with the Lakers. If you like this team, then chances are you’ll really like the betting opportunities.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Most Recent NBA Handicapping
- LA Lakers Could be in Real Trouble with LeBron and AD Injuries
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 1/20/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 1/15/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 1/13/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 1/8/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 1/6/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 1/1/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 12/30/2020 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 12/25/2020 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 12/23/2020 and Opening Line Report