There’s no doubt the Western Conference is treacherous, but with LeBron James in tow, the Los Angeles Lakers likely will not miss out on the postseason.
There are plenty of talking points concerning the Los Angeles Lakers circulating as we approach the coming NBA season. That sentence has been accurate every September for several decades, but with LeBron James in LA the Lakers buzz has reached new levels.
One of the more interesting Los Angeles narratives has to do with the Lakers making the playoffs. The Lakers finished last year in 11th place in the West, 12 wins behind the eighth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves. Even with a massive offseason addition in LeBron, will Los Angeles get back to the playoffs? The question is a fair one.
The answer might be an obvious yes, though. It turns out, it’s pretty rare for true NBA superstars to miss the postseason. It’s hard to define superstar exactly, so we’ll use a stat to save time on semantics. Win Shares give a decent idea of the overall impact a player has on their team’s win total. According to Basketball-Reference, LeBron added 14 wins to the Cleveland Cavaliers last year.
Since 2000-01, there have been 49 seasons where a single player added that many wins, again per Basketball-Reference. Just four of those 49 seasons, or 8 percent of them, saw the player’s team miss the postseason.
Three of those seasons belong to a player named Kevin on the Minnesota Timberwolves, who apparently are terrific at hampering elite talent. Kevin Garnett added 14 or more wins for four consecutive seasons in the early aughts, and his Wolves missed the playoffs in 2004-05 and 2005-06 despite his dominance. Kevin Love can relate, as his Timberwolves also faltered with a star in their midst in the 2013-14 season.
The only other player to miss the postseason while adding 14 or more wins as per Basketball-Reference’s Win Shares metric was, funny enough, LeBron James. LeBron’s Cavaliers did not qualify for postseason play after the 2004-05 season, his second in the league. Since that year, LeBron has not missed the playoffs.
LeBron is somehow better than he was 14 years ago, which is ridiculous. He’s also better than either Kevin was, and also than 99 percent of all NBA players ever. This is out of his hands though — it will be up to the rest of the Lakers more than it will to LeBron to ensure he doesn’t miss the postseason again.
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