Lakers News: Los Angeles Looks To Make Late Season Playoff Push

There are no more excuses for the struggling Los Angeles Lakers.

General manager Rob Pelinka brought significant roster upgrades ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, putting his team in an ideal position to make a second-half push for a postseason berth in the Western Conference.

The Lakers will host the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday before they head into the All-Star break. The February 19th All-Star Game will be played in Utah’s home venue of Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City — with “Team Giannis” going up against “Team LeBron.”

Team Giannis will be coached by Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics, while the Denver Nuggets’ Michael Malone will coach Team LeBron. LeBron has quite a history with the Celtics, so it’s only fitting that Boston’s Mazzulla will coach against “The King” in the All-Star Game.

Celtics fans interested in betting should take note that the WynnBET Massachusetts promo code will keep you covered moving forward through the season as the state of Massachusetts gets ready to accept mobile online betting as early as March.

The New-Look Lakers

The Lakers may be out of the playoff picture, but it didn’t stop Pelinka from pushing all his poker chips into the middle of the table. After a disappointing one-and-a-half-year run with the Lakers, point guard Russell Westbrook was traded to the Utah Jazz in a three-team deal involving the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Lakers received D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley in the deal. Utah also received LA’s 2027 first-round pick (top 1-4 protected) as part of the blockbuster trade. Pelinka also acquired Mo Bamba from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Patrick Beverley and a second-round pick. On top of that, he landed Davon Reed and three second-round picks from Denver in exchange for Thomas Bryant.

Russell — the Lakers’ prized trade deadline acquisition — and Beasley are good for double-digit points per game, so that will take some of the pressure off James and Anthony Davis. Russell himself can put up 20-plus any day.

Vanderbilt is a defensive stalwart who can match up with the opposition’s top players, also taking stress off the Lakers’ two franchise stars. Bamba is a solid rebounder who also upgrades LA’s defense up front, and Reed gives Darvin Ham a quality three-point shooting option off the bench.

Simply put, the Lakers got a lot better in the short term.

Time For The Lakers To Walk The Walk

It was clear for more than a year that the Lakers, as previously constructed, weren’t good enough to hang in there with the NBA’s top teams. Their ceiling before was getting in as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed.

But the Lakers are in a similar position to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Their regular season record isn’t going to “wow” anybody, but both clubs could go head-to-head with just about any team in a best-of-seven.

James, who surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time scoring leader, is still at the top of his game. Davis remains one of the NBA’s best sidekicks, making any night a chance to win with those two on the court.

It will take quite the second-half surge to jump into a top-six seed that would keep the Lakers out of the play-in tournament. But following all these roster reinforcements, they feel like a safe bet to at least get into the play-in round.

The last two years of James’ prime have been wasted, and so far, 2022-23 has left much to be desired. There are no more excuses for a retooled roster to miss out on the postseason this time. There’s too much talent in place — not just LeBron and Davis — for the Lakers to fall below expectations again, pure and simple.

With more secondary scoring, better three-point shooters, and defenders on the roster, the Lakers look like a club capable of making a deep postseason run — at least on paper. Pelinka had limited resources but found a way to improve his team in a short period vastly.

Looking good on paper is one thing. Now it’s time for the Lakers actually to execute.