Note: this is abridged from our larger article looking at every team's playoff chances. Go read it, it's solid.
Last week, Kobe did the unthinkable, but t wasn't anything during a game, or even in practice. No, Kobe guaranteed that the struggling Lakers would make the playoffs. Guaranteed! Let's hear it from the source, shall we?
"It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone -- Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver ... whoever. I have zero nervousness about that."
I honestly have no idea what to think of Kobe's guarantee. The sports fan side of me says, "Oh, Kobe's guaranteeing this? He's going to play extra hard now!" Meanwhile, the sports analyst side of me took a frying pan and beat that sports fan into a purple-and-yellow pulp.
Let's look at this from an analysis perspective. The Lakers are eighth in offensive rating. That's not bad; they have the Jazz (ninth) and Warriors (11th) both beat while the Rockets are above them in fifth. The Lakers are also 18th in defensive rating. That is bad, but the Warriors (20th), Rockets (21st), and Jazz (22nd) are all worse. Can those advantages allow them to catch up 3.5 games in the standings?
Survey says... probably not. As it stands, the Lakers (the ninth-best team in our nERD rankings, mind you) still play five games against the top eight teams in the rankings, plus two games against the Warriors (No. 14) and one game against the Rockets (No. 10) to boot. They would likely need to take three against the top eight teams, plus two of three from the playoff spot rivals to have a chance.
And in order to do that, the Lakers will have to get some more solid play out of, of all people, Steve Nash. As mentioned last week, the Lakers are poor on both sides of the ball with turnovers: 21st in offensive turnover percentage and 28th in defensive turnover percentage. Perhaps it was unreasonable to ask Nash to help cure those woes: his career turnover percentage is around 20 percent, mostly due to his past-paced days in Phoenix. But at a current 21.4 percent turnover rate, Nash is turning the ball over four percent more than anyone else in the starting lineup, something that can't happen if the Lakers are to win.
Do you trust a 39-year old point guard to get better as the season drags on. Nah, I don't either.