Will the Lakers Make the Playoffs? Odds and NBA Schedule Stacked Against Los Angeles and LeBron James

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James, #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on March 4 in Los Angeles, California. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

When the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James in July, a first trip to the postseason since 2013 beckoned. Or so everyone thought. The best player of his generation had reached the NBA Finals for the last eight straight years and there was nobody better prepared to turn the Lakers' young core into a playoff team.

The suggestion that LeBron could compete for the NBA title for the ninth consecutive season always seemed overly optimistic but there were few who doubted he would be involved in May.

With little over a month before the end of the season, however, it appears increasingly likely that LeBron will instead be on holiday by the time the playoffs begin, while Luke Walton could well be looking for a new employer.

Following their loss against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night, the Lakers are 30-34 for the season and are 5.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs, who currently occupy the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference standings.

Things do not look good for the Purple and Gold. According to FiveThirthyEight, the Lakers have a 2 percent chance of making the playoffs, while BasketballReference gives Los Angeles a 0.1 percent chance of reaching the postseason. For ESPN, the figure is even smaller.

To put the Lakers' ordeal into context, as little as a week ago those figures stood at 17 percent, 5 percent and 5.8 percent respectively.

Los Angeles is on a three-game losing streak and has lost 10 of its last 15 outings. Having won just six games during LeBron's 17-game injury layoff, the Lakers have gone 4-9 since he returned to action at the beginning of last month.

Monday's win over the Lakers moved the Clippers up to seventh in the Western Conference. More importantly, it put them 2-0 up in the season series over their local rivals, which means they hold the tiebreaker.

The Lakers, in other words, would have to finish ahead of the Clippers to pip them to a playoff spot. The scenario is highly unlikely, given they are a whole six games behind the Clippers with just 18 games left to play.

Moreover, if the Lakers' current form is concerning, it is hard to see where an upturn in fortunes might come from. Of the Lakers' remaining games, only four are against teams who will not be involved in the postseason—three if one gives the Washington Wizards, currently 3.5 games behind a playoff spot, a chance.

Starting with Wednesday night's matchup against the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers still have to play the top two teams in each conference – the Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors in the West and the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors in the East.

Aside from those four games, the average standing of the teams left to face for the Lakers is 7.57 in the Eastern Conference and 5.85 in the Western Conference. If they are to make the playoffs, the Lakers will have to do so by beating good teams.

LeBron can never be underestimated but it would be hugely surprising to see the Lakers involved beyond April this season.