LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after passing Michael Jordan and moving to #4 on the NBA's all-time scoring list during the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center on March 06, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Robert Laberge/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff hopes are dead and gone, sparking a debate among fans and those that cover the NBA regarding who is to blame for what’s turned into a disaster of a season. LeBron James has been a fixture in the postseason for 13 straight years, and he was supposed to end the Lakers’ playoff drought in his first season with the team.

James has received plenty of criticism for his seeming lack of interest in giving full effort at times. He hasn’t exactly been the best teammate, and any team chemistry the Lakers had might’ve been destroyed when they very publicly tried and failed to trade for Anthony Davis.

But all of the off-court distractions that have surrounded L.A. are just a small reason for the team’s struggles. The reality is that the roster is a poorly constructed one, and James might no longer be the consensus No.1 player in the league.

Here are three reasons why the Lakers will miss the 2019 NBA playoffs.


Many will point to Anthony Davis’ trade request as the date when the Lakers’ season started to crumble, but Christmas Day is really when everything changed. That’s when James suffered a groin injury that would force him to miss 18 games and ultimately knock Los Angeles out of contention. The Lakers started the season 20-14 with James playing like a borderline MVP candidate. L.A. went 6-12 without their superstar, and the Lakers continued to struggle when James returned, looking less than 100 percent.

It isn’t just James that has dealt with injuries. Brandon Ingram has missed 13 games. Lonzo Ball has missed 18 games and counting. Kyle Kuzma sat for the fifth time Wednesday night as the Lakers played without all three of their young players that they hoped to send to New Orleans for Davis. James might as well have been back in Cleveland with the lineup that accompanied him on the court in the Lakers’ most recent game.

No Shooting

For some reason, the Lakers’ front office ignored the blueprint that James’ previous teams had used to maximize the talents of the second-greatest basketball player of all time. Instead of surrounding James with shooters, Los Angeles added free agents that score most of their points near the rim. It was a confusing strategy at the time, and it’s backfired on general manager Rob Pelinka and team president Magic Johnson.

The Lakers simply don’t shoot well enough from three-point range to make the playoffs. They rank 29th in the NBA, shooting 32.8 percent from behind the arc. Brandon Ingram makes just 0.6 threes per game, and Kyle Kuzma is a 31.2 percent three-point shooter. Los Angeles’ top four free-agent signings have made just 100 combined threes. Five Western Conference playoff teams are in the top-10 in three-point percentage. The Houston Rockets lead the league in threes made. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz don’t shoot the three well, but they have top-five defenses.

Bad Defense

The Lakers don’t have a top-five defense. They aren’t in the top 10, and the unit is seemingly getting worse each night. Los Angeles is 13th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but that ranking is helped by the way the team defended in the first few months of the season. L.A. hasn’t been able to stop anyone of late, ranking 29th over the last 15 games by allowing 116.5 points per 100 possessions.

James’ glaring defensive lapses are only part of the problem. Injuries have forced Rajon Rondo to play over Ball. The Lakers’ defensive rating drops by 5.4 points with Rondo on the court, and the veteran ranks 62nd in defensive real plus-minus among point guards. Kyle Kuzma is 85th among power forwards in defensive real plus-minus, and 46 centers have a better defensive real plus-minus than JaVale McGee.