Biggest Factors Determining LA Lakers’ Playoff Chances During 2013-14 Season

You know we're living in strange times when a discussion of the Los Angeles Lakers' playoff chances is neither ironic nor facetious.

While those chances ultimately rest upon a myriad of eventualities no one can really predict (injuries, cold spells, hot streaks, whether Mike D'Antoni gets fired), we can still isolate a few variables that impact those chances in important ways.

The first and foremost is Kobe Bryant. Since Shaquille O'Neal's departure from Los Angeles in 2004, Bryant's importance to making postseasons—and making something of them while there—has never been in question, not even with respect to Andrew Bynum's evolving role or Dwight Howard's dalliances with building a Laker legacy.

Ordinarily, Kobe's results are a given. We know he'll score with the very best of them, and we know he'll do so when it matters.

However, there's absolutely nothing ordinary about returning from a torn Achilles. The talent will still be there, but the big unknown is when his typical allotment of minutes follows suit.

Bryant's averaged nearly 39 minutes a game in three of his last four seasons—mostly out of necessity. In a perfect world, Los Angeles could curb his minutes and preserve him for the playoffs. Even without last season's tragic conclusion, maintaining this kind of playing time was destined to be an issue. It has been in the past two seasons.

Unfortunately, that won't be the only issue with which Los Angeles must contend. The Lakers' postseason hopes rest on Kobe, but he'll need some help. 


Steve Nash's Resilience

Despite his diminished impact, all it takes is one quick look at Los Angeles' roster to remember how vital Steve Nash remains.

The 39-year-old point guard's shooting and playmaking should ostensibly ease some of the pressure on Bryant. Nash may not amount to enough production t...

About the Author