Two of the the NBA’s best rosters sit outside of a playoff spot, how?

With 7 players combined that will most likely make the Hall of Fame, the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers have not found much success this season.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who has been the center of much controversy this season. (Charles Wenzelberg / NY Post)

Right off the bat, I want to clarify two things before we move forward. The 7 Hall of Famers that I alluded to above are Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, and Dwight Howard. That is not necessarily my opinion, but a common agreement amongst basketball fans. I just wanted to explain myself first so that no one thinks that I called Blake Griffin a Hall of Famer or someone like that. Secondly, obviously as of right now the Nets have clinched at least the 10 seed to make the Play-In Tournament. No, that is not a playoff spot. I’ll probably write an article about why the play-in is dumb eventually, but that’ll be closer to playoff time.

Runaway favorites to win

I don’t usually like using sports gambling statistics to support an argument, but in this case it makes the most sense. Before the 2021-2022 NBA regular season started, the Brooklyn Nets were heavy favorites to bring home the title. Their odds sat at +230. To put that into perspective, the MLB regular season is right around the corner. The Los Angeles Dodgers have seemingly all the talent in the world and have had a dream offseason headlined by the acquisition of star First-baseman Freddie Freeman. I think just about anyone would agree that they are the best team in baseball top to bottom. Their odds to win the World Series as of right now, sit at +500. More than two times as likely to win the title as the Nets were before the season. The reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks’ odds to win it all in the preseason last year were +550. Sports books also set an over/under on how many wins a team will have during the season prior to it starting. The Nets’ line sat at 56.5 wins out of 82 games. With 4 games left in the season, they have just 40 wins.

The second best odds to win the title this year were the Los Angeles Lakers. Starting off at +425, this line also had little value to invest in before an 82-game regular season ever even tipped off. Their win total over/under was set at 52.5, and with 4 games left to play and a record of 31-47, it’s safe to say that the under is hitting.

Are both teams’ season over?

While the Lakers’ record is atrocious, as of today they are still technically in contention for a play-in spot. The Nets have a mathematical chance to end the season up at the 7 seed, but that’s still a play-in spot for whatever reason. So while both of these teams are in a similar position, how they got there is a lot different. One of the funniest statistics I can provide you with is that even after everything I have already talked about, the Nets still have the 3rd best odds to win the NBA title this year at +600, as the current 10 seed in the East.

Queue the ‘retirement home’ jokes

The best way to describe the Lakers 21-22 season is the title of a 2015 film that LeBron James guest starred in. That film is called Trainwreck. The experiment of gathering aging talent to form a washed up super team has ‘shockingly’ not panned out the way some thought it might. Before this year, only 8 teams in NBA history have had an average roster age of 31 years or older. The Lakers sit at an average of 31.8 years old. While this is kind of surprising, the average win percentage of those 8 teams is 64%, the best of any other age group. Yet, we already know that the Lakers are 31-47, with a win percentage of 39.7%. But obviously there are other factors, such as injuries and chemistry issues, that come in to play.

The scapegoat for a lot of the Lakers’ problems, with some good reason, is Russell Westbrook. In his older years, LeBron James has kind of evolved into a more ball-dominant forward, who looks to distribute the ball and score at a high volume. Russell Westbrook redefined the phrase ball-dominant. Throughout an entire NBA season, Westbrook has registered 2 of the 4 highest usages rates (how often the ball is in one player’s hands) of all time. The highest ever, was his 2016-17 season, with an absurd usage rate of 41.5%. Pair that with a field goal percentage of 44.4% this year, and you have a recipe for a very inefficient offense.

Another reason we discussed are injuries. I don’t even want to count, instead I implore you to just click this link for their injury report this season. People make jokes that Anthony Davis is made out of glass, and just this season he has missed games for foot, wrist, knee, head, and thigh injuries. With an aging roster, it is safe to assume that a good portion of those players will not play in all 82 games.

The politics of the Brooklyn Nets

I will keep this one a bit more brief, because even non sports fans have surely heard about the Nets’ issues this season. Chemistry issues saw the departure of star James Harden to Philadelphia in February, which resulted in Andre Drummond and Seth Curry joining the team in return. Also included in this trade was infamous star Ben Simmons, who was the exact opposite of a fan favorite in Philly. He has yet to suit up for the Nets, and is supposed to make his debut in the playoffs, if the Nets advance from the play-in tournament.

The main topic of conversation and all media attention surrounding this team has obviously been Kyrie Irving. Refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19, the guard was restricted from playing at home in the Barclays Center from the beginning of the season, up until the city lifted the mandate a few weeks ago. I won’t discuss the stupidity of unvaccinated players being able to play in the Barclays Center if they were on the visiting team, but you can certainly look it up if you want a good laugh.

Aside from that, this roster was built around its stars and their lack of playing has certainly hurt its dynamic. The Brooklyn Nets as a team sit outside the top 10 in effective field goal %, true shooting %, and offensive and defensive efficiency. Out of 78 games played, only 4 players have played in 60+ games.

Crawling to the finish

In their last 10 games, the Nets are 5-5 and the Lakers are 2-8. Both teams have a lot of work to do to end their seasons on a high note, but it’s evident that the Nets still have championship aspirations. For the Lakers, I genuinely don’t know where they go from here. I could truly see them getting in to a 7-game series after scraping into the play-in tournament, but just about no one would consider that an accomplishment for this team. Like I said, their average age is 31.8 years old, so I would imagine that there are a ton of roster moves made after this season to get some younger players involved.

Before the season started, the prospect of both of these rosters meeting in the finals was something out of basketball fans’ wildest dreams. LeBron vs Durant, Kyrie vs Westbrook. Sitting here in April with a handful of games left, that matchup is extremely unlikely, but not impossible. While neither teams’ season is over, it certainly has been one they’d like to forget.

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