Lakers guard Kobe Bryant shoots over Cavaliers forward Luke Walton. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Despite their 16-21 start, the Lakers are still favored by oddsmakers to make the playoffs.
According to Bovada, odds the Lakers advance to the postseason are -140 (5/7). In translation, a bet of $140 on the Lakers making the playoffs would return a profit of $100.
The Lakers are considered even money not to make the playoffs, or a $100 bet nets the bettor $100.
If the Lakers are to climb into the top eight, they'll need to leapfrog at least three teams. To climb any higher than six would take an unrealistic amount of losing from the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies or Golden State Warriors.
The five teams within reach of the Lakers include the Denver Nuggets (23-16), Houston Rockets (21-17), Portland Trail Blazers (20-17), Utah Jazz (21-19) and Minnesota Timberwolves (16-19).
By Bovada's odds, the Wolves are 3-1 to make the postseason.
Despite Portland's impressive start to the season that peaked at 20-15 (before a two-game losing streak), the oddsmakers aren't sold. A bet on the Blazers would pay out 2-1 if they make the playoffs.
Denver is considered a near-lock, paying 5-1 if they don't make the postseason. If the Nuggets are in and both Minnesota and Portland are out, that leaves three teams for two spots.
Bovada has the Rockets as the favorite over the Lakers at -175 (4/7) to make the playoffs. The Jazz are slight underdogs at -120 (5/6).
By the numbers, the Nuggets should finish sixth, followed by Houston and the Lakers, with Utah just barely missing the postseason.
Of course, the odds can't make the Lakers better defenders, something they'll need to improve on significantly if they want to make a playoff run.
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Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.