The Los Angeles Lakers have the 10th worst record in the league and are in 12th place in the Western Conference. They are also 8th best in point differential, and 5th best in the West. The Lakers are only 1-9 in games decided by single digits, though, often collapsing in the fourth quarter as teams attack their weaknesses.
From Tom Habertstroh, the teams that have started 9-13 since 1997 have averaged 37 wins on the year. The 2003 Lakers and the 2000 Timberwolves had the most wins, at 50.
Of course, these Lakers are not a typical 9-13 team for any number of reasons. They were among the preseason favorites in the West. They have several future Hall of Famers. Injuries can at least in part explain their start.
Also, no other 9-13 team has had as large of a point difference. Going back to the 1979-1980 season (using basketball-reference’s team game finder), no other team starting 9-13 is even close. The 1995-1996 Detroit Pistons had the best point difference at +21; Los Angeles is at +59 this year. That Detroit team finished 46-36.
If we soften up our restrictions and look at teams with losing records after 22 games, only two others had a higher point difference than this year’s Lakers. The 1989-1990 Suns started +100 despite a 10-12 record. They rebounded to win 44 of their final 60 games. The 1985-1986 Supersonics were at +67. They did not rebound, and finished 31-51.
Taking the ten “best” point differences among losing teams after 22 games, we get an average of 42.7 wins on the year. Those ten had an average point difference of +45, 14 points lower than the current Lakers. Those numbers are skewed down by two teams that went 31-51. The median is 43.5, and the eight others all finished at .500 or better.
The Lakers may be flawed, but even beyond the numbers they are probably better than the typical team with a good point difference but losing record early. The angst from Laker Land does taste sweet, but this isn’t your typical 9-13 team. There are none like them. My guess? I’d put their over/under on wins at 49, with a rebound more similar to those 1990 Suns.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]