On 4th-Highest Payroll, Lakers Are Out of Play-In Spot

    • Los Angeles (31-44) fell out of the play-in spot with seven games remaining.
    • It's a new low for a team that's already committed $129.5 million to its Big Three next season.

Two years removed from a title, the Lakers are spiraling to the point where they no longer control their own destiny.

As LeBron James and Anthony Davis watched from the sidelines, Luka Doncic registered a 34-point triple-double to knock L.A. out of a play-in spot. Afterward, the team’s highest-paid player, Russell Westbrook, awkwardly confronted a reporter in his postgame press conference.

Even if the Lakers (31-44) make the play-in, they’d have to win two consecutive games — which they haven’t done since Jan. 7. 

  • James (30.1 PPG) could become the 10th player to win the scoring title but miss the playoffs.
  • Davis (foot) is “hoping” to return Friday. He hasn’t played since Feb. 17 — the Lakers are 4-13 over that span.
  • This offseason, they traded key role players Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for Westbrook — who is registering a career-worst PER.
  • Instead of re-signing veteran glue guy Alex Caruso, L.A. signed 21-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker (9.4 PPG).

The Lakers have the fourth-highest payroll ($164.4M) in the NBA this season — but have committed $129.5 million to James, Davis, and Westbrook alone in 2022-23.

Even making the play-in is far from guaranteed — five of their remaining seven games are against the top six teams in the West.

The biggest winner in all of this: the Pelicans, who are ahead of L.A. for a play-in spot and own all of its first-round picks through 2025.