Lakers’ Darvin Ham Eyes Top-6 Seed in West to Avoid 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament

Lakers’ Darvin Ham Eyes Top-6 Seed in West to Avoid 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 11: Head coach Darvin Ham of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on February 11, 2023 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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The Los Angeles Lakers are currently 27-32 and 13th in the Western Conference, with a battle on their hands to even secure one of the four play-in tournament seeds up for grabs.

But head coach Darvin Ham is feeling more ambitious than that, telling reporters on Wednesday his goal for the end of the season is to reach a top-six seed to avoid the play-in altogether.

It will require quite a turnaround. Here’s how the current top six stacks up in the West:

  1. Denver Nuggets: 41-18
  2. Memphis Grizzlies: 35-22
  3. Sacramento Kings: 32-25
  4. Los Angeles Clippers: 33-28
  5. Phoenix Suns: 32-28
  6. Dallas Mavericks: 31-29

The Lakers only find themselves 3.5 games behind the Mavericks, 4.5 games behind the Suns and five games behind the Clippers, though all three of those teams retooled in a major way at the trade deadline.

The Mavericks (Kyrie Irving) and the Suns (Kevin Durant) loaded up on star power, and once both are fully incorporated and adjust to their new teams should make those two teams scary. Catching either may not be simple.

But like the Lakers, the Clippers also addressed needs and reshaped the roster around their two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. They didn’t make the giant splash on an incoming player, but the additions of former Laker Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon, Bones Hyland and Mason Plumlee all filled needs.

The Lakers, meanwhile, are hoping the additions of D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt will give LeBron James and Anthony Davis the sort of complementary supporting cast they haven’t had since winning a title in the Orlando bubble.

Those moves will need to pay major dividends for the Lakers to fight their way back into a top-six spot. It’s feasible, but it won’t be easy.

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