4 lottery teams guaranteed to make the NBA playoffs in 2024–25

Washington Wizards v Houston Rockets
Washington Wizards v Houston Rockets / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages
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1) Los Ángeles Lakers

The only difficulty in coming up with these teams in late March is that it's unclear who will actually be in the lottery, particularly with the advent of the play-in tournament opening up four additional teams to the possibility annually. The Los Angeles Lakers could escape that fate.

If the Lakers do end up in the lottery, however, they are the most obvious candidate to be back in the playoffs next year. There's little reason to ever doubt LeBron James will guide a team to the postseason, even when he turns 50, 60, and so on. Most of the Lakers' core should be back. Anthony Davis, Rui Hachimura, and Austin Reaves are all under contract. That seems to be a solid starting point.

The roster question marks are D'Angelo Russell and LeBron James, both of whom have player options. Russell seemed like a potential trade chip before the deadline but stuck around and has been playing well as of late. If he continues this run of play, the Lakers would be glad to have him back. If he doesn't, they may be able to extract something for him on the market, should he opt in.

King James is a bigger mystery. His player option is for more than $51 million and he's given no indication on whether or not he plans to exercise it. Odds are, he's sticking with the Lakers for the rest of his career, and he doesn't seem inclined to end it on this note. Perhaps he opts out and seeks a different financial arrangement, though. If James leaves, the Lakers' fortunes leave with him.

Being in the lottery may not do much good for the Lakers draftwise, as the New Orleans Pelicans own the team's first-rounder from the Davis trade. But Los Angeles is always a destination and an upward shift should be more than manageable for the Lake Show.