Will the Lakers be able to make the playoffs next season?
I think that depends on Kobe Bryant. The Western Conference is very competitive and with an aging Pau Gasol, no Metta, and Kobe's health in jeopardy, I don't know.
I think the Clippers are the favorites to win the West, with Oklahoma City not far behind. San Antonio is probably 3rd in the Conference. Houston could flip-flop with San Antonio. Golden State and Denver are still there. The Pelicans look a lot better on paper this year. Memphis will probably be a 7 or 8 seed. Utah and Phoenix look much improved.
It depends on Kobe.
As of a week ago the front office confirmed that Kobe is so far ahead of schedule in his rehab that, barring any setback, he could be back for the preseason. He has always been a fast healer.
I think the Lakers could realistically slip in at 7th or 8th if we stay healthy and D'Antoni doesn't screw it up. The Grizz aren't going to be as good this season, I don't think, Rox will need time to jell with Dwight, who knows about Denver with George Karl, a coach I never liked, gone. Look at last season, I think we ended up wih the 6th spot agaonst all odds.
The Lakers, unlike other francises, will never tank for a high pick. It's just not in the nature of this franchise.