Prominent ESPN Analyst: ‘Hell YEAH’ Lakers Should be Worried

Could a big move by the Rockets' James Harden (left) upset the Lakers and LeBron James (right)?

Getty Could a big move by the Rockets' James Harden (left) upset the Lakers and LeBron James (right)?

The Lakers have made their first big move, getting reserve guard Dennis Schroder from the Thunder to shore up their secondary ballhandling duties and bulk up their bench. But after seeing what the Bucks did this week on the NBA trade market, as well as what the Nets and Warriors—two teams taken out of the postseason picture by injuries last season—may yet do, it is clear that the Lakers will have a tougher road to a second straight championship as they did to this year’s title.

Should they be worried about what the rest of the NBA is doing? ESPN hoops talking head Stephen A. Smith has a concise answer: “Hell YEAH.”

In case you missed it, the Bucks on Monday came away with two trade-market prizes, bringing in Jrue Holiday from the Pelicans and Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Kings, remaking their backcourt and reasserting themselves as the team to beat in the East and maybe even the team to beat in the NBA overall.

That comes as rumors simmer about the potential for the Brooklyn Nets to add Rockets star James Harden, who has led the NBA in scoring three straight seasons, to a star core of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

The Warriors, too, remain on the clock for improvement—they have the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.


Bucks Assert Themselves as Lakers Top Championship Threat

But the Bucks have made the big tangible splash so far.

Putting Bogdanovic and Holiday in a lineup with Giannis Antetokounmpo, without losing forward Khris Middleton or center Brook Lopez, could very well deal a blow to the Lakers title chances. The big push in Milwaukee is to keep star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo with a $200 million supermax contract, but the Bucks have also upped their game as a contender to knock off the Lakers.

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The expected matchup with Milwaukee in the NBA Finals did not come to fruition last year because of the Heat’s upset of the East favorites, the fourth straight year the Bucks have been in the postseason and walked away disappointed. Milwaukee won a league-best 56 games and was the top overall seed last season.

But two weak points for Milwaukee were Eric Bledsoe at point guard and Wesley Matthews at shooting guard. The Holiday-Bogdanovic combo is a major upgrade, two versatile players who can handle the ball, shoot and defend. That should better equip the Bucks to get through the East and give them a better chance at knocking off the Lakers, should they return to the Finals.


James Harden Trade Looms as Lakers Threat

As for the other potential threats to the Lakers, there has been talk that the Rockets are comfortable bringing back both Harden and fellow star guard Russell Westbrook, both of whom are angling for trades out of town. ESPN reported that the Rockets were prepared for that possibility, but it is likely that Houston let that leak with the intention of securing trade value for Harden and Westbrook—value that would erode if it were perceived that the Rockets were desperate to move the pair.

The latest rumor on the Warriors has them weighing a trade with the Bulls to drop to No. 4, getting young center Wendell Carter in the process. The Warriors could keep Carter and use the No. 4 pick to acquire another asset. But Chicago is believed to still be high on Carter’s potential.

No matter what happens, there possibility is lingering that there will be bigger threats to the Lakers in 2021 than there were in 2020. Or as Smith would say, “Hell YEAH,” there will be.

READ NEXT: NBA Mock Draft: Big Name Goes No. 1, Lakers to Trade Pick

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