Though the playoffs are still far away, the Los Angeles Lakers currently look like the premier team in the NBA. Their record is at 11-4, which is tied with the Clippers for best in the league. The team hasn’t been perfect but they appear to be even better than last season.
That said, the Clippers could provide a potential problem. They beat the Lakers in the first game of the season and they are also playing at a high level, but it’s still hard to buy into them as legit threats to the purple and gold due to last season’s collapse. Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal recently appeared on ESPN’s First Take and was asked if his former team is the favorite to win the championship.
“I think they do deserve to be the favorites cause they’re the Champs,” O’Neal said. “There’s a lot of competitive teams out there but I don’t think there’s any that can beat the Lakers in a seven-game series.”
O’Neal was then asked about the Clippers and he dismissed them as a threat.
“Bro, we said that last year,” he said.
.@SHAQ sees no threats to the Lakers repeating in the West 👀
What about the Clippers?
"Bro, we said that last year." pic.twitter.com/XdN8CBCmKR
— First Take (@FirstTake) January 21, 2021
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Lakers Shouldn’t Underestimate Clippers
It’s easy for the Lakers to dismiss their Los Angeles rival right now. The Clippers couldn’t even beat the Denver Nuggets to get to the Western Conference Finals last season. In fact, the team has never made a Conference Finals before.
However, they still have a lot of talent on that team. Kawhi Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA and Paul George can play at a superstar level. If both of those men are firing on all cylinders in the playoffs, they’re going to be much tougher to beat. The Lakers do have the better duo in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They also probably have the better roster as a whole.
In a seven-game series, it’s hard to see the Clippers beating the Lakers four times but crazier things have happened. They can’t underestimate them just because of what happened last year. The Clippers got a new head coach, a retooled roster and are playing at a high level.
Other Potential Threats to Lakers
A team in the Western Conference that the Lakers might need to keep an eye on is the Utah Jazz. They are sitting at 10-4 right now and have a very good trio in Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley. They also have a top sixth-man in Jordan Clarkson. The Jazz shouldn’t be underestimated, especially after Mitchell’s epic run in the bubble last season.
Other than the Jazz and Clippers, there doesn’t appear to be a serious threat in the Western Conference. The Nuggets aren’t playing that well and are currently the 10th seed. The Golden State Warriors have been better than expected but without Klay Thompson, they aren’t going on a title run. The Phoenix Suns are off to a good start but they’re probably too young outside of Chris Paul.