Los Angeles Lakers: Five Western Conference Teams To Dethrone Defending Champs

NBA season is in full swing and sitting atop of the western conference is none other than the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Searching for a repeat for the City of Angels, the Lakers may find it difficult to accomplish in an already stacked Western Conference. Especially if they end up in a finals series against any of the five teams listed below.

Utah Jazz

A bit unorthodox to start the program with a currently overlooked team, but it’s necessary. As of right now, the Jazz is sitting at third place in the conference directly behind the Lakers and Clippers in the three seed. As of right now according to Basketball Insiders, the Utah Jazz starting lineup has outscored opponents by an average of 58 points and in addition to that, they have arguably one of the league’s best benches and play smothering defense. Utah because of this could challenge or possibly knock out the Lakers in a seven-game series purely because they are a deeper team.

Phoenix Suns

Currently, the number four seed in the west is one of the Lakers’ most bitter geographic rivals according to Kobe Bryant, the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are an interesting squad because for the most part they have been built in the draft but not with one-year players. For the most part, the Suns are a veteran team, especially behind leaders like Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Jae Crowder. The veteran leadership has brought out an edge in Deandre Ayton that could spell trouble for the Los Angeles Lakers. Also, the scariest statistic currently with the Suns is the fact even though Devin Booker is having a down year? They are still 8-6 and sitting in the fourth seed of the entire conference

Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers are the next team on the list that could possibly unseat LA in the west. Like the previously mentioned Suns, the Trail Blazers are also 8-6 and have a lot of potential. Portland is a fairly deep team with some serious star power in the starting lineup. The combination of Enis Kanter, Lillard, and CJ McCollum could give defenders nightmares prior to any matchup however they also have a dark horse. After so many off-season acquisitions, Portland just could not fit Carmelo Anthony into the starting lineup. This means he is coming off the bench with limited minutes in most games. Even with limited minutes, he is averaging 12 points and three rebounds per game this season. That veteran leadership can also come in handy should Portland go into a head to head against a fairly young Los Angeles Lakers squad.

Dallas Mavericks

Although off to a slower start this season, the Dallas Mavericks are primed to give the Lakers fits in a seven-game series. With Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis leading this high-powered offense, they can do a lot of damage. The other thing about the Mavericks is by now they have people that have been in the playoffs before so now they go in with much fewer jitters than previous years. A calm cool and collected Mavericks team may be able to take the Lakers to 6 games in a 7 game series. Definitely on the least likely to knock them outside due to the drop-off in production after Luka and Kristraps.

Memphis Grizzlies

This is probably the most interesting one on the list. The reason for the Grizzlies centers around Ja Morant and the fact he has the rest of the season to get even better. It’s weird to sort of narrow in on one player to be the difference when that player is not LeBron James, but those that watch the Grizzlies can see the huge impact he makes on the team. Also, their record is kind of skewed by the fact the one opponent they can not seem to get rid of is COVID-19 protocols. Watch for the Grizzlies to make a stretch run at the end of the season to put them head to head with the Lakers in round one. Calling my shot now.

In case you haven’t noticed I have left out the Los Angeles Clippers on this particular list. The reason is simply culture. Though the team is red hot in the regular season and may be able to take on the Lakers head to head (though the Lakers lead that 150-75), they will not be able to hang in the playoffs. There was an article posted in The Athletic right before the season started that mentioned the Clippers failed in the playoffs because of “Leadership Voids” and “Lack of Chemistry”. The team has not done anything to try and alleviate those issues and for that reason, they are not on this list.

What team(s) do you feel has the best chance of knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference? Leave a comment below.

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