The biggest challengers to LeBron James and the Lakers in 2020-21 NBA season
LeBron James and the Lakers romped to victory in stylish fashion a week ago, pummeling the Miami Heat into submission. They took the series 4-2 with emphatic wins in Games 1 and 6.
It is clear that LeBron and Anthony Davis are the most fearsome duo in the NBA. Neither of them can be stopped on the offensive end. James is the best playmaker in the game and even if a team manages to limit his scoring, he finds other ways to contribute to their offense.
Through 17 seasons and 10 Finals appearances, James has left little doubt that he is the man to beat for any team to emerge victorious in its title hunt.
Many thought that the tough Western Conference would put James to the test, but he emerged from this year’s playoffs with just 3 losses in the Conference playoffs.
The upcoming season, however, will be of a different sort. Teams will have retooled and strategized for the Lakers’ 1-2 punch in the offseason. Adjustments will be made and strategies worked upon.
Who are the likeliest threats to the Lakers in the Western Conference playoff picture next season? Read on to find out:
#1. Golden State Warriors
James may be the most dominant player in the league today, but the Warriors have changed the way the game is played. With the All Star trio of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and the only unanimous MVP ever in Steph Curry, they will come back with a vengeance next year.
Everyone has a plan till they face the 3-pointer barrage unleashed by the 2 best shooters in the game today. In their last full season without Kevin Durant playing together, Thompson and Curry combined for a mind-boggling 678 3-pointers.
The kind of ball movement and motion offense the Warriors display has proven to be too much for some really elite teams in the past. Curry and Thompson have redefined what it means to be an elite shooting team in the modern NBA.
In the appreciation of their offensive schemes and talents, we cannot ignore how great they are at the other end either. Spearheaded by a vocal leader in Draymond Green, the Warriors were a top defensive team in each of their 5 Finals runs over the past decade.
Green’s presence allows them to switch whenever required. The power forward is able to take on and contain opponents much bigger than his size. His sixth sense for sniffing out what the offense will do often allows the Warriors to break in transition for easy buckets.
If Steph and Klay come back in their best form, there is little doubt that the Warriors will once again be challenging for the top seed in the West.
#2. Los Angeles Clippers
An underwhelming postseason aside, the Clippers are still one of those teams built to contain the Lakers’ dominance. Starting with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, their two major perimeter threats, the Clippers have a number of weapons on the offensive end.
If they are able to re-sign Montrezl Harrell, retain Lou Williams and obtain a true point guard, the team will be a real force to reckon with. The 2019-20 season was one in which they were integrating their two superstars all season long, and the lack of chemistry showed them up in the playoffs.
While they’ll still not have the same impact as James and AD, a team with these many scoring threats is still going to be a force to reckon with. The Clippers are no slouches defensively either. Ivica Zubac is an excellent defensive anchor and can keep AD from being a serious lob threat in most pick-and-roll situations.
#3. Dallas Mavericks
Pretty much like the Lakers, the Mavericks have an amazing 1-2 guard-big man combo. Doncic and Porzingis are two of the biggest talents in the league today. The ability of Porzingis to stretch the floor on offense as well as being a defensive presence will be really handy for Rick Carlisle.
Doncic has the court vision and playmaking ability of LeBron. And while the youngster is nowhere near the stratosphere James occupies on an athletic level, his ability to put up points in a hurry is no less potent.
The Mavericks were the best 3-point shooting team in the league over the past season. The likes of Tim Hardaway Jr and Seth Curry flourished with feeds from Doncic. Even Trey Burke experienced a resurgence in his career playing alongside him.
The major concern for the Mavs would be to shore up their defense in the offseason. Dwight Powell’s return will serve to alleviate some of those problems. But they still need a true defensive anchor to truly be challengers next season.
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