Lakers roadblock No. 2: Tough opponents
Speaking of the opposition, let us not forget about the strong nemeses whom the Lakers will have to conquer in order to transform their ultimate goal into a reality. The Western Conference is stacked per usual, and they share a division with four teams (Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings) that should all at the very least challenge for a playoff spot.
The Suns third option as of today is Bradley Beal, which is just flat-out unfair. They have three guys that can drop 50 on any given night and should be practically unstoppable on offense. And while history tells us that he will probably request a trade before next offseason’s culmination, it seems inevitable that James Harden will soon join the Clippers to form yet another virtually unstoppable trio.
Up-and-coming teams like the Pelicans, Rockets and Thunder should produce an uptick in the win column compared to a season ago, posing another layer of threat to the Lakers title pursuit. There are going to be no days off in the Western Conference, and there might not be a single team that could really be viewed as a tanker.
And if you think the Western Conference is tough, your stomach may become a bit queasy upon glancing through the Eastern Conference rosters. The Celtics, Bucks, 76ers (as long as they have Embiid their contender status is not going anywhere), and Heat could all reasonably claim the crown as the NBA’s best team (which currently belongs to Denver until proven otherwise).
The Celtics lost their heart and soul when Marcus Smart was shipped out this summer. However, the addition of Jrue Holiday more than eases the sting of Smart’s departure. Holiday is a better overall player than Smart, and no one should be countering that argument.
Plus, Kristaps Porzingis comes to Boston to offer yet another potential 20-point-per-game threat on offense plus a capable rim protector on defense. Also, has anyone seen what Payton Pritchard has been doing this preseason? The Celtics are scccaarrryyyyy.
Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo might not have played together just yet, but it would be hard to name another duo with more potential than them. Freaky times are ahead in Milwaukee. And while the times may be ominous in Philly right now, the Harden drama should be resolved very soon. When that is over, they should field another serious title contender for new, proven head coach Nick Nurse to work with.
There are many other teams worth mentioning, but you should get the point. With so many other viable challengers to the throne, the greatest opponent the Lakers will face off with may come as a surprise.