Who Has the Best Chance to Derail the Lakers? -- Just Maybe, It's Los Angeles' Other Team

Basketball Dec 22, 2020

The 2020-21 NBA regular season tips off tonight.  Who's the biggest threat to the Reigning Los Angeles Lakers?  Believe it or not, the biggest challenge might be from the team that plays inside the same arena.

The world champion Los Angeles Lakers tip off tonight.  They will try to defend their supremacy, only 72 days after capturing the franchise’s record-tying 17th NBA title.

Meanwhile, the teams who didn’t qualify for last summer's "Orlando bubble season" haven’t played a competitive game since early March.

What will the shortened off-season for the teams that went deep in the playoffs combined with some teams being away from the game for nearly nine months mean to the overall quality of play?

This apparent disparity could create some interesting betting opportunities.  Some teams will be closer to mid-season form, while others who haven't played in a long time could be rusty and not cohesive as an team.

The 2020-21 schedule will include 72 games, with each team back in its home arena (except for the "Toronto" Raptors, who will play home games in Tampa).

The defending champions open their season tonight in Los Angeles against the rival Clippers.  During the shortened off-season, superstar Lebron James and Anthony Davis signed contract extensions.  Worse for all the challengers, the Lakers added significantly to their supporting cast.  Dennis Schroeder, Wesley Matthews, and Marc Gasol will all play in the rotation.  No doubt, the Lakers are the team to beat.

But the Lakers' biggest move was essentially stealing a top player from their crosstown rivals.  Montrezl Harrell, who is the reigning "Sixth Man of the Year" switched teams, jumping from the Clippers over to the Lakers.  At least his moving expenses will be minimal.

Meanwhile, the Clippers remain every bit as hungry to grab the basketball allegiances of fans in Los Angeles.  Head coach Ty Lue, who was James’ former coach in Cleveland, now guides the Clippers.  He has plenty of talent to work with, including Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.  The Clippers also get Patrick Beverly and Lou Williams back as well.

Is Tonight's Match-up A 2021 Western Conference Finals Preview?

So, which team is best suited and prepared to dethrone the mighty Lakers?

Compelling arguments can be made in the Western Conference for Denver, and maybe even Dallas.  In the East, Boston, Toronto, Miami, and Milwaukee (and some say even Brooklyn) will contend for the title.

But we don't think you have to look that far to find the Lakers' biggest challenge in 2020-21.

Consider betting on the Los Angeles Clippers. This is a veteran team built around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, with a strong supporting cast, and a coach that knows how to win.  

However, let's also be honest:  Hhistory has not been kind to the long-suffering Clippers, a team that has never made it to the NBA finals, let alone won one.  This might finally be their year, but only if they get some breaks along the way.  

We could get a sneak preview of the Western Conference outcome tonight, since the Lakers and Clippers will tip off the new season in Los Angeles at 7 pm PST.