NBA Legend Shaquille O'Neal Reveals Biggest Threat To LA Lakers In 2021-22 Season

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JB Baruelo

After failing to defend their throne last season, the Los Angeles Lakers became more aggressive in upgrading their roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis this summer. The Lakers may have lost some members of their championship roster, but they have also made plenty of interesting additions this summer, including Russell Westbrook, Wayne Ellington, Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza, and Kent Bazemore.

With the improvements that they made, it's hardly surprising the Purple and Gold are once again the heavy favorite to fully dominate the Western Conference and capture the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the 2021-22 NBA season.

Which Team Is The Biggest Threat To LA Lakers?

However, despite being considered the team to fear in the league, the Laker's road to the 2022 NBA championship is still not expected to be easy, especially with the emergence of numerous powerhouse teams in the Western Conference. In a recent appearance on ESPN's First Take, Lakers legend Shaquille O'Neal discussed several interesting topics, including the Purple and Gold's quest for the 2022 NBA championship title.

When asked by Stephen A. Smith which team would pose the biggest threat to LeBron Jame's team next season, O'Neal didn't think twice before giving an answer.

“Utah. You heard what I said…I won’t be so hard on Rudy [Gobert] this year," O'Neal said, as quoted by Sports Illustrated. "Rudy coming with a vengeance. Rudy is coming this year.”


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Jazz Eye Vengeance After Disappointing Season

O'Neal cited "vengeance" as one of the major reasons why the Jazz would be a major threat to the Lakers next season. Fans were making fun of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and the Jazz since their 2020-21 NBA season ended. When they finished the regular season with the best record in the league, the Jazz were the top favorites to represent the Western Conference in the 2021 NBA Finals.

Unfortunately, the Jazz failed to reciprocate their regular-season success in the postseason where they suffered a second-round exit at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers. As of now, Mitchell, Gobert, and the Jazz must be eager to prove that they aren't just a great regular-season team, but a true contender in the Western Conference.

Where Do The Jazz Stand Among West Contenders?

Seeing O'Neal rooting for the Jazz is somewhat surprising since he's a known critic of Gobert and Mitchell. However, despite O'Neal's support, the Jazz would still need to take their game to the next level in order to beat James and the Lakers in a best-of-seven series. As of now, Sam Yip of Sports Illustrated revealed that the Jazz only has the fourth-best odds in the Western Conference to win the 2021 NBA championship title.

"Vegas oddsmakers currently has Utah as the fourth-best odds for a Western Conference team to win the 2022 title at +1600," Yip wrote. "Along with the Lakers, the Warriors and defending Western Conference champion Suns, are currently ahead of the Jazz according to the bookmakers."

Are Suns & Warriors Bigger Threats To LA Lakers Than Jazz?

The Jazz is indeed a good team, but it's not hard to see why the Vegas oddsmakers see the Suns and the Warriors as bigger threats to the Lakers in the 2021-22 NBA season. Though they are a young team like the Jazz, the Suns have managed to reach the NBA Finals last season.

Meanwhile, the Warriors may have missed the playoffs for two consecutive years but with the core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green returning healthy next season, they are expected to return from being the team that made five straight appearances in the NBA Finals and won three NBA championship titles.