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Shaq Makes Big Claim That Can End LeBron James’ Future With Lakers After Nuggets Series

Published 04/17/2024, 1:18 PM EDT

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The Western Conference opened day 1 of the Play-in round, where the Los Angeles Lakers faced the New Orleans Pelicans. LeBron James and co. ultimately won the tightly contested game 110-106, and now will face the defending champions Denver Nuggets in the 1st round. The Nuggets have beaten them eight straight times going into this first-round series, including a sweep in the Conference Finals last season. Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal, who was analyzing the game on TNT, fears a repeat of the same which could mean a change of scenery for King James.

On Inside the NBA, O’Neal said, “It’s going to be a tough task. AD is gonna play out of this world. But even then, they don’t have an answer for The Joker. Denver plays with so much energy. They are the defending champs. They definitely gonna be ready.” However, as a former Laker, he hopes to see Denver slip a little because if they don’t, O’Neal sees this series ending only one way.

“Hopefully, Denver can have some slippage so the Lakers can have some success. But if Denver is focused and the Lakers are focused, might be another sweep,the 4x champion proclaimed. He highlighted how LeBron and Anthony Davis will have to play “out of this world magnificent ball” for the Lakers to have a chance. Last season Denver and Lakers met in the Western Conference Finals and Nikola Jokic was in inspiring form as the Nuggets swept the series 4-0. Another sweep will beg the question, is the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis still good enough to win a title again? More importantly, will James see his future in Los Angeles if they get beaten convincingly again?

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The King has a player option for next season and with his son declaring for the NBA Draft, LeBron will want to keep his options open. After all, he has often stated his desire to play with his son in the NBA before he finally hangs up his boots. Back-to-back sweeps against the same team will surely force the Lakers front office to retrospect and make some major decisions in the off-season. Parting with LeBron could be one of them and it might work out best for all parties involved. But that’s only if LeBron doesn’t pick up the player option. And where can LeBron James end up if chooses to move away from the Lakers? Well, Colin Cowherd has an interesting proposition for James.

USA Today via Reuters

Cowhered addressed the Golden State Warriors’ exit from playoff contention and what they should be doing next in terms of player recruitment. With Klay Thompson set to become a free agent in July, Cowherd believes the Warriors need to provide support to Stephen Curry and that can come if Paul George and LeBron James join him next season.

Cowherd said, “Depending on how the Lakers season goes; LeBron gets frustrated with D-Lo – I would make a call to LeBron. LeBron is close with Draymond, and the one player he said he would always consider playing with is Steph Curry.”

Meanwhile, Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets will be ready for the series and hope to repeat last season’s result. Charles Barkley agreed with Shaq and expressed his concerns for the Lakers.

Will Nikola Jokić supremacy lead to LeBron James wanting a desperate change?

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This year the Western Conference has truly established itself to be one of the most competitive in NBA history. But the Nuggets are still at the top. Barkley too believes that Denver is on another level thanks to Jokić. The Serbian is currently ahead on the MVP leaderboard and has been #1 for quite some time. Even without him, Denver has Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon who can create problems for the Lakers as per Barkley.

Well, for me it’s all about Jamal Murray… But Aaron Gordon is one of the few people who are big enough, strong enough to hang with LeBron because LeBron is like, got a perfect body as far as he’s six-eight, six, nine, big and strong.

Speaking about last year’s Denver run, he pointed out Murray was the second-best player and the key for the Nuggets. ” The Joker is going to do what the Joker does, but everybody else is going to do what they do. But the key is Jamal Murray. If he’s the second-best player on the Nuggets team, they’re going to come out of the West.

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It is rare that LeBron James’ team isn’t the favorite going into any series. If last year’s result is repeated, it could prompt James to consider other options as he would want another shot at championship glory before hanging up his boots.

But with Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets looking sharp and hungry, will they continue to dominate? Or will the Lakers prove the NBA legends wrong? The series tips off on Saturday.

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Written by:

Pranav Kotai

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Pranav Kotai is an NBA beat writer at EssentiallySports. With a master's in sports management and a lifelong passion for basketball, Pranav has an eye for understanding NBA like no other. Pranav is an open encyclopedia of all storylines, with a well-rounded approach to his writing, especially for his favorites like NBA legends Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley.
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Edited by:

Caroline Joseph