Are the Los Angeles Lakers the Team to Beat in the West?
The Los Angeles Lakers have had a busy offseason this year making a flurry of moves to change the look of their entire team. Their first big move came when they did a sign and trade to get veteran point guard Steve Nash. Now most recently, the Lakers were part of a four-team trade that had them getting rid of Andrew Bynum and obtaining Dwight Howard. With Nash and Howard now alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Lakers have been declared the favorites by some to be the Western Conference champions.
The Los Angeles Lakers may have a big four, but it does not guarantee their season will be as good as people may think. After those four players, the Lakers still have a significant drop off in talent at all positions. The bench on the Lakers was a big weak spot for the team last season and they still haven’t gotten the right pieces to fill out the rest of their bench. The addition of Antawn Jamison was the Lakers best move to help bolster the bench. He is someone who can add depth to the forward position and is a good scorer coming off of the bench.
The good news though for the Lakers, is the fact that the bench will not need much playing time. Their starting lineup is clearly one of the best in the league and if the bench can just play solid basketball and try not do anything too flashy, they should be able to keep the Lakers in the game.
Going into this season, there will be one team that the Lakers will face a big challenge from, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder have improved every season in the past three years making it one round further in the playoffs then they did the previous year. This season they made it all the way to the NBA Finals before losing to the Miami Heat.
The Thunder have the best scorer in the NBA in Kevin Durant and are one of the most young and talented teams in all of the NBA. They are excellent on the offensive side of the ball and execute the fast break and isolation plays very well. The Thunder have the youth and athleticism that can stop the Lakers high-powered team. Besides the difficulty of covering Durant, the Lakers have no player on their team who can cover point guard Russell Westbrook. Nash has never been known as a good defender and Bryant doesn’t have the quickness anymore to cover Westbrook on a consistent basis.
Also, one of the big advantages the Lakers have over most teams is their size. The Thunder are one of the few teams in the NBA who can matchup in size with the Lakers big men. Serge Ibaka is one of the best defensive big men in the league and Kendrick Perkins has great size who can defend well on either Gasol or Howard.
So while the Lakers might have all of the star power and the glamor on their team, they are still not the favorites to win the Western Conference. The Thunder have proven with the team that they have now that they are the team to beat next year. The Lakers will have to prove that they can keep up with Oklahoma City before we can claim them to be the team to beat.
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