Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
If the Lakers go into the season with this roster, who’s better in the Western Conference?
Steve Aschburner: Dallas, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Memphis could put the Lakers on the road in the first round of the playoffs, in my opinion. Getting a year older is one issue. Adapting to a new head coach and a new offensive system are two more. The loss of Lamar Odom, and seeing him on the defending NBA champs, is a fourth. The uncertainty that might hang over this team until the trading deadline, if Chris Paul and Dwight Howard remain in play, would be one for the thumb. Not shaping up as the Lakers’ year.
Fran Blinebury: Dallas, OKC, San Antonio and maybe even Memphis. Unless Mitch Kupchak can make the big move and somehow get Dwight Howard to L.A., the Lakers are older and significantly worse than when we last saw them. And remember, that was on the wrong end of a 4-0 sweep by the Mavericks. Lamar Odom was a difference-maker in those back-to-back championships and simply subtracting him from the lineup will ratchet up the pressure on Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, which could be devastating.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Oklahoma City and maybe Dallas. Losing Tyson Chandler is a big hit for the Mavericks, but they still have a lot of depth and lineup options at the forwards and shooting guard.
Shaun Powell: Oklahoma City seems poised to break the small market stereotype. Of course, OKC wouldn’t be in such position if it wasn’t lucky enough to draft Kevin Durant (thanks, Blazers!) and then smart enough to grab Russell Westbrook, who’ll be playing for money this season. The Thunder will have a full season with Kendrick Perkins while James Harden could have a breakout year. The moons are aligning above this franchise.
John Schuhmann: A Lakers decline was coming even if they stood pat, but Lamar Odom was one of the biggest keys to them being a top-six defensive team each of the last four seasons. I think Oklahoma City and Dallas are definitely better than L.A., while Memphis and San Antonio are possibilities too. It’s going to be a season of serious transition in L.A., and the only thing that will keep them in the West’s top three is a trade for Dwight Howard. But that seems unlikely right now.