Los Angeles Lakers: Is LA the Best in the West Without Dwight Howard?
Once again, the Dwight Howard trade talks have stalled.
As crazy as it might seem, Howard might be staying in Orlando longer than we might have imagined. His reluctance to sign anywhere long-term has really stifled any legitimate talks.
With the Lakers unwilling to pull the trigger on the Orlando center, it seems like it's best for the team to look toward their roster without D-12 for the time being.
If LA picked up Howard, it would be hard not to consider them the most talented team in the league (including the Heat and Thunder).
Let's be clear: The Lakers are still one of the best teams in the league without Howard.
A starting lineup that includes Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will keep the Lakers in the conversation for a title.
Add Antawn Jamison, Jordan Hill and Metta World Peace to the mix and LA could be moved to the forefront of this conversation.
But is this team the best team in the Western Conference?
To answer this question, let's analyze the landscape of the West.
The Grizzlies are likely the fifth-best team in the conference, partly because Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay just do not work well together.
In theory, Memphis can be the best team out West because they have all of the parts in place. However, theory does not dictate actuality.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the reigning Western Conference champions after running through the playoffs with their youth.
Even so, this team was as impressive as anyone this past season. After the Thunder beat the Lakers in five games during the 2012 playoffs, it would make no sense to put LA over OKC.
Yes, the Lakers added Steve Nash and he will be the playmaker that this team has yearned for. However, Nash is still a below-average defender, which would still allow Russell Westbrook to score at a high volume.
When Kevin Durant and Westbrook are clicking, it's really hard to beat this team.
Adding Jamison and Nash put the Lakers past the Spurs and Clippers. These signings made Los Angeles the biggest threat to Oklahoma City supremacy.
However, they didn't put the Lakers past a deep Thunder team—a squad that didn't really lose anyone of note.
While the Lakers are the decided second-best team in the West, keep in mind that the No. 1 seed has not won a title since the 2008 Celtics.
Even without Howard, the Lakers can still win a title.
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