The Los Angeles Lakers are ready to compete against the best teams that the NBA has to offer. But first they'll have to take down their foes in the Pacific Division for the right to earn a top seed in the NBA playoffs.
Will the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns or Los Angeles Clippers be able to match up against the reigning champions in the division?
After the additions of Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison, it doesn't look very likely.
The Sacramento Kings didn't make many big moves during the 2012 offseason, preferring to improve through the draft and player development rather than producing a big splash with a trade or free-agency signing.
As a result, the Kings are still going to be stuck at the bottom of the Pacific Division, even if they're far more solid than they were during the 2011-2012 season.
Neither the frontcourt nor the backcourt is experienced enough to compete with the Los Angeles Lakers quite yet.
DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson have the talent necessary to one day surpass the duo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum that resides in the Staples Center, but that day is not upon us yet.
Robinson—as NBA-ready as he may be—has quite a bit of seasoning to do, while Boogie hasn't yet reached his ceiling.
In the backcourt, the same can be said of Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Brooks, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. All four of the guards are still improving and can't match up with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant at this stage of their careers.
Youth will help them out during the lengthy NBA season, but the lack of experience won't.
Health permitting, the Golden State Warriors are poised to make a serious run at a playoff spot in the brutally difficult Western Conference.
That said, this team still isn't filled with stars to the point that it can hang with the Los Angeles Lakers for more than just a fluky single game.
Having Andrew Bogut for a full season will help anchor an improved defense and give the Dubs the low-post presence they've been missing to complement David Lee's versatile offensive game.
In the backcourt, Stephen Curry and his glass ankles will form a dynamic duo with Klay Thompson if he can stay on the court.
Then there's Harrison Barnes, who finally gives the team the punch it's been missing from the small forward position.
As you can tell by the names I'm throwing out here, this isn't an experienced team, though.
Golden State will be solid, especially on the offensive end, but the Dubs aren't ready to threaten the Lakers at this stage.
The Phoenix Suns' roster is shaping up quite nicely, but there's not enough continuity or elite talent to compete with the favorites in the Pacific Division quite yet.
After reacquiring Goran Dragic from the Houston Rockets and drafting Kendall Marshall, the Suns now have a formidable two-headed monster at point guard. Losing Steve Nash obviously hurts, but this was a great way to replace the most popular and best player on last year's roster.
With the additions of Michael Beasley and Luis Scola, the frontcourt has also gotten significantly better as well, and a lot of the pressure will be taken off the broad shoulders of Marcin Gortat.
The Suns are going to struggle at the beginning of the season as they attempt to establish an identity, but they'll only improve as the season progresses and the players become more comfortable with their new teammates.
Down the road, this could be a dangerous team, and it's one of the many up-and-comers in the Pacific Division—and the Western Conference as a whole. But it is also not quite ready for the Lakers.
The Los Angeles Clippers are the only team in the Pacific Division that could hang with the Los Angeles Lakers over the course of a season.
With Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the co-habitants of the Staples Center have the star power necessary to compete with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum for supremacy in the battle for L.A.
Moreover, this team's bench is quite deep and should challenge the rest of the teams in The Association for the not-so-coveted and unofficial best bench in the league title. With a healthy Eric Bledsoe and Chauncey Billups, as well as the additions of Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, the Clippers bench might be able to beat the Charlotte Bobcats.
Donald Sterling's team still needs one more crucial piece in the starting lineup before they can actually topple The Purple and Gold though. Whether that's a rejuvenated Odom or a suddenly improved DeAndre Jordan, it could still happen this year.
I wouldn't bet on it though.