Despite their scorching-hot offseason in which they've heavily bolstered their team and affected the balance of power in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers are far from shoo-ins to win the NBA Finals.
In case you missed it, the Lakers pulled one of the blockbuster moves of the 21st century, first reported by ESPN news services.
A four-team trade that would send Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers is complete, multiple sources told ESPN on Thursday night.
A source with direct knowledge of the talks told ESPN.com's Marc Stein the Lakers will receive Howard, the Denver Nuggets will acquire Andre Iguodala, the 76ers will receive Andrew Bynumand Jason Richardson, and the Magic will get Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and one protected future first-round pick from each of the other three teams.
It's not that this deal doesn't benefit the Lakers incredibly—because it does. It just doesn't put them head and shoulders above any of the elite teams in this league.
Who won the four-team blockbuster trade?
Suggesting so would be atrocious, to say the least.
For a team that got ousted out of the playoffs so convincingly last season, it's too quick to judge that Los Angeles is guaranteed to win the NBA championship. Two of their best players heading into 2012 have hardly put on the purple-and-yellow jerseys yet.
The Lakers struggled for what seems like years toying with trade talks for Howard, assuring that they could make a straight-up Howard-for-Bynum deal. Essentially, they pretty much got it. Their starting five could go down as one of the most recognizable ones in NBA history.
But are we forgetting about the reigning champion Miami Heat, who won in convincing fashion and boast three of the 10 best players in this league?
What about L.A.'s competition in the West? Oklahoma City can handle size up front with Serge Ibaka, who has the size and defensive prowess to match up to Howard. They also have depth at the position with K-Perk (Kendrick Perkins) and Nick Collison, among others. The Thunder can also top any conference opponent (including the Lakers) in backcourt star power.
You never know what could happen with Howard in L.A. and with a lot of players who need their shots. It could end up taking some time to work, just like it did in Miami.
Some of us (myself included) were foolish to believe that LeBron James and Chris Bosh would help a 2011 Heat team tear through the league, and it'd be just as foolish to believe that this L.A. team is a lock for the 2012 title.