The Los Angeles Lakers had a busy offseason, as they dominated the news headlines in their efforts to once again emerge as a top-tier team. In the process, they picked up Steve Nash and more importantly, Dwight Howard—officially ending the "Dwightmare" that had for so long irritated the world of sports.
With the recent acquisition of these two superstars, the Lakers' roster is as talented as ever, and has the makings to be a contending squad.
Their sudden return to championship relevance brings forth an inevitable question—how far up in the power rankings do they truly belong?
Many will argue that despite their indisputable place in the upper echelon of the league, they are in no way at the very top, as that position is filled by the defending-champions, the Miami Heat.
Others will argue that they still don't have the makings to take the Oklahoma City Thunder in a seven-game series, as Durant and his squad have permanently claimed the West as their conference for the next few years.
However, as always, one contending team seems to have been left out of the mix—the San Antonio Spurs. After finishing with the West's best record and going unbeaten until the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs have once again disappeared off of the NBA's radar.
Still, those who have kept tabs on the team are now wondering whether or not they still have a fighting chance following the new additions to the Lakers.
In a talent matchup, the Lakers have the clear advantage, as their roster is looking as star-studded as any roster has ever been. However, winning a basketball game is about more than just talent.
In a recent article, Bill Simmons of Grantland discussed the many factors that go into winning the multi-dimensional game that basketball has become.
No matter how you stack things on paper, it's nearly impossible for a basketball team to prevail against a quality opponent unless (a) everyone knows their role, (b) everyone likes playing with each other, (c) they can get stops when it matters, and (d) there's something of a natural hierarchy when it truly matters.
While this statement was originally used to describe a potential exhibition between the 1996 and 2012 USA Olympic teams, it describes the current situation between the Spurs and the Lakers quite perfectly.
The Lakers have talent coming at you from every direction, but until chemistry is established, it may just be too much. They are relying on Steve Nash to control the offense with Dwight Howard leading the defensive attack. However the two have never put on a Lakers uniform in their lives. Mix these two superstars with the black hole that Kobe Bryant has become and it all spells disaster.
However, in San Antonio the game played is much closer to Simmon's description. While they certainly have their fair share of stars, every player from Tony Parker down to Matt Bonner knows his role, and few arguments are ever made about who the true leader is.
At the same time, few teams in NBA history have as much chemistry as this Spurs roster. The core has been playing together since 2001, and have won multiple championships during their tenure.
So while they definitely fall short of the Lakers on paper, their overall chemistry will allow them to remain relevant contenders.
Just like the '96 roster, the Lakers' current squad may find it hard to coexist, and the team that truly enjoys playing with each other may reign supreme.
Nothing is set in stone, and while the matchup could undoubtedly go either way, it is still too early to cut the Spurs out of the equation.