Why Chris Bosh Is Right About the New L.A. Lakers Roster

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 04:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers is guarded by Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat at Staples Center on March 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Even Chris Bosh knows what the rest of the world was already coming to believe. The Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA's new team to beat, no matter who just won the NBA Finals.

At least "on paper," according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, who quotes Bosh as also saying on WQAM that the Miami Heat "have to start over."

That may sound a bit hyperbolic, and that's because it's more than a bit hyperbolic.

But, it's also true.

He's right that Los Angeles has the best starting lineup on paper, and he's right his own club will need to at least partially regroup. Miami never had to face Dwight Howard in its postseason run, and certainly nothing that approximated the combination of both Howard and Pau Gasol.

At some fundamental level, this game is about being able to push people around. The Lakers will be able to push people around.

First-time All-Star Roy Hibbert proved to be something of a nuisance in Miami's second-round series against the Indiana Pacers, but not on the same scale as the guys Los Angeles will be trotting out every night.

In that sense, yes, the Heat need a way to stop Howard.

We all know by now that LeBron James can do a nice job defending Gasol, but that doesn't mean a combination of Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony, Udonis Halem and Dexter Pittman will be able to slow down Howard.

That's not a bad defensive combination by any means. Against slighter bigs like Kevin Garnett or defensive specialists like Kendrick Perkins, the Heat won't have a problem.

But, Dwight Howard averaged 18.8 rebounds in four games against the Miami Heat last season. Forget about the fact he scored just under 20 points a game in those contests—he averaged nearly 19 rebounds!

And, that's when he was playing with the Orlando Magic and a merely mortal starting lineup. 

Does all of this mean the Heat would lose to the Lakers? Will they even have an opportunity to play the Lakers in a game that actually matters beyond regular-season bragging rights?

That's unclear.

There is, however, the makings of a Cold War-like East-West rivalry, at least for a year or two (much like the most recent skirmishes between the Lakers and Boston Celtics in 2008 and 2010).

For the Heat, Howard's ability to rebound and bully his way in the paint is only the tip of the iceberg. He also poses a challenge to Miami's much-relied-upon penetration. If the Lakers can force LeBron and Wade to take jump shots, the Heat will be beatable.

Whatever you make of each team's respective odds, there's no question the defending champions are already thinking about their newest challenge.

Bosh is at least.

His assessment of the Lakers will draw the typical retorts that the Lakers haven't done anything yet and that the Heat will remain the best team until proven otherwise. 

But, precedent doesn't count for much in this league. After all, the Heat came within 48 minutes of not even making it to the NBA Finals. Winning a series or two is little consolation when faced with the prospect of doing it all over again against improved competition.

Yes, Miami made improvements as well. Just don't expect Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to help when it comes to boxing out Dwight.

It's worth highlighting the fact that Bosh qualified Los Angeles' superiority. He said they were the best "on paper," and that only counts for so much. The San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics weren't the best teams on paper last season, but they made up for it with long-cultivated institutional knowledge and top-shelf execution.

The Heat will have a similar advantage over the Lakers this season for the same reason the Dallas Mavericks had an edge over the Heat in 2011. A talented lineup's first year together isn't a cakewalk.

Of course, games aren't played "on paper" and the Lakers will have to be more than big names to win a championship. Their competition in both conferences is hungry and plenty talented.

And, like the Heat, the rest of the league will be starting over, too. Beating the Lakers just got a whole lot more interesting.