7 NBA Teams Standing Between L.A. Lakers and a Championship in 2013
Following another tough playoff exit, the Los Angeles Lakers made huge additions to the team during the offseason.
In are Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison.
Also in are even higher expectations. It will be NBA title or bust this season.
Getting that title will be extremely tough, as both conferences have some scary teams and the Lakers can't afford to let up on any night.
Read on for seven teams who will challenge L.A. this season in its quest for the organization's 17th championship.
The new-look Boston Celtics will be a force this upcoming season and should be the second-best Eastern Conference team, barring injuries.
This Boston team has revamped the once frustrating bench, all the while keeping the starters ready to go.
Their one noticeable departure is Ray Allen, and he was adequately replaced with Jason Terry and Courtney Lee.
The Celtics also match up well with the Los Angeles Lakers at each position except power forward, where Brandon Bass gives up height to Pau Gasol.
Throw in the best coach in the league in Doc Rivers, and the Celtics have the firepower to go after the Lakers.
The Denver Nuggets made one of the smartest moves this offseason when they added Andre Iguodala and increased their already phenomenal depth.
Iguodala will help on offense, but his true worth will be on defense. He's one of the few players in the league who can defend Kobe Bryant without frequent help.
That should be huge as everyone else will have trouble with Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and probably won't be able to help much anyway.
This Denver team also has the bench scorers to scare the Los Angeles Lakers like they did in the playoffs last year.
Don't sleep on the Nuggets this season.
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs have secured the top seed in the Western Conference the past two years and don't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Veterans Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are ready to lead the team once again in its quest to win another ring.
The Spurs should be even better this season with an almost identical roster because of the ability for a full training camp with Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson and Nando Colo.
That being said, the Los Angeles Lakers will have to go through San Antonio in the Western Conference because the Spurs keep finding ways to win.
And one can never underestimate the will to win that coach Gregg Popovich teaches his players.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers finished with a good record last year, but were really a raw team led by a fantastic point guard.
They lacked structural substance and floundered against the much wiser San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs.
This year's team shook things up a bit by adding Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill among a couple others.
These additions will help bolster depth and already make the Clipper bench better than the Los Angeles Laker bench.
Throw in the fact that the Clippers can match up with every Laker starter, and the game becomes more of a chess match.
In a showdown where so many starters are bona fide superstars, the forgotten bench players like Crawford and Odom could be the biggest factors in a Clipper win.
The Miami Heat are the best team in the Eastern Conference and the defending NBA champs.
Not to mention the most hated team in the league.
After winning the title, the team went out and strengthened the bench with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
Both will be guarded by above-average defenders in Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, but even they can't stop James and Wade from putting up numbers.
Luckily for the Lakers, Dwight Howard is now manning the middle and will drastically change the opponents' offensive plans in that area.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers participated in the huge four-team trade that sent Dwight Howard to L.A. and Andrew Bynum to Philly.
That move alone makes both teams much improved and puts them in the forefront of their respected conferences.
Against the Lakers, the 76ers now have the length to challenge down low and the wing scorers to put up numbers consistently.
This Philadelphia team should be a dark-horse title candidate in the Eastern Conference this season.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be the biggest, most intense rival this season for the Los Angeles Lakers. There's no doubt in my mind every pairing between these two powerhouses will be close.
Both teams come in with such dynamic stars but the Thunder are one of the rare NBA teams who have an unstoppable player in Kevin Durant.
Just look at the footage from last postseason and it's clear that the Lakers had no answer for KD.
However, the addition of Dwight Howard changes the entire OKC game plan.
He'll help keep Durant out of the lane, but it's going to take a phenomenal team effort for the Lakers to pull ahead against the Thunder.