The Los Angeles Lakers have generated some serious hype during the hottest months of the year in NBA land. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Staples Center plays host to the league's best starting five.
And no, I'm not referring to the Los Angeles Clippers. Let's just say that Jack Nicholson could be cheering on something special this year when he takes his seat along the sideline.
Point Guard: Steve Nash
Even though Steve Nash has been playing preseason games in purple and gold, it's going to be awfully strange when he actually dribbles the ball up the court for the Los Angeles Lakers in regular-season action. After seeing him play for the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns for so many years, something in this equation just won't click.
Even though Nash is now 38 years old and dangerously close to that dreaded 40th birthday celebration, he hasn't lost his effectiveness on the basketball court. The floor general still plays almost like he's in his prime.
After averaging 10.7 assists per game, a mark that trailed only Rajon Rondo during the 2011-12 campaign, while passing to Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and the rest of the Suns, it will be scary to see the damage he could do on the Lakers.
Nash will have to deal with a slower offense than he's used to, and he won't be able to dominate the ball to the same extent he normally does, but something tells me that he'll be cool with that.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is going to be the most interesting player to watch on the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2012-13 season. Yes, that includes the glamorous new additions.
The Black Mamba has spent his prime as the unquestioned man in charge in L.A. This team has been his, and he's been successful with the reins in his massive hands. Now he's surrounded by more talent than ever.
Can Kobe handle taking a smaller role if that's what is required of him to win the most games? I'm going to vote yes, because his intelligence is great enough to trump his ego. And don't get me wrong. Saying Kobe has an ego is a compliment, not an insult.
Bryant will get to prove that he's an underrated passer while scoring bunches of points on a nightly basis. He'll also be able to play with a newfound defensive focus on the perimeter, knowing that a certain big man is there to pick up the trash.
Although Kobe's surface-level stats will decline, he's going to play more efficient—and better—basketball than he has in years. Even if he can still make them, don't expect Kobe to take as many shots with difficulty levels that can only be described as off the charts.
Small Forward: Metta World Peace
You know that your starting lineup is in good shape when Metta World Peace, a lockdown perimeter defender with a capable shot from the outside, is the clear weak link in the unit. That's a luxury that not many teams in NBA history have possessed.
According to 82games, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest played 64 percent of the team's minutes at small forward and held opposing players at the position to a PER of just 11.8. That's a sensational mark, one that proves the World Peace we've come to know is still present in L.A.
On the rare occasions that MWP played power forward, he managed to hold opponents to an 8.3 PER.
While he'll take an even more subdued role on the offense end of the court, World Peace is going to be allowed to wreak havoc on the perimeter when playing defense.
Power Forward: Pau Gasol
It's amazing that the Los Angeles Lakers were able to acquire both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard without giving away Pau Gasol. Now the on-court product is going to be even more incredible.
Pau underwent a seismic shift in perception in just a matter of months. After the premature exit from the postseason, the Spanish big man was perhaps the biggest scapegoat of all, and his time in L.A. seemed to be quickly drawing to a close.
Now that the super five are all together, Pau is no longer viewed as a weakness, but rather an asset. It's amazing what the overall perception of a team can do for the perception of individuals.
Pau most certainly will be an asset during his 12th season in The Association. His passing and ability to step out to the perimeter to both hit jumpers and spread out the court for the more traditional bigs are unique for a man of his stature. Both will factor into the success of the Lakers' season, especially when Eddie Jordan's Princeton Offense is in play.
Center: Dwight Howard
Although Dwight Howard has not been playing in L.A.'s preseason contests and isn't developing any chemistry with his new teammates quite yet, that's mostly because the Lakers are being cautious with their new toy.
Think of D12 as a new pair of white shoes. You don't want to get that first dirt smudge on them, so you're extra careful at the very beginning of your experiences together. However, as soon as that first mark appears, you're free to fully break them out.
Howard is making progress as he rehabs after a back injury knocked him out of his final season with the Orlando Magic, but he isn't quite ready to get out in live action. There's a solid chance that he does suit up for the Lakers in the regular-season opener, though, and I'm not talking about the coat-and-tie variety.
Once he's ready to go, Howard will resume holding down the fort as the best center in the league. He can contribute on offense and defense alike, although it's the latter in which his true specialty lies. Whether he's blocking shots from the weak side or playing better pick-and-roll defense than anyone else in the league can dream of, Howard will ensure that Tyson Chandler's reign as the Defensive Player of the Year is a short one.