Despite the loss of James Harden, the Oklahoma City Thunder remain the team to beat in the Western Conference.
Furthermore, the Thunder knocked out the Lakers in the NBA playoffs last season, utilizing their excellent perimeter offense and defense to mitigate the skills of the Laker guards.
Unfortunately, the Lakers could not take advantage of their size advantage, and fell victim to the Thunder as Kevin Durant proved his supremacy.
That being said, the Lakers should have a huge chip on their shoulders entering this game.
Armed with a new point guard in Steve Nash, the perfect centerpiece for Mike D'Antoni's offense, the Lakers should be able to contend with the Thunder's transition game.
As the first true test in the schedule post-Mike Brown, the Lakers need to use this game as a measuring stick of their progress up that point.
Although a win is still up for debate against a very talented Thunder squad, the offense and the defense should be gelling by this point.
However, consider the fact that the Thunder are well-equipped to run in transition as well. Given D'Antoni's penchant for the fast break, it is not unreasonable to expect that a well-oiled machine like the Thunder might run the developing Lakers out of the building.
Consider also the fact that D'Antoni's roster in Phoenix consisted of no real post presence. Rather, every player on the floor could shoot from mid-range and beyond while the pick and roll was run extensively with Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire.
With the Lakers, Mike D'Antoni has less shooters and two of the most dominant post presences in the game in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
This game will be a good indicator of whether D'Antoni's offense will mitigate Howard and Gasol's ability to dominate smaller forwards and centers or if his offense will be versatile enough to accommodate that advantage.
Furthermore, any future games with the Thunder should be considered an important game for the Lakers, who are attempting to reclaim their Western Conference throne from the young Western Conference champions.