The start of the free agent signing period on July 1st comes with speculation about which NBA stars could combine their forces and form the league's next super roster.
Many observers feel any pairing of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or Joe Johnson would immediately make whatever team receives their services favorites to win the NBA title next season.
Last time I checked the title currently resides with the Los Angeles Lakers, and unless all four free agents previously mentioned decide to play for the same team, the Lakers will still be the favorites next season.
Any team featuring a combination of James, Wade, Bosh, or Johnson would be contenders, but which team could any of them join that could match the strength of the Lakers?
The most likely and expected scenario is Bosh and James teaming up in Chicago, and this would make the Bulls favorites to win the East, but unless there are other additions, Chicago's roster is still flawed.
Joakim Noah and Bosh in the front court sounds attractive, but the Lakers would still dominate on the inside with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, provided Bynum makes a full recovery from his latest knee injury.
The post area was the glaring difference in two games between the Bulls and the Lakers last season, and the addition of Bosh and James will make the Bulls better but it won't change that dynamic.
The same rule applies to any team Wade may choose to sign with. Even if his eventual decision upgrades the roster, can a team of free agent stars match the chemistry of the Lakers' own star-studded roster?
Los Angeles has great players in Kobe Bryant, Gasol, Lamar Odom, Bynum, and Ron Artest, but more importantly, they form a great team which has bonded through continuity the past three seasons.
Artest has been the only significant addition to the Lakers' roster since their streak of three consecutive Finals appearances began, and his defense may have been the missing ingredient to a Lakers' dynasty.
It's doubtful that any team of hired guns can garner the same type of chemistry the Lakers have over the course of one season, and even if they do, will it hold up in the postseason?
James proved the last two years that success in the regular season can be misleading, while Los Angeles proved they have a distinct understanding about the difference in intensity that comes in the postseason.
Many observers felt the inconsistencies that plagued the Lakers in the regular season would prevent them from capturing their second consecutive championship, but they didn't count on the Lakers' championship experience.
The Lakers didn't turn it on in this year's postseason, they merely turned their intensity and focus up, and understanding the urgency of the moment allowed them to win another championship.
And the truly scary part of this scenario is Los Angeles was still capable of winning a title despite injuries to key players such as Bryant and Bynum.
Imagine what the postseason may have resembled for the Lakers if they were at full strength for the duration of the playoffs?
If Los Angeles can maintain relative good health, it's hard to picture it not capturing a berth in next season's NBA Finals, and it's even harder to picture a team from the East defeating it over the course of seven games, regardless of who is on the roster.
Unless of course the Orlando Magic find a way to sign Wade and James to pair with Dwight Howard. But since that has little to no chance of happening, the Lakers should still be the favorites to win next season's NBA championship.