|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
|With Kobe Bryant leading the way, the Lakers look to rule the West for the fourth straight season.|
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Lakers. They've been the best in the league the past two seasons, and they got even better this summer. Steve Blake is a good triangle offense guard and Matt Barnes is so hungry for a ring you'll hear his stomach growling during timeouts.Normally this would be the part where we wonder about Ron Artest, but after his incident-free season he might be past that. The main concern: Kobe Bryant is coming off his third knee surgery. There are only so many high-level games left in that body.
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: Lakers. We often hear that basketball is about execution. The good teams know what they want on both ends of the floor, but only the great ones know how to get it routinely.There are a bunch of good teams in the Western Conference, but the the Lakers are the only great team -- the one that fully understands how to get what it wants offensively and defensively.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: Lakers. Resisting the urge to pick the Thunder and newly aggressive center Nenad Krstic; Denver is very good if Melo stays; and Houston will be right at the top if Yao comes back healthy.Still, the desire for a three-peat will be a huge motivating factor for the Lakers, and a healthy and healed Kobe Bryant is not someone I want to pick against. Love the Steve Blake addition, too.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Lakers. Not sure how you can dare to pick anyone else when no one can definitively tell you the second-best team in the West.
The overall depth in the conference is obviously still superior to the East's, but how can you say that any team out West has closed the gap on the Lakers?
Exactly ... you can't.