Lakers, Clippers Battle for Staples Center Supremacy as NBA’s Pacific Division Favorites

Lakers, Clippers Battle for Staples Center Supremacy as NBA's Pacific Division FavoritesThe Los Angeles Lakers stole all the headlines this offseason when
they acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. They were already a
championship contender to begin with, but the addition of Howard, who is
universally regarded as the best center in the NBA, and Nash, a likely
Hall of Fame point guard, has made the Lakers the favorite in the West.

The Lakers’ in-city rivals are their main competition in the Pacific, making the
division a two-horse race between the Los Angeles teams, as
none of the other three squads are expected to be competitive.

Los Angeles Lakers
Odds: 5-2

The
Lakers orchestrated a coup this offseason by stealing Nash from the
Suns and acquiring Howard without including Pau Gasol in the return
package. That gives the Lakers a starting five that includes Nash, Kobe
Bryant
, Ron Artest, Gasol and Howard.

Bryant
and Howard alone would be enough to make this team a threat, but with
the other All-Stars around them, this team is going to be a juggernaut.
The Lakers even managed to add some depth with Antawn Jamison and Chris Duhon.

Age
is a bit of a concern with Nash (38), Bryant (34), Artest (33) and
Gasol (32), but if they stay healthy, this team will be hard to beat at
any point in the season.

Los Angeles Clippers
Odds: 22-1

The
Clippers gave their Showtime neighbors a run for their money last season, and they’ll do it again this year. Pound for pound, the Lakers have
the better roster, but the Clippers are younger and on the rise.

Chris
Paul
and Blake Griffin are superstars, but they should have more help
around them this year. The acquisitions of Lamar Odom and Jamal
Crawford
combined with the return of a healthy Caron Butler should
give the Clippers the depth they were missing.

This
franchise is no longer the moribund little brother. They’re for real,
and they’ll give the Lakers all they can handle in the Pacific.

Phoenix Suns
Odds: 100-1

Phoenix
continues to downgrade its roster as frugal management has now seen
the final foundational piece from the once-competitive Suns teams leave as Nash went to L.A. But the Suns did spend a first-round pick on North Carolina
product Kendall Marshall in the hopes that he can replace Nash and
become the new face of the franchise.

With
Nash gone, there’s no go-to guy on the roster. Michael Beasley, Marcin
Gortat
and Luis Scola are nice pieces, but they’re better served being
the supporting cast to a star. The Suns don’t have that primetime player,
and that’s likely to keep them out of the postseason once again.

Golden State Warriors
Odds: 100-1

It’s
hard to gauge exactly where the Warriors are in their rebuilding
process. They refaced the franchise last year by shipping away Monta
Ellis
in return for Andrew Bogut, but that didn’t work out so well, as
they finished with just five wins in their final 26 games.

The
building blocks appear in place with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson,
first-round pick Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Bogut, but there are
still a lot of question marks. Curry and Bogut are consistently injured,
Barnes is a rookie and Thompson has a small body of work.

The
talent is in place, but there needs to be production. With so many
unknowns, it’s easy to see why the Warriors are such a long shot at 100-1 to
win the NBA title.

Sacramento Kings
Odds: 200-1

The
Kings are a team in transition both on and off the court, and that’s
likely to weigh over them like a dark cloud in the 2012-13 season.

There’s
been plenty of conjecture about moving the franchise to another city,
with rumors suggesting Virginia Beach is the likely destination. In any
case, the future in Sacramento does not look good.

On
the court, the Kings have a young, disjointed roster that produced just
22 wins last season — the second fewest in the West. The addition of
Aaron Brooks and first-round pick Thomas Robinson should help, but given
all the headwinds, they’re likely heading for another season with
around 25 wins.

Photo via Flickr/acfromdc

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