We've spent a lot of time focusing on the Cavs, but the Lakers are the true rivals and they currently have what we want back, the title.
The versatility, in large part, goes back to the Lakers strengths in the post. Bynum and Gasol are obvious post threats. However, Odom and Artest can also be very effective in the post, and Kobe isn't too shabby. This allows for a greater range of options, both in terms of lineups and offensive sets, regarding who anchors the triangle in the post, and how the triangle forms around him. Defensively, guys like Artest and Odom can easily guard three different positions, meaning that whether we're talking about a big, strong Small Forward like LeBron James, or a long, lanky Power Forward who likes to shoot from outside like Dirk Nowitzki or Rasheed Wallace, the Lakers have options in matching up with them defensively.
God, it is good to be hated again. It’s an oddly comforting thing for Lakers fans when the entire world seems to be passionately wishing for your team to fail, hoping for an earthquake that will break off Los Angeles and dump it in the ocean so that they don’t have to hear about the Lakers again. When the Lakers are hated, you know they are good. And they are good — very good. Not only did they win the NBA title, they brought back virtually every piece of that team, and made a move to bring in a unique talent (and personality) at another spot. On paper they should be a better team this year — Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are back to lead, with a more mature supporting cast. But they also will be a different team.
Bynum's Health. As healthy as Bynum may say he is now, his health will always be in question. Can he maintain a full healthy year? If so, then bring it on, Drew. If not, then the Lakers are a little slim up front. That won't be good enough to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Now, back to Ron Artest. Yes, the guy can be a distraction... but it all comes down to if you think that LA can withstand that. Two years ago, no way on earth. Now? I think so. Coming off a title, with a veteran presence and Phil Jackson, the Lakers are well positioned to incorporate Artest. The pluses that Ron-ron brings outweigh the negatives.
In Hoops Addict’s Season Preview last year, I used this space to wax poetic about how the Lakers’ greatest strength was that they have Kobe Bryant and every other team does not. While that obviously remains true, that kind of over-simplified analysis does a disservice to the Lakers’ true core competency.