To title behind Howard
The Lakers and Celtics have been knotted at 17 championships each, but Dwight Howard will lead the tiebreaking charge.
Oh, there's a season to be played? Semantics. Howard's back will be fine and the Lakers will roll through the West before meeting the Heat for it all.
And there, you won't see LeBron James and company in the paint nearly as much as they are accustomed. Instead, you'll see Howard's muscle-bound presence, keeping them at bay.
Great centers don't come along often, but when they do, they don purple and gold and end up as champions.
Mr. Howard, you're next in line.
To Finals before falling
The Lakers will win the West and lose to the Heat in the NBA Finals.
Adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash will add juice to an offense that stagnated too often last season for one that included Kobe Bryant. Nash's outside shooting, long overlooked because of his pick-and-roll prowess in Phoenix, will provide spacing for Bryant and Howard. Pau Gasol moves into deadly pick-and-pop range. And what's the over/under for alley-oops from Nash to Howard? They'll exceed it.
Howard, the game's top defender, fits well into coach Mike Brown's schemes. Nevertheless, LeBron James has tasted triumph and he's shifting into seeking dynasty mode. James is the game's best player now. He and Dwyane Wade will carry the offensive burden to a repeat.
To Finals to face Heat
To a compelling NBA Finals against the Heat, with both of those teams confirming that in the NBA it's all about star power and that you can go plenty far with suspect benches.
On paper, no one in the West presents what the Lakers present, an inside-outside (Dwight Howard-Kobe Bryant) game that features a pair of the game's best facilitators at their positions (Pau Gasol, Steve Nash).
As for the Finals against the Heat, let's see how it plays out before June, with the 82-game schedule likely to require some input from these largely counterfeit benches.
This may be a year when home-court advantage in the Finals means everything.
Almost all the way
The Lakers, if their bodies hold up, will reach the NBA Finals next season.
They'll then lose in a dream matchup of future Hall of Famers, falling to the Heat, Tall Ball against Small Ball.
It will be the Lakers' best, if not last, shot, at the Heat, considering Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are running out of anti-aging cream. Sheer size, in the form of Dwight Howard and Gasol will get them past the Thunder.