After the Lakers won the 2009 NBA Finals in dominant fashion, the buzz began to build about this team's potential to win a couple more over the next few years. It wasn't just that the Lakers won the championship this year, it was how they looked doing it. They looked like a team that had figured it out. They looked like a team that would make easy work of the regular season Lakers that won 65 games. And they did it without Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, or Sasha Vujacic being major contributors, let alone "deciding factors."
As for the rest of the league, it quickly became clear that the rest of the West, in particular, is now faced with the challenge of figuring out how to match up with the Lakers. The first to make a strong move towards that end are the San Antonio Spurs, who have reportedly traded for Richard Jefferson without giving up any of their "Big 3."
Click on through for more thoughts on the implications of this trade, particularly as it affects the Lakers...
As reported by ESPN's Chad Ford, the Spurs sent Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto to Milwaukee for Jefferson. While what they're giving up isn't quite nothing, the fact that they managed to acquire a 20+ points per game player without giving up any of their Big 3 is impressive... and scary. The Spurs would now seem to have a Big 4 – as if three wasn't enough.
Meanwhile, Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell is surmising that the Bucks will buy out Bowen's contract, allowing him to re-sign with the Spurs before training camp. How fortunate for San Antonio...
For Lakers fans, this trade raises some questions:
- Have the Spurs once again become the Lakers biggest challengers?
- How much does this affect the Lakers' odds to repeat?
- Should the Lakers and Spurs meet in the playoffs, who would win?
- If Manu Ginobili is healthy come playoff time, will the Spurs be the favorites?
Meanwhile, other teams are now looking at an incredibly steep Western Conference hill for the next few years. The Lakers are incredibly good, and the Spurs were one decent piece and some good health away from being serious contenders. Both teams have the experience, and are proven winners. Teams like Denver, Portland, Houston, Utah, and New Orleans have talent and are looking to take those last couple steps to become legitimate contenders – but now they have to worry not only about the Lakers, but also the Spurs.
For my part, I think the Lakers remain Top Dogs in the West, with San Antonio nipping very closely at their heels, and everyone else crying themselves to sleep at night. I think Denver needs to get rid of some of their knuckleheads and replace them with more solid contributors, and I think Portland's window just got a bit smaller, their wait a bit longer. And yes, I do expect that if the Lakers get to the Finals next year, they'll be going through the Spurs to get there. What would happen in a series matchup between our Lakers and the revamped Spurs? Frankly, health may be the biggest factor.
This is the fun part: What do you think this all means? Does this push San Antonio over the top? Between the Lakers and Spurs, who is the favorite? If health is the biggest factor, do you think the aging Spurs can be healthy at the right time next year?
UPDATE: At TrueHoop, Henry Abbott makes the case that this is far from a "sure thing" for the Spurs.
Weigh in, answer the questions, and ask some of your own... In short: What do you think this means for the Lakers and the rest of the West?