To make the playoffs, the
Are the Lakers better than the
While he's not the most athletic or dominant point guard in the league, he's crafty, quick and a capable shooter.
Phoenix also picked up former
To make room for both Dragic and Bledsoe in the starting five, Phoenix may play Bledsoe at off guard. The Suns also have
The Lakers have arguably the best player in Phoenix history in
The Lakers also brought back
With Dragic and Bledsoe, the Suns may have a slight edge at the position, but less so if the Lakers are healthy.
The recurring theme in any Lakers preview is the status of
Assuming he returns to form, even if it takes a month or two into the season, Bryant is still one of the top players in the
In addition to Bledsoe, who may start at the position, the Suns have rookie
Goodwin is only 19 but has tremendous potential as a scorer. Former Laker Brown is still an explosive, exciting dunker.
Behind Bryant, the Lakers have a long list of players who will fight for minutes, including
Even with the uncertainty surrounding Bryant, the Lakers hold the advantage at shooting guard.
The Suns have three viable players at small forward in
Morris can play either forward position but might start alongside twin brother Markieff. Marcus has some shooting range and some power, although he's not as strong as his brother.
Tucker is an aggressive defender and emerging role player. Green, an athletic scorer, was acquired from the
The Lakers might start Nick Young at small forward. Wesley Johnson is also an option, although the former Sun may come off the bench.
Young is a high-volume scorer. Johnson is still looking to emerge as a consistent contributor. The Lakers hope Johnson develops into a lock-down defender with a steady outside shot.
Small forward is not a standout position for either franchise.
Heading into camp, Gasol is probably penciled in as the power forward. While that wasn't a natural fit for Gasol last season alongside
Gasol can be the inside focus. Kaman has a steady jump shot and thrives in the pick and roll.
The Lakers can start
Williams and Landry also can play power forward.
The Suns also have
With Gasol starting, the Lakers clearly have the advantage. If it's Hill, the two teams are about even at power forward.
The Suns have a solid center in
Markieff Morris, Frye and even Plumlee can play center, but Phoenix isn't particularly strong at the position.
Kaman is arguably the best center offensively on either roster. Certainly Gasol, if starting, gives the Lakers the advantage at center.
The Lakers also have
Who is Better?
The Lakers are more skilled and experienced than the Suns at four positions -- with small forward being a toss-up.
The Suns won just 25 games last season and while they may improve by a handful of games, their upside isn't much more than 30 wins.
If Bryant, Nash and Gasol show their age and struggle with injury, the Lakers could drop into the 30s -- but a more realistic projection is close to last year's 45-37.
Dragic and Bledsoe will give the Lakers the most trouble offensively for the Suns. The Morris twins are promising but are still developing. It is unclear whether Gortat is part of Phoenix's future plans.
Both the Lakers and Suns are in transition but the Lakers are a borderline playoff team and Phoenix may be in contention for a top lottery pick.
Where exactly the Lakers stand in relation to the rest of the West isn't quite clear but they are better than at least two Western teams in the Suns and Pelicans.