To make the playoffs, the Lakers need to be better than seven teams in the Western Conference.
Are the Lakers better than the Sacramento Kings?
The Kings have two viable point guards in Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas. Vasquez was recently acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans, and Thomas was an efficient point for the Kings last season. Who starts isn't clear yet.
If Steve Nash is at full strength, he's the best shooter of the three and still, arguably, the best playmaker. Vasquez isn't that far behind.
The Lakers also have depth with Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar, which should help keep Nash's minutes down slightly.
The Kings also play Jimmer Fredette and have rookie Ray McCallum to develop.
If the Lakers have the advantage at the point, it's not by a large margin.
When Kobe Bryant returns from his Achilles' tendon surgery, he's easily the best shooting guard between the two teams. If he's not himself when he gets back on the floor, the Lakers' advantage is not nearly as pronounced.
The Kings will play Marcus Thornton and rookies Ben McLemore and Trent Lockett at the two. John Salmons and DeQuan Jones can also play shooting guard.
Salmons always seems to play his best against Bryant. Thornton can be a high-volume scorer once he gets going. McLemore has a lot of talent but needs to prove he can translate it to the NBA.
Behind Bryant, the Lakers boast a long list of players who will fight for minutes, including Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry and Darius Johnson-Odom (the last two are camp invites who still have to make the team) and even point guards Blake and Farmar.
With Bryant, the Lakers have a major advantage at two guard.
It's unclear who starts at small forward for the Kings, but recent acquisition Luc Richard Mbah a Moute could be an interesting choice as a designated defender.
Salmons is more well-rounded offensively than Mbah a Moute. The Kings also have Travis Outlaw, C.J. Aiken and Jones.
The Lakers will probably start offensive-minded Young with Johnson backing him up as the stronger defender.
Shawne Williams, Marcus Landry and Elias Harris, each fighting to make the final roster, bring shooting and toughness to the position. Harris still needs to develop his outside shot but brings versatility to the floor. Bryant may also play some small forward.