Will Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Reign End Out West?

The Phoenix Suns gave the Los Angeles Lakers all they could handle before eventually falling in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals, as the Lakers went on to claim their third conference crown in as many years.

The Lakers appear to be in position to make it four in a row unless some team in the West can prove it has the right balance of size, defense, scoring, and chemistry to unseat Los Angeles.

The task will be formidable because the two-time defending champion Lakers actually improved in the offseason by addressing the need for help at the point guard position and depth in the backcourt.

It's a difficult proposition, but not an impossible one, and if someone does find a way to expose the Lakers' weaknesses, it will likely come from a group that includes Dallas, Denver, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Portland.

The Suns lost star forward Amar'e Stoudemire to the New York Knicks in free agency, and although Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick should help alleviate some of the pain from Stoudemire's loss, it's unlikely they can replace his impact in the lineup.

Al Jefferson has the potential to be an upgrade over the departed Carlos Boozer in the Utah Jazz's lineup, but the loss of Wesley Matthews and Ronnie Brewer means Utah must replace two of their best perimeter defenders.

The Houston Rockets are always a dangerous opponent for the Lakers, but the uncertainty surrounding the health of center Yao Ming leaves a hole in the middle that Los Angeles will easily exploit.

Even a healthy Yao would find it hard to operate against a front line consisting of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, and the newly acquired Theo Ratliff.

Throw in Matt Barnes for good measure, and the Lakers have length and depth all over the court, and can match the defensively-minded Rockets blow for blow in that category also.

On paper, the Dallas Maveri...

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