NBA: With Dwight Howard trade. Lakers unseat Oklahoma City Thunder as odds-on favorites to win Western Conference

BY JOHN ROHDE Modified: August 12, 2012 at 7:22 am •  Published: August 11, 2012

Dwight Howard's 2,515-mile move from Orlando to Los Angeles caused a seismic shift throughout the Western Conference. Tremors also were felt in Las Vegas.

In obtaining Howard from the Magic in a four-team deal, the Lakers instantly became the odds-on favorites to unseat the Thunder as conference champions.

Before the sign-and-trade that brought point guard Steve Nash to LA from Phoenix in early July, the Lakers' odds of reaching next season's NBA Finals were 12 to 1, according to oddsmaker RJ Bell of Pregame.com.

With the acquisitions of Nash and Howard, the Lakers' odds have been lowered to 3 to 1, trailing only the defending champion Miami Heat at 2 to 1.

Since losing to the Heat in last season's NBA Finals, the Thunder's odds of reaching the Finals again have gone from 3 to 1 to 4 to 1.

"It is not even close," TNT analyst Chris Webber said, when asked to choose between the Lakers and Thunder as the 2012-13 Western Conference favorite. "I love the Lakers. When you look at Pau Gasol, individually he is a good player, but when you put Gasol with Dwight Howard, he (Gasol) becomes a great player. I have to give the Lakers — with experience — the advantage now."

Fellow analysts were in agreement.

"It's enough to win the world championship," Charles Barkley said. "He (Howard) can play power forward. He's athletic enough to play power forward and I think this just makes the Lakers the team to beat."

A breakdown of the four-team trade:

* The Lakers sent center Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia and forward Josh McRoberts, forward Christian Eyenga and a 2017 first-round draft pick to Orlando.

* Philadelphia sent forward Andre Iguodala to Denver and forward Moe Harkless, center Nikola Vucevic and an undisclosed first-round draft pick to Orlando.



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