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.
* Denver sent guard Arron Afflalo, forward Al Harrington and the lower of its 2014 first-round draft picks to Orlando.
* Orlando sent Howard, guard Chris Duhon and forward Earl Clark to the Lakers and guard Jason Richardson to Philadelphia.
Because Howard and Bynum are widely considered the top two centers in the NBA, the Lakers' upgrade at the position was not as significant as Nash becoming the franchise's best point guard since Magic Johnson.
"I think Steve Nash is going to help Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant a lot because they are going to be a much more athletic team on the fast break," Barkley said. "Dwight Howard is the most athletic big man in the NBA so he is going to work great with Steve Nash. Gasol is the best post-up big man in the NBA. The Lakers are loaded."
Shaquille O'Neal brought three straight world titles (2000-02) to LA after making the move from the Magic to the Lakers in 1996 at age 23.
"The pressure that he (Howard) has been feeling in Orlando has just multiplied by three now," O'Neal said. "The first thing the great (former Lakers general manager) Jerry West did when I signed with the Lakers is he walked me into the Forum and told me to look up. He showed me all the great big men that played before me and how many championships they won.
"The Lakers have a tradition of having great big men. He (Howard) has a lot of work ahead of him. If he thinks the Orlando Sentinel was on his case when he didn't perform, guys like (Los Angeles Times columnist) Bill Plaschke, they don't play."