Commentary

California Love

How the Kings, Clips and Warriors can "be" the Lakers

Updated: September 12, 2011, 2:01 PM ET
By Chris Palmer | ESPN The Magazine
Blake GriffinAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillIf the Clips want to rival the Lakers, Blake Griffin must be their version of Kobe Bryant.

California leads the nation in a lot of things: population, Electoral College votes and probably public schools in debt. Why should it be any different when it comes to NBA franchises? Cali boasts four NBA teams but to most fans it's the Lakers then everybody else. Well, the times they are a-changing. With an aging roster and a bloated payroll, the Lakers' hold on the California "state title" could be over. The three other teams in the golden state are getting restless and loading their rosters with the some of the best talent their respective franchises have seen in years. But these perennial also-rans have a lot of work to do to close the gap on the Lakers' dominance.

Let's be realistic, though. The Clippers, Warriors and Kings will never have the tradition and aura of Jerry Buss' storied franchise, but it's entirely possible that one of the teams could be better than the Lakers in two to three years. So let's take a look at what California's three "other" teams can do to challenge the Lakers' supremacy as the best team in the state.

Los Angeles Clippers

Personnel needs

The biggest move the Clippers made last season was trading away Baron Davis and a lottery pick (which resulted in No. 1 overall selection Kyrie Irving) for Mo Williams. While Williams was a slight upgrade he's not the long-term solution at point guard. With so much talent to work with, a top-flight, pass-first point guard could be a game changer for the Clippers. With a young, athletic lead guard handy in the pick-and-roll and capable of operating at any tempo, the Clips would move one step closer to a team as opposed to a collection of young talent. Eric Bledsoe is a nice fit but by no means an elite floor general. The Clips' other glaring weakness is at small forward. Not so certain second-year man Al-Farouq Aminu is the answer, but he could be prime trade bait. The ho-hum Ryan Gomes, who managed just 7.2 points in 27 minutes per game, isn't the answer, either.

Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine