I’m picturing the Rockets lineup now of Rafer Alston, Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest, Luis Scola and Yao Ming and love it. That team is worth watching, and on paper, if everything goes according to plan they’re as good as anyone in the West. Of course, what’s on paper doesn’t always translate to reality. I think at worst the team stays as good as they were last year, minus that Earth-shattering 823923-game winning streak, much of which came while Yao Ming was out injured.

Like last year, the West is a mix of terrific teams without a clear favorite. I guess the Lakers have to be considered the best, especially since they played well last season, reached the Finals, and get to enjoy a (presumably) healthy Andrew Bynum, who should keep improving. I’m still not sure about their rotation, however. Should Lamar Odom play small forward, alongside Pau Gasol and Bynum? Yes, if the team wants their best players on the court at all times.

Anyway, as for the Rockets, aside from making lots of wacky statements and seeming a bit nutty off the court, I think Artest knows how to be a winner and is basketball-smart enough to fit in well with what the Rockets do, especially since he trusts coach Rick Adelman.

The best of the West remains a mix of teams, but the Rockets definitely improve a bit with this deal.