NBA preseason picks: Thunder, Lakers will vie for Western Conference title

Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Oklahoma City Thunder are early favorites to win the Western Conference championship. It's likely to come down to a contest between the Thunder, who return largely intact, and the Lakers, who return as a brand new, free-agent heavy team.

The Oklahoma City Thunder begin their 2012-2013 season Nov. 1, and a preview of that season indicates that the Western Conference Championship is going to come down to a contest between the Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Pro Basketball Talk claims there is "zero doubt in anyone's rational, objective mind" about the title going to either OKC or L.A.

The Thunder finished second in the Western Conference in 2012, three games behind the San Antonio Spurs but six games ahead of the Lakers. They went on to face L.A. in the conference semi-finals, defeating them in five games.

OKC faces L.A. four times in the 2012-2013 season, the first game on Dec. 7 and the last on March 5, well before the end of the season. The Lakers hold a 9-4 advantage in head-to-head regular season games dating back to the franchise's move to Oklahoma City.

While the Lakers have loaded up on free agents, Oklahoma City returns with much the same team, assuming that James Harden signs a contract extention.

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