Who wins a championship first: the Suns or Lakers?

Phoenix Suns T.J. Warren (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns T.J. Warren (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns boast arguably the league’s best young core, while the Lakers are trying to trade for the entire league. Who is the next king of the West?

On Twitter, @HoopsReference tweeted out a poll posing the question: do the Lakers or Suns have a better young core?

The results of the poll were overwhelmingly in the Suns favor, but that doesn’t seem to matter for next year’s championship odds. Vegas thinks the Lakers have the best chance to land all of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George this summer, giving them very high title odds despite currently bringing back a roster identical to the one that finished under .500 last season.

If we’re talking about just next year, it has to be the Lakers. The Suns aren’t expected to be aggressive in free agency, and their current core is still too young to compete. But there are two questions to be asked concerning the Lakers championship chances in the near future.

The first question: will the Lakers actually land all three All-Stars they’re purportedly after? And the answer is almost definitely no. The Spurs don’t want to trade Kawhi Leonard to a Western Conference team. Paul George might be staying in Oklahoma City. LeBron James is considering many other teams, and he might not be willing to go to LA without another star.

Of course, Kawhi Leonard could always sign with Los Angeles when his contract is up next season. But if he catches on with another team this year it increases the odds he finds happiness in his current situation and re-signs.

And this begs the second question: if they don’t get all three guys, are they good enough to win a championship. And the answer, I think, is also no. LeBron is great, but it’s clear he needs at least decent talent around him to beat the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard may be good enough, but Paul George probably isn’t, and the Lakers current core offers little optimism.

So then it comes down to young talent, and it’s pretty clear the Suns have an advantage. Devin Booker is better than anyone on either team. It can be argued that Deandre Ayton is next.

While Brandon Ingram is flooding with potential, the rest of the Lakers core is generally lacking. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and Julius Randle may never be more than quality role players, and their chances of becoming high end starters seem significantly lower than those of Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges.

Throw in that the Suns can still hope for the development of T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss off the bench, and it’s clear that Phoenix has a much better group of young players than the Lakers.

Next: Who is the odd man out in Phoenix?

Los Angeles will always be chasing the next best free agents, but they’ll eventually have to pay up to keep their young players. If they whiff this offseason, their window of cap flexibility will be closing fast. The Phoenix Suns still have two to three more years of flexibility and better players already in place.

Contrary to what oddsmakers believe, the Suns could have a far brighter future and a championship ring before the Lakers.