I don't think there is any question that with James Harden now being traded to Houston that the Lakers road to the Finals is much easier. I think now you have to say they're the favorite in the West. Someone brought it up in another thread, but the main advantage Oklahoma City had over the Lakers was the bench. Now that advantage has dipped significantly. Now maybe they still have a slight advantage, but the gap between the two benches have closed in a big, big way.
The Lakers have the far superior starting lineup. You look at the Lakers starting unit. You have two legit superstars in Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard who are every bit the dynamic duo that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are. Then you have two All Stars in Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. Last, but not least you have a terrific role player in Metta World Peace. A guy who is still one of the better perimeter defenders in the league and still a threat offensively.
After Westbrook and Durant the Thunder just don't have many options offensively. Who's their 3rd best player now? Serge Ibaka who isn't a huge threat offensively. Certainly not the threat Harden was for the Thunder. Perkins and Sefolosha are both big time liabilities on offense. Kevin Martin is a solid player, but Harden was a legit All Star and potential superstar. Trading him just makes no sense to me because he would've been a restricted free agent not unrestricted.
You lose alot by trading James Harden. Not only a guy who is a very efficient scorer, but a guy who can create for himself and others and also a solid defender as well. He was really the top playmaker for the Thunder. Now that's Westbrook's responsibility and while he's a terrific player he's not a true point guard at all. He's a shoot first player that's strength is creating for himself and not his teammates.
All in all I think it's very clear who the best team in the West is now. It's your Los Angeles Lakers. NBA Finals here we come!