Should the Lakers Go After Dwight Howard?
Ever since the Orlando Magic were booted out of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks and the Lakers untimely exit at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, trade rumors started concerning Superman 2.0, Dwight Howard. Sources close to Dwight Howard have said that Howard feels his tenure with the Magic is coming to an end and he is going to look to win a championship elsewhere.
Elsewhere specifically being New Jersey or Los Angeles, according to these sources. Howard may be leaning towards the path that his Olympic teammate, LeBron James, took by joining a team with more than one superstar which has one primary focus. Win a championship and win it now.
The modern day Superman (Shaq being the classic Superman) has built quite an impressive resume during his time thus far in Orlando. Over his career he has averaged 18.2 points per game and 12.9 rebounds per game.* However, the team seemed to peak in 2009 when they met the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals. Orlando’s “magic” seemed to fade after losing those Finals to the Lakers 4-1.
The two seasons since their Finals appearance, the Magic have almost exclusively relied on Howard for not only his defense, but his offense as well. This has seemed to take a toll on Howard and the team’s record. Howard seems frustrated and it looks like he wants out. Los Angeles may be Howard’s answer, but it is a good decision for the Lakers?
Acquiring Dwight Howard this upcoming offseason would require a trade since Howard is still a year shy from entering free agency. This would mean the Lakers would have to give up multiple players. The Laker that would for certain be involved in the trade is Andrew Bynum. If Bynum is not a part of the deal, the Magic would turn a cheek to the Lakers. Secondary players that could be possibly involved are Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Luke Walton, or future draft picks. The question is will the Lakers be willing to loose the talents of Bynum and Odom for Howard? Is it a good idea?
In his six years in the NBA, Howard has grown to be the league’s number one big man. His offensive contributions has strengthened over the years and his defense has remained strong and consistent, which was recently awarded Defensive Player of the Year for a third straight season. Although the Magic’s run in the playoffs has come to an end, Howard was arguably the best performer in the first round of the entire league, averaging 27 points per game and 15.5 rebounds per game.* On the opposite side of the country, Andrew Bynum was the most consistent player for the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, averaging 15.2 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game.*
If you compare Howard to Bynum, Howard has the better statistics. So it comes down to Lamar Odom and Bynum’s health. Lamar Odom had his best year yet. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is a critical piece to the puzzle of the Lakers’ success. His leadership sparks the bench, while remaining fully capable of earning a starting position. In fact, on any other team, Odom would be a starter. It seems that when Lamar plays well, the Lakers play well. Is Jerry Buss willing to give that up? Bynum’s consistent health woes can influence the Lakers to pull the trigger on Howard. However, when Bynum is in the lineup, the entire structure of the team changes. Bynum has a positive effect on the Lakers, while causing problems for all opponents.
Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss have a huge decision to make if Howard continues his lean toward wanting to be traded. The Magic could possibly entice Howard to stay by acquiring Chris Paul or another point guard. If Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum are the Magic’s demands, the Lakers will lose their length. It is their length that continues to make the Lakers one of the toughest teams in the league, regardless of their record. If Odom is not involved, the Lakers would eliminate the threat of missed games from Bynum’s repeated ailments. Should the Lakers go after another superstar to join Kobe and Pau, or stick with what worked over the past several seasons? After the blow from Dallas that knocked out the Lakers in the second round, change is coming to LA. Unfortunately for fans, we will have to wait a couple of months to see what that change will be.
*Statistics provided by NBA.com