By Dennis Berry
Finally it is over; Dwight Howard is headed to the Lakers.
After months of will they or won’t they, the Orlando Magic have shipped the NBA’s best center to the Western conference. It took a four-team trade to get Howard to Los Angeles. Philadelphia and Denver were needed to get everything all worked out.
The addition of Howard makes the Lakers one of the best teams in the West. The starting lineup is pretty ridiculous: Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and now Howard. Many will pick Los Angeles as favorites to win the NBA title next year due to this lineup.
The truth is, however, they actually should not be favorites at all.
Even by adding Howard, the Lakers should not be considered the overall favorites to win the NBA title next year. The only team that has a case to be ranked ahead of them in the Western Conference is Oklahoma City. In the Eastern Conference the only team better than LA right now is Miami.
I know you are probably sitting there thinking, "This guy is nuts". When you look at the big picture surrounding the Lakers, it is not that hard to see it.
The first factor still facing the Lakers is age. This was something that was talked about after the Lakers acquired Steve Nash. The rest of the Lakers' starting line up is old. Nash turns 39 in February, Bryant will be 34, World Peace will be 33, Gasol is 32. At some point, Father Time catches up with players and this group has played a lot of basketball.
While Howard is still young, turning 27 in December, he will be coming off of back surgery next year. All reports are that the surgery and his rehab have gone well; still an injury to the back should not be easily dismissed. Especially with the beating and banging that Howard has to deal with on a nightly basis.
The next problem surrounding the Lakers is that this trade still does not help their depth. When you look at the Lakers' bench, you have to wonder who is going to help out the starting five?
Antawn Jamison you say? If this was five years ago, sure, but if you think that he will get 15 points off the bench then you are mistaken. He will be a nice piece, but he will not get the 16 shots a game he used to get when he is on the floor with any of the starters.
The Lakers also acquired Earl Clark and Chris Duhon in the trade, but the will not add much to the Lakers. In four years in the NBA, Clark has averaged 3.1 points a game. Duhon only averaged 3.8 last year in Orlando. Not exactly impactful bench players.
The next concern for the Lakers is Mike Brown. There will be no excuses for Brown next year. He has a loaded starting five with some of the best players in the NBA. All that will be expected from him is to win.
Will he be able to handle this starting five of superstars? The last time the Lakers tried something like this was when they brought in Karl Malone and Gary Payton to team with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. That team was coached by Phil Jackson and still lost in the NBA Finals to Detroit.
So now Mike Brown is faced with the same task that Jackson had. If Jackson was not able to do it, why should we expect Brown to be able to win a title?
The final concern will be if Howard will accept his role in L.A. He will not be the man on this team. That is still Bryant as long as he is a Laker. Will Howard accept being the second, or perhaps third, option in the offense? He said he wanted help in Orlando; well he has plenty of it now in L.A.
There is no doubt that the Lakers have put together a very strong starting lineup. They will be one of the favorites going into next season. Even still it is hard to see them being able to get past Oklahoma City or Miami in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City is the best young team in the NBA. They have already proven that they can get to the Finals and will want to make up for losing there last year. Their four best players – Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant are all gaining more experience playing in the Olympics right now.
If L.A. does get past the Thunder they will probably play Miami in the finals. The core of the Heat title team is coming back, with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Plus the best player in the world, LeBron James, still plays in Miami.
It is easy to do a knee jerk reaction to this trade and proclaim the Lakers as favorites. The reality is, though, they have just made themselves the third best team in the NBA.
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