This offseason’s blockbuster trade among the Lakers, Sixers, Nuggets and Magic not only neutralized the point of last season’s lockout to spread out talent in the league, but also created another title-contending super team by adding the best center in the league to an already star-studded Lakers’ lineup.
Last year, Lakers fans such as myself knew the team had glaring holes in their lineup — they didn’t have a point guard who could create shots for others, they had no bench and they were stuck with a center who gave up too easily. All of these flaws were exposed when the Oklahoma City Thunder stomped LA in the playoffs.
This summer, the Lakers addressed all of their problems by pilfering Steve Nash from the Suns, signing Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks for chump change and sending Andrew Bynum to the Sixers for Dwight Howard, whose addition will take the Lakers into the NBA finals over OKC.
So how exactly does Howard lift the Lakers over their main competitors?
Offensively, Howard solves all of the Lakers’ problems. He can get wide-open shots for anyone because he commands a double team, he’s the best pick and roll big man in the game as he scores 78 percent of the time when involved in the play, and he’s statistically a better offensive rebounder and finisher at the rim (he scores on 64 percent of his offensive rebounds) compared to Bynum, negating the free throw percentage disparity. Not only that, Howard has a higher field goal percentage in post-up situations compared to Bynum (50.2 to 46.8).
Defensively, Howard blocks and alters more shots than Bynum. He’s won Defensive Player of the Year three seasons in a row, meaning the Lakers’ perimeter defenders can tighten up on defense because they know Howard will be behind them to protect the rim.
Book it — the Lakers are coming out of the West and setting the stage for the first-ever Kobe vs. LeBron finals.
The NBA has become the Lakers, the Heat, and everybody else. This summer’s trade was bad for basketball because it set up a dangerous precedent in the minds of GM’s across the league.
Up until the Miami Heat took home last season’s Larry O’Brien trophy, the idea–that the amount of stars on one’s roster resulted in championship rings–didn’t “ring” true.
But the Heat won, the Lakers responded and now everyone’s expectations seem reminiscent to the one we had for the London Olympics’ version of the Dream Team.
And that was boring to watch. Seriously. It was like charity basketball.
But there was a glimmer of hope resulting from the trade and that was guard-forward Andre Iguodala’s move to my hometown team, the Denver Nuggets.
For the Nuggets, the acquisition of Iguodala puts an All-Star on a young team full of potential. This is a move that may prove to be the one shiny adjustment to George Karl’s team-first basketball that could prove counter to the name-first we’ll see this season.
On the surface, Iguodala’s presence will shore up a defense that was among the league’s worst in points allowed and his 15.3 career points per game average will help make up for the loss of both Al Harrington and Aaron Afflalo.
In addition to Harrington and Afflalo, last season’s Nuggets had six players who averaged over 10 points a game, and three more players on the current roster – Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler, and Corey Brewer – were on the verge. Simply put, the Nuggets are deeper than an Adele album.
Still, “potential” is Denver’s biggest weakness because the team relies upon players like Javale McGee, Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, and Kenneth Faried to be consistent performers.
If it happens, however, then the Nuggets could become David in a tale of two Goliaths, and the rest of professional basketball would have cause for hope.
After the “Big Three” of Miami took the 2012 championship, the same tears cried by Cleveland over Lebron James soaked the faces of Orlando Magic fans with news of the trade of Dwight Howard. A new “Big Four” was assembled in Los Angeles after my home team’s franchise player made his tumultuous exit.
Howard once said, “I love the way (Stan Van Gundy) coaches us.” Fast forward to this past year’s “Dwightmare” and we have a very forward display of dissatisfaction with his formerly beloved coach after alleged reports surfaced of Howard’s request to rid the Magic of Gundy (these reports were denied by former GM Otis Smith).
This would not be the last time Howard contradicted himself in front of his Orlando fans. Just last week, he took a full-page ad in the Orlando Sentinel to “thank” his fans and rub the trade in Orlando’s face one last time. Along with a giant photo collage of Howard and his charities are captions of his undying love for Orlando and its “beautiful” fans. He cited his time with the Magic a privilege and honor.
Now the Magic will attempt to move forward without Howard, Gundy or Smith. Instead, the Magic get first-time head coach Jacque Vaughn. Quite frankly, I don’t recognize this team anymore. Thank goodness we now have Glen Davis and Al Harrington holding the fort. I hope the Lakers truly enjoy Howard’s 48 percent free throw shooting, which will come into play since he’s always the target of fouls.
Let me make one thing clear: I am not mad at Dwight Howard for leaving the Magic. Howard, like James, wanted to leave because he had to do what was best for him, and I support that motion. But can he please stop with his pleas for acceptance? He is gone and part of the Lakers now, who will go for the NBA title. Although I am personally mortified at the thought of his first game in Orlando on March 12, as the majority of Magic fans tend to not forget things easily. I know I will be watching.