The Los Angeles Lakers are like an ongoing reality show.
On Monday, rumors swirled around the Internet that Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard recently engaged in a confrontation behind the scenes following a New Year’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Minutes later, these rumors were shot down by Laker beat reporters, followed by a comical picture tweeted by Bryant.
That means the Lakers will be vastly overmatched in the interior and on top of that, the quality of the alternatives that will supposedly fill the voids of the injured starters, aren’t up to par either.
So what’s the solution? Trade Howard.
Yes, that’s right. It would eliminate a bit of the pressure that’s burdened this team, as the expectations with Howard are enormously high. Plus, this Dwight-Kobe-Steve Nash triumvirate just isn’t materializing into the special core originallyenvisioned.
The Lakers could trade Howard—the Brooklyn Nets could be a possibility–and try their luck with Brook Lopez, a younger and more mobile center who has a legitimate mid-range shot.
In fact, Lopez would actually fit in better with the Lakers’ current crop of players. He can run a pick-and-roll scheme like Howard does, but he can also pop out to 20 feet and bury a jumper if need be. He is shooting 40.5 percent from 10 to 14 feet and 33.3 percent from 16 to 24 feet. Typically, he’s better from about 16 to 18 feet.
Howard and his feeble jump shot can’t provide that luxury to Nash, who’s accustomed to having an array of shooters at his disposal. Look at Howard’s 2012-13 shot chart below:
As you can see, not only is Howard struggling on both blocks, but he’s been inferior in the paint, shooting just 38.6 percent, which doesn’t even incorporate the restricted area.
Understandably, Howard has been well below average in the mid-range area (19 percent), but he has never had much of a shot anyway. But without at least a mediocre jump shot to fall back on, he isn’t the intimating force he once was, given that a good chunk of his mobility has been hindered by his ongoing back issues. There just aren’t that many ways for him to score these days.
Now, let’s take a look at Lopez’s shot performance chart:
Obviously, he has the ability to stretch the floor more than Howard–more than most centers, for that matter–which again should appeal to the Lakers. Also, a consistent jump shot will benefit him as he ages, unlike Howard, whose effectiveness is already declining.
Granted, Lopez isn’t a harassing post-up player, nor is he the rebounder Howard is, but the Stanford product can do both of those things relatively well. Moreover, his above-average jumper for his size compensates for those two areas of mean.
With Lopez, Los Angeles would boast a pair of big men who have the capability to shoot; the other big man being Gasol. Gasol’s range can even span to the 3-point arc on occasion. There aren’t many teams that have this type of frontcourt.
So how would Nash then feel?
Obviously, he’d be loaded with an array of options to dish to off pick-and-rolls. The Lakers have only a few players who fit that bill. Jodie Meeks comes to mind, but his shot selection has been controversial. Kobe is always a weapon and Metta World Peace is spotty. If all three are clicking, though, LA’s offense is lethal with a point guard of Nash’s caliber setting shooters up.
Here’s another factor to consider: What if Howard departs for greener pastures after the season?
There’s certainly a chance. Howard’s preferred destination all along has been Brooklyn and he will get to make a choice come the offseason when he enters free agency. Thus far, Dwight and Kobe have been rumored to have a few minor clashes, which is to be expected when two All-Star players collaborate. Perhaps Howard isn’t happy about being a level under Bryant in terms of who the “alpha male” is on the Lakers.
So, why not land a controllable center in Lopez in exchange for Howard? Doing so would provide them with some cap relief and they’d be set up for the next two years.
While the Lakers seemingly formed a dominant team during the offseason by acquiring one of basketball’s best centers, not all experiments work. Perhaps it’s time to move on.
Moving Howard would certainly be a bold move, but it could also be the right move.
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