Los Angeles, CA. It always seems like if there is a dominant big man in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers will find a way to make sure he ends up wearing the purple and gold. After literally months of rumors and gossip about where Dwight Howard would end up playing this fall, a deal was struck to make him teammates with Kobe, Nash, and Pau. Howard essentially forced his way out of Orlando, and is now part of the Lakers, who are title contenders once again. What does this deal do to the landscape of the NBA, and more specifically the Western Conference? One thing is for sure, it made everyone all over the country take notice and realize that L.A. is gonna be a serious factor this upcoming season. Does this make them the best team in the west, and a squad who can take down the Miami Heat next June? Potentially yes, but there is a team in Oklahoma City who will definitely have something to say about it.
Once this deal was finalized, seemingly every NBA fan realized that two teams will most likely end up in a head-on collision for Western Conference supremacy. A few months ago in the playoffs, the Oklahoma City Thunder disposed of the Los Angeles Lakers with ease, as it was obvious the much younger, hungrier Thunder were quite a bit better. This is not ok in La-La land, as every year it’s championship or bust for that organization. First, they found a way to make a deal with Phoenix to land 38-year-old Steve Nash, who still has a few years left to run “showtime” now. That was a nice move, and improves the Lakers point guard play considerably. But acquiring Dwight Howard is a game-changer. It is an enormous transaction that vaults L.A. into being one of true contenders for an NBA championship. It is bold, brash, and arrogant…so much of what L.A. is truly all about. It says to the rest of the league that they will not accept mediocrity, or second round playoff exits. But does it make them THE favorite and the best team in the west? Not so fast, my friend.
The starting lineup of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace is some scary stuff. Envisioning Nash and Kobe work the pick and roll to perfection, or Howard and Gasol dominating the paint, will undoubtedly propel the Lakers to plenty of wins this upcoming season. The old guys staying healthy will be the key as well. Nash has had a bad back at times, Kobe is no spring chicken, Pau is in his thirties, and Howard is coming back from back surgery. The damage this quartet could do could be enough to win it all. However, I still give the slight edge to the Thunder. First of all, they are much younger, and healthier. They got a taste of what the NBA Finals are all about, and this added experience now will only aid them in their pursuit of a title. Their bench is also leaps and bounds better than L.A.’s. The reserves that the Thunder have is one of the best benches in the NBA, while on paper, the Lakers is one of the worst. One key factor that may not rear its ugly head until next spring is the fact that Dwight Howard is a very poor foul shooter. With this being said, we could see many situations where he won’t even be on the court in the final minutes of crucial playoff games because of his weak foul shooting percentage. Howard is a beast on the defensive end of the floor, but definitely has his challenges on the offensive end. The Thunder’s big men of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins will not back down to Howard and Gasol. Those battles of the big men between OKC and L.A. is gonna be some great drama whenever they meet, regular season or the playoffs.
Who the class of the Western Conference will be still has to play out. There will be plenty of talk about who the favorite is, and if they can take down the Miami Heat. This deal with Dwight going to L.A. makes the Lakers another potential superpower on the NBA landscape. Do teams like the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, or anyone else in the west have any sort of real shot? The odds are, no, as the NBA has proven to be a superstar driven league for decades now. But, as we all know, the games are played on the court and not on paper. A lot can happen between now and next spring, but the Lakers and Thunder appear to be on track to fight it out for a trip to the 2013 NBA Finals.
Denver Sports by J Simp