Do the L.A. Lakers Have the NBA's Top Backcourt and Frontcourt Without Howard?
There has not been much news lately on the Dwight Howard front. The teams vying for his services may be faced with the very real possibility that Orlando is resigned to starting the season with Howard on the roster.
The Los Angeles Lakers have been mentioned as one of the front-runners in the chase to acquire Howard, but even if they fail, it shouldn't change the team's ultimate goal for an NBA championship in 2013.
The Lakers still have some questions to answer defensively and depth-wise, but the current version of their roster may be just as talented as the 2010 team that won the NBA Finals.
And that is true whether the Lakers acquire Howard or not, at least on paper.
The backcourt of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash may be the NBA's oldest starting backcourt next season, but the numbers suggest they will also be arguably the league's best.
There are no other teams in the NBA who have two future Hall of Famers in their backcourt, and even at 38 and 34 respectively, Nash and Bryant are still currently considered among the top five players in the league at their positions.
The only other traditional point guard-shooting guard backcourt that can even be statistically compared to Nash and Bryant is the newly-formed tandem of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in Brooklyn, and they still trail the Lakers' backcourt duo in every meaningful category.
Using last season's numbers, Bryant and Nash averaged a combined 40.4 points per game, 15.1 assists and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 48.1 percent from the field.
Williams and Johnson averaged 39.8 points, 12.6 assists, 7.0 rebounds and a combined 43 percent from the field during the same period.
Those numbers will certainly change considering there is no real way to predict how well Nash and Bryant or Johnson and Williams will play with each other, but at least the Lakers have the advantage of what may be the NBA's top frontcourt as well.
Center Andrew Bynum had a signature season and announced his arrival as the second-best player at his position by averaging 18.7 points per game, 11.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks and shooting 55.8 percent from the field.
Bynum became the Lakers' second offensive option in Mike Brown's offense. Even though forward Pau Gasol had dropped a notch on the Laker food chain, he still managed to post some impressive numbers of his own.
As the Lakers' third option, Gasol averaged 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists. Even though he was forced to play further away from the basket, he still shot 50 percent from the field.
Bynum and Gasol's numbers will also change while playing with Nash, but it's reasonable to think that his impact will have a positive effect on both players.
Gasol has the ability to excel in the pick-and-roll offense with Nash, and he can be equally effective rolling to the basket or popping out on the perimeter for a short jumper.
Bynum can expect to get plenty of easy looks at the rim from Nash, and it doesn't hurt that Bynum is skilled at creating space with his size to gain position in the paint. Nash just happens to be one of the best players in the game when it comes to exploiting that advantage.
The Lakers will definitely face some growing pains with Nash in the fold, but if the team's top four of Bryant, Gasol, Bynum and Nash can stay healthy, the Lakers' championship fate might be predicated on how well the franchise answers the other questions surrounding the roster.
Defense, bench depth and a reliable three-point threat outside of Nash might be the only legitimate issues facing the Lakers entering the 2012-13 season, and none of them can be answered by acquiring Howard.
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