Does Steve Nash Make Lakers Contenders, or Does L.A. Need Dwight Howard?

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 13:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic reacts to a missed free-throw during the game against the Miami Heat at Amway Center on March 13, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers made perhaps the best move of the offseason when they traded for Steve Nash, and simply put, they do not need Dwight Howard to be considered contenders in 2013.

Howard is widely considered the league’s best center, and some team will be very happy with their acquisition this summer.

The Lakers, however, don’t need to be that team.

The move to bring in Nash gives Los Angeles arguably the best starting five in the NBA, as a lineup of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should be able to compete with any team in the league on any given night.

If you’re of the mindset that Gasol regressed in 2012, imagine him in pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll situations with Nash in control.

If you believe Bynum’s game is too iso-based on the block, just wait and see where Nash can get him the ball next year. The seven-footer made a run at becoming the league’s best center last season, and adding one of the best facilitators in the game should only help expand his versatility.

Questioning whether or not Bryant and Nash can mesh right away is fair, as both players seemingly need the ball in their hands to make plays.

However, they’re also great shooters who can score from multiple spots on the floor, and allowing Bryant to catch and shoot rather than isolate could be a pleasant change of pace for L.A. next year.

None of this is a knock on Howard. Adding him to the Lakers roster could realistically make that starting unit even better.

The problem is, it could also completely decimate a bench unit that struggled mightily throughout a good majority of last season.

Without knowing at this point exactly what Los Angles would have to give up in any impending deal, it’s difficult to picture exactly how this team would look with Howard in the middle.

What we do know, is what this team looks like right now with Nash in the lineup—very, very good.

Without knowing what offer would ultimately have to go through in order to bring in the big man, it’s impossible to know if the team would truly be any better than they look at this point in the offseason.

Looking into the immediate future, the question is not, can this team compete for a title once Bryant has retired; the question is whether or not this team can compete for a championship out West next season.

In a Western Conference that is seemingly wide open, the Lakers will make serious noise with Nash running the offense.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will be the favorites heading into the new season—as they should be—and the San Antonio Spurs should be close behind, but after that, who will step up throughout the 2012-13 season?

Don’t be surprised if it’s the Lakers, even without Howard.

The Dallas Mavericks should be improved, the Los Angeles Clippers are a threat and the Memphis Grizzlies are still up-and-coming, but none of them are ready to compete the way the Lakers should be in 2013.

Nash and Bryant are both hungry. Bryant wants his sixth ring and Nash is looking for his first NBA title.

Each player has his own motivation, but they have their eyes set on one common goal, and that is a dangerous notion for any team looking to challenge them next year.

Nash had his choices in free agency this summer. Money in Toronto and a fast-paced offensive system in New York both called to him, and sure enough, he listened.

Unfortunately for those two cities, they couldn’t offer the point guard the one thing he truly wants at this point in his career.

A run at an NBA championship.

Yes, being close to his family was a major factor according to Marc Stein of ESPN, but don’t undervalue what Bryant and the Lakers truly had to offer.

Howard is going to be considered the prize of the offseason as soon as he finds his new home, but he’s not worth blowing up a good thing.

The old adage says: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Lakers did what they needed to do to fix last year’s disappointment, and at this point in the summer, the team needs to bolster their depth; not change the look of their entire roster.