How Dwight Howard to L.A. Lakers Will Change Kobe Bryant's Role
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported earlier today that the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers were discussing a four-team trade that would send Howard to L.A. The two other teams included in the deal are the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers.
According to Wojnarowski's article, the Los Angeles Lakers were going to send both Gasol and Andrew Bynum away in order to land D12. As it turns out, the Lakers reportedly only had to give up Bynum and a protected first-round draft pick.
The fact that the Lakers still have first-rounders to spare after giving up four of them in recent months to land Ramon Sessions, Jordan Hill and Nash indicates this first-rounder could be a ways down the road. The Lakers may not end up with a first-round pick for the next decade at this rate.
Anyway, ESPN is reporting that the deal has been finalized, sending Howard to Los Angeles. The aptly-named "Dwightmare" appears to be over.
If Howard can return to form following back surgery, this is certainly an upgrade in Lakerland over Bynum. But how will the addition of Howard impact the role of Bryant, the franchise alpha dog? That is to say, if it impacts Bryant at all.
Offensively, adding Howard likely won't make a significant impact on how Bryant plays the game. Bryant will still see himself as the No. 1 scoring option, and since the Lakers didn't have to send away Gasol, as was originally reported, there's still a "core four" in place to split up the scoring duties.
Who is the biggest winner of the trade?
Unlike the situation that would have unfolded had the Lakers traded Gasol and Bynum for Howard, Bryant won't have to make up for any loss of offensive firepower.
If anything, Bryant may recognize Howard's pedigree as an NBA superstar and get him more touches in the paint when compared with Bynum a season ago.
However, although Bynum averaged just 13.3 field-goal attempts per game a season ago compared to Bryant’s 23 attempts per game, Howard only averaged 13.4 field-goal attempts per game in Orlando.
This is a head-scratching statistic when you consider that Howard was Orlando's No. 1 scoring option, while Bynum was the third offensive option for the Lakers.
Essentially, Howard will switch coasts, but he doesn’t require more touches than Bynum received a season ago to be an effective offensive talent.
Bryant’s field-goal attempts should decline from the outrageous 23 attempts per game he took a season ago, but overall his offensive role on the Lakers will remain the same with a new face manning the post.
Defensively, however, Bryant’s role could see some changes that will only improve this team.
It’s no secret that Howard is a superior defensive player to Bynum. He grabs significantly more rebounds and blocks more shots, not to mention the fact that he’s far more athletic and mobile.
Harry How/Getty Images
As a result, Bryant can afford to get up in his opponent’s jersey to prevent open jump shots. If his matchup drives past him, Howard will be licking his chops in the post, ready to alter or reject any shot attempt coming his way.
Also, Bryant may choose to gamble more on defense. He can be more aggressive by trying to jump passing lanes for steals in order to start fast-break opportunities. Even if Bryant chooses to roll the dice on a steal attempt and gets burned, the athleticism of Howard will be waiting in the paint to help defend and rotate when appropriate.
For a player like Bryant, who is usually a lock to make the NBA All-Defensive first or second team on a yearly basis, having confidence in the three-time Defensive Player of the Year behind him could lead to an even stronger season on the defensive end.
The Lakers were already seen as a big threat in the Western Conference simply by adding Nash. Now that they’ve added Howard to their lineup, the odds that they actually reach the NBA Finals has undoubtedly increased.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have to be the favorites to win the West again until proven otherwise, but the Lakers are proving to be a formidable foe.
As is usually the case, everything seems to work out for the Lakers.
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