Breaking Down What Dwight Howard to Lakers Means for Kobe Bryant

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Breaking Down What Dwight Howard to Lakers Means for Kobe Bryant


The Dwight Howard saga appears to be over, with the league's best center heading west to join Kobe Bryant and put the Los Angeles Lakers at the forefront of the NBA title conversation.

According to an ESPN report, Dwight is joining the Lakers and the team is only parting with Andrew Bynum, making this a de facto one-for-one swap for the team in purple and gold: 

A source with direct knowledge of the talks told ESPN.com's Marc Stein the Lakers will receive Howard, the Denver Nuggets will acquire Andre Iguodala, the 76ers will receive Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, and the Magic will get Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and one protected future first-round pick from each of the other three teams.

In addition, the Magic will be getting other pieces, including 76ers No. 1 draft pick Moe Harkless a source told Stein.

Sources close to the process told Stein and ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne that a trade call with the league office has been scheduled for Friday to secure the necessary NBA approval to make the deal official.

This is incredible news for The Black Mamba during his pursuit of an Air Jordan-tying sixth NBA title. There's no better duo than Dwight and Steve Nash to join him at the Staples Center next season for his relentless quest for ring No. 6. 

 

A Shot at a Ring

With Dwight in L.A., the Lakers suddenly have the best starting lineup in all of the NBA. To be fair though, they were in that conversation even without the league's best center. The starting lineup is now comprised of Nash at point guard, Kobe at shooting guard, defensive specialist Metta World Peace at small forward, Pau Gasol at power forward and Dwight at center.

There simply isn't a hole in that lineup—especially since MWP can truly focus on his defense and let the four premier offensive threats score the point. And the Antawn Jamison-led bench isn't weak enough to prevent another banner from being hung up in the Staples rafters.

Kobe's goal has been tying Michael Jordan in the ring category ever since he won his fifth title in 2010. This puts him one step closer and makes his squad the prohibitive favorites in the Western Conference.

Any team that features Nash at point guard can compete for a playoff spot, as last year's Phoenix Suns proved. Any team that features Dwight at center can compete for a playoff spot as well. Any team that features Kobe at shooting guard can compete for a top spot in the playoffs. 

Add all three of those pieces together, add Gasol and the other solid options on the L.A. roster and you're staring at a bona fide title threat.

Kobe doesn't have a shot at surpassing M.J. as the greatest player of all time—especially now that any title this year would be surrounded by the ridiculous "super-team" asterisk—but another title would push him into serious top-five-NBA-players-of-all-time discussion.

At this point, a title might seem like gravy on the top of an already storied NBA career, but let's be honest here. A title is still a title, and Kobe is now in prime position to win another one—despite what LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may have to say about it.  

 

Princeton Offense

I had my doubts about the Princeton Offense and its fit with the Lakers—and I still do because it takes away from Nash's strengths—but with Howard at center instead of Andrew Bynum, the new style of offense that Kobe has publicly endorsed becomes even more of a viable option.

The offensive system is predicated on movement without the ball. Every player is in constant motion and almost required to make the extra pass.

It almost goes without saying that the more dangerous the options are on the court, the more dangerous it can be for the other team when that extra pass is made. Ideally, the team's center is able to cut capably and finish on the move when he's around the rim, two skills that D12 most assuredly possesses. It's also necessary that the big man is a skilled passer.

Although you'll never confuse Howard with Arvydas Sabonis or Bill Walton, he's still a better distributor than Bynum. According to 82games.com, Howard's passer rating was 2.0 during the 2011-2012 season with the Orlando Magic, while Bynum's was 1.2.

Bynum especially struggles to pass out of double-teams, while Howard is used to those situations as he's been dealing with them throughout his entire career.

 

Less Pressure

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
This finger he's kissing may soon have a ring on it.

With one more superstar present in Los Angeles, there's less pressure than ever on Kobe's shoulders. At this stage of his career, that's a tremendous blessing. Kobe has carried the Lakers for quite some time, needing to take every big shot, take the fall for many losses, and play at a high level for 40 minutes per game day after day. 

The presence of Nash at point guard was already going to help Kobe in this area, but Dwight's arrival helps even more.  For the first time in years, Kobe can relax for at least a few minutes and let his teammates do the heavy-lifting. 

The London Olympics have been a great example of this situation, as Kobe has taken a backseat on a nightly basis and been content to sit on the bench with LeBron James and crack jokes while his talented colleagues win games. 

Obviously that's an extreme example because there's no way that Kobe would tarnish his legacy in the Association by making too big of a drop-off. However, the point still stands.  Every once in a while, Kobe can loosen up and stop going into Black Mamba mode.

This now gives him every opportunity to extend his high level of play well into the future. We'll have to wait a little while longer to see a washed-up version of Kobe now that Dwight will reportedly be in town.

Love or hate him, you have to admit that the NBA is better off with a Kobe Bryant playing at his best.

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