Dwight Howard: Superstar Doesn't Push Lakers Past Thunder
Howard will replace Andrew Bynum up the middle, and his addition gives the Lakers an elite rebounding presence and the best interior defender in the NBA.
Still, despite Howard's greatness, he doesn't bring that much more to the table that Bynum brought last season, at least statistically.
If that wasn't enough, Bynum was only 1.29 rating points behind Howard in player efficiency rating, one of the best values of a player’s impact.
With Bynum, the Lakers couldn't even force a sixth game against the Thunder, and it could be argued that Bynum is actually the more developed offensive player.
But still, Howard is a much better rebounder, defender and works much harder than the often inconsistent 24-year-old former Laker.
He will also brings a much stronger help-side defensive presence to the floor and doesn't require the ball, like Bynum did, to stay engaged in the game.
However, even with Howard and the newly acquired Steve Nash, the Lakers still can't keep up with the youth, talent and depth of the Thunder.
The Lakers may have a slight position-by-position advantage in the starting lineup—they have a decided advantage at shooting guard, power forward and center, lose slightly at point guard and they get beat handily at the 3 by Kevin Durant—but the difference is the bench.
Oklahoma City trots out nothing but quality players that play well together in their second unit.
Sixth Man of the Year James Harden leads the group, and Eric Maynor, Nick Collison and Daequan Cook are all high-quality pieces. Plus, behind them, they have a group of high-energy and hungry youths.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have a weak bench, and that may be putting it lightly.
Antwan Jamison brings much-needed scoring punch to the group. But behind him, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill and company won’t score against anyone.
Needless to say, this applies to the Lakers for the 10 minutes a game that their starters can’t log, not to mention if someone gets injured.
Plus, the Lakers' starting lineup is just plain old.
Bryant and Nash are each on the last leg of their careers. Pau Gasol has a lot of miles on him, and, well, there's almost too much to say about Metta World Peace.
The Thunder will expose this.
They have nothing but youthful exuberance and 40-inch verticals that will help them get through the rigors of a long season, and they'll endure injuries much better than the Lakers can.
People will argue that the Lakers can endure these things by punishing the Thunder inside.
Thing is, the Thunder’s big men match up very well with the Lakers.
Serge Ibaka has the length and athleticism to bother Gasol, and Kendrick Perkins gave Howard fits in his days with the Celtics. Plus, they have the size off the bench with Collison and Cole Aldrich to throw at Howard in waves if needed.
However, the biggest factor is Durant.
He's the most potent scorer in the NBA and has surpassed Bryant as the most clutch player in the league.
The Howard trade puts the Lakers right back into the title conversation, but ultimately, the youth and depth of the Thunder will do in the Lakers' title hopes.
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