The Los Angeles Lakers were already a top-three team in the Western Conference last season, and the addition of Steve Nash solidified their spot in the upper echelon.
Nash's arrival was great for the Lakers, but the recent and much-anticipated acquisition of Dwight Howard is the move that General manager Mitch Kupchak needed to make to put his team over the top.
Howard is a player unlike any other in the NBA.
He is an imposing, game-changing force on both ends of the floor. His addition gives the Lakers the quintessential basketball starting five.
We'll start at the point guard position with Nash.
To put it simply, Nash made Marcin Gortat look like a great big man. It is safe to say that he is going to make Howard better than he has ever been on the offensive end.
Howard spent plenty of time with the Orlando Magic with Jameer Nelson as his point guard. The discrepancy between Nelson's passing skills and Nash's passing skills does not even need to be addressed.
On the defensive end, Nash is a liability. Having Howard in the paint to compensate for Nash's lack of defensive efficiency is going to make it nearly impossible for opposing players to drive to the hoop even if they get past the 38-year-old veteran.
Kobe Bryant's offensive game is obviously going to benefit from Howard on the floor as well.
There will be much less attention paid to what Kobe is doing on the perimeter, and much more attention being paid to what Howard is doing in the paint. That will allow Bryant to get easier shots without having to create space for himself every time down the floor.
On defense, Howard's presence will allow Kobe to take a play or two off, something that will do nothing but let Bryant stay on the floor longer every night.
Metta World Peace is the only player in the starting five who you wouldn't consider a great player. He is a solid option at the small forward spot, but his four teammates are still some of the best in the league at their position.
Still, though, MWP's production is going to increase on both ends of the floor.
The Lakers now have a lock-down perimeter defender and a shot-blocking big man. Mike Brown's team is equipped to combat any game plan that a team may throw at them. On offense, MWP is going to get a lot more corner threes with Howard under the hoop this season.
Pau Gasol is definitely happy to see Howard come to town. Gasol will now be able to play more of a mid-range game on offense, take more perimeter shots and showcase his high-post passing abilities.
On defense? Well, we all know that Gasol isn't exactly a tenacious defender.
There is no denying that the Lakers have the best starting five in the NBA.
Nash is a pass-first point guard who has mastered his craft. Bryant is one of the best shooting guards to ever play the game. MWP is a lock-down perimeter defender that can shoot from three-point range. Gasol is one of the best passing big men in the league and can do a bit of scoring on his own.
It wouldn't be a surprise if the Lakers won 65 games this season. They really are that good.
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