Do the 2012 Los Angeles Lakers Have More Potential Than the 2010 Miami Heat?
The Los Angeles Lakers' ability to acquire Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison during the offseason was every bit as impressive as the Miami Heat's free agency coup during the summer of 2010 that brought LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach.
James and his decision ultimately proved to be historic and successful for Miami, but on paper the Lakers roster right now looks a lot better than Miami's did when it began its run to the 2011 NBA Finals.
When James and Bosh took their talents to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade, the Heat immediately became a part of the title discussion, but there were also some legitimate concerns about the makeup of their team.
The Heat's star power couldn't hide the fact that they had no real interior presence, and it didn't help that LeBron was the team's best point guard, as well.
Critics predicted that Miami would get pounded in the paint by bigger teams and killed on the perimeter by the NBA's elite lead guards, all while having to deal with questions about chemistry.
And Miami did struggle with those issues at various points of the 2010-11 regular season, but the Heat's superstar pairing still resulted in a trip to the NBA Finals, and their loss to the Dallas Mavericks couldn't be blamed on poor chemistry either.
The 2012-13 Lakers will have questions of their own to answer if they hope to match Miami's NBA Finals feat, but Nash and Howard are certainly a good place to start.
The Lakers already had what was arguably the NBA's top frontcourt with former center Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, and they actually improved on that sentiment by adding Howard.
Howard and Bynum may not be that far apart as players, but the fact remains that Howard was superior to Bynum in nearly every statistical category last year, and he brings a dimension of athleticism and energy that Bynum could never equal.
Not to mention defense.
Howard's shot-blocking ability may not be why he's a regular on SportsCenter, but it's why he has won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award three times.
Howard excels in pick-and-roll defense, and before his recent back injury, he possessed the range and mobility to cover most of the paint area in help defense.
If Howard does return healthy, his presence will not make Nash a better defensive player, but it will make the Lakers a better defensive team.
The Orlando Magic were one of the better defensive teams in the NBA for the majority of Howard's tenure, and that began and ended with Howard in the middle.
None of Howard's teammates in Orlando were as bad defensively as Nash, but none of them were great perimeter defenders, either.
Despite Nash's lack of interest in defense, he has still managed to make every team he has played for better, and his leadership and experience could help nullify the chemistry issues that dogged Miami.
Nash does dominate the ball offensively, but it's usually with the intent of creating scoring opportunities for his teammates. That type of attitude and approach is something that fosters good team chemistry. The Lakers might just be a team of superstars thrown together, but it certainly helps when you have one of the game's best distributors directing the offensive attack.
And as Miami proved in 2011, it's not really as much about how you start, but how you end.
The Heat emphatically answered questions about their depth, point-guard play, interior issues and chemistry by qualifying for the 2011 NBA Finals.
The 2012-13 Lakers have superstar talent at the very positions at which Miami was weakest after their coup, and it can be argued that, even after winning the 2012 NBA title, the Heat have yet to be really tested in those areas.
Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins didn't pressure Miami's interior players like Howard and Gasol can, and while Russell Westbrook did blister the Heat from the field, he didn't improve the offensive efficiency of his teammates like Nash will.
Most Heat fans will justifiably consider these comparisons moot since this version of the Lakers has yet to play a game, but it's ironic that both teams find themselves in the same positions as 2010, only this time Miami is the defending NBA champion.
The Lakers were still basking in the glow of their second consecutive championship when it was announced that a gathering of superstars was forming in Miami.
Heat fans were more than happy to speculate on the prospects of their new team before one game had been played, and their beliefs were eventually rewarded at the end of the season.
Lakers fans also have every single right to be excited about the future of their team, and at least on paper, the Lakers look like a much more complete team now than the Heat were in 2010.
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