Fantasy Basketball 2012: Dwight Howard's Impact on the Los Angeles Lakers
Howard is now the Lakers de facto No.1 option. Kobe Bryant may still be the team's leader, but Dwight is now the team's best- and most-dominant player.
This means a new generation of Lakers basketball is about to begin, and with it comes new individual roles in Mike Brown's offense. Kobe, Pau and the rest have new roles and will therefore post different numbers across the board.
This season, Dwight Howard is going to make all of his teammates better—just not necessarily in fantasy basketball.
Steve Nash's Value Drops
This season, Los Angeles will take "lob city" to a whole new level. Both the Lakers and Clippers now have dream point guard/big man combinations, with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard now in purple and gold.
Nash will feed Howard tons of lobs this season. He also has a great pick-and-roll partner in Pau Gasol, meaning Nash will be, as always, an elite assists producer.
However, Nash will likely see a dip in scoring this year as the team's fourth scoring option. The Lakers are too loaded for this not to happen. Nash will simply have the ball less. This is where Nash's value truly takes a hit.
Nash's value is derived from his assists and percentages. The assists will still be there this year, but the drop in scoring makes the percentages less valuable. A 50% field goal shooter doesn't mean anything if he's only taking 8 shots per game. The same goes with free throws.
Furthermore, Nash won't get you any steals which is a category you need out of your starting PG.
And finally, Nash will turn 39 this season so he'll need to take more days off and play fewer minutes.
After the elite point guards are off the board, Nash is still decent pick this season. Expect about 10 points, 10 assists and brilliant (but less valuable) percentages.
Pick: Top 60
Kobe Falls out of the Top 15
The last time Kobe was not a top-15 fantasy player, the Lakers played in the Great Western Forum, Dennis Rodman was the team's leading rebounder and Kurt Rambis was head coach.
Thanks to the Dwight Howard trade, Kobe is out of the top 15 for the first time since the late 90s.
To win games and secure the Western Conference's No. 1 seed, Kobe doesn't need to be the team's star player any more. Dwight's presence will create a drop in scoring, and with Nash running the point Kobe may see near career-lows in assists as well.
Moreover, the Lakers are a playoff team without him. Kobe will likely take more days off, be more careful with preserving his health, play fewer minutes and let Nash and Howard take over the offense most of the time.
The one way Kobe will benefits from the trade is in efficiency. He'll take better shots and will be double-teamed less. Fantasy owners can count on about 45% from the field, a 2% increase from last season.
Kobe, as always, is a safe pick—just not in the top 15 this year.
Pick: Late 2nd Round
Metta World Peace Remains a Fantasy Cancer
Metta World Peace is the league's worst fantasy pick this season. Do yourself a huge favor and do not pick him in any league in any round.
For some "strange" reason, World Peace found himself wide open from long-range last season—a lot. Could this perhaps be explained by World Peace's awful 29.6% three-point shooting? Hmmm....
Unfortunately, World Peace chucked up shot after shot and couldn't figure out that he was wide open for a reason.
This season, with Dwight Howard attracting double teams in the post and Nash running the point, World Peace will be more open than ever and may even shoot more than last season.
With notoriously horrendous shooting percentages, he offers basically nothing to fantasy owners. Consider him Peja Stojakovic minus the good shooting.
Expect less production in just about every category from World Peace. Do not draft him. You are better off with an empty spot on your roster.
Pau Gasol Is a Solid Pick as Always
Most are expecting Pau Gasol's production to plummet this year. With Dwight Howard stealing his thunder, it's a logical assumption, but incorrect nonetheless.
In reality, Gasol's situation is mostly the same. Just like last year, he is playing next to a dominant center and is the team's second-best scoring and rebounding big man.
Surely, Howard is a better scorer than Bynum and will shave a few points and a rebound or two off Gasol's averages.
However, Pau will make up for this dip production with higher efficiency. Howard is a more dominant post player than Bynum, allowing Pau to take better and more open shots. Pau will also benefit from Steve Nash running the pick-and-roll.
Expect Pau to score 16 points, grab 9 rebounds, block some shots and shoot 53% from the field. This is good enough to justify a late second- or third-round pick.
Pick: Late 2nd Round
Dwight Howard Continues to Dominate
Dwight Howard is now the main man in purple and gold.
He's the team's best rebounder, shot blocker and second-best scorer behind Kobe Bryant. He's going to lead the team in rebounds, blocks, steals and field goal percentage, and will come close to Kobe's scoring numbers.
Even with the change of scenery and loaded L.A. roster, Howard will be just about as dominant as he's ever been.
However, with Nash, Kobe, and Pau on the team, Dwight's scoring is going to drop . He may also play slightly less minutes because the Lakers are going to win lots of games in blowout fashion.
This said, Howard is one of the biggest fantasy monsters in the entire league. Nothing, other than injury, is going to change that.
As always, draft Howard knowing that he will kill your free throw percentage. If you pick Dwight, make sure you punt free throws by pairing him with players like Rajon Rondo, Blake Griffin, or Josh Smith.
Draft Howard with confidence—just be sure to assemble an effective roster around him.
Pick: 1st Round