Dwight Howard: Star Center's Incredible Defense Will Be Biggest Boost to Lakers

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Dwight Howard: Star Center's Incredible Defense Will Be Biggest Boost to Lakers
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The most effective way that Dwight Howard can return the Los Angeles Lakers to the summit of NBA basketball is with his remarkable defense.

There's a good chance that Howard could win his fourth defensive player of the year award next season, which would tie him with Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo for the most all-time.

Former Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who was part of the Howard trade this summer, was a good defender but doesn't have anywhere near the athleticism that Howard does.

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Howard will be able to give Los Angeles the league's best interior defense and force players to think twice before entering the paint and having to face him and power forward Pau Gasol.

Howard blocked 116 shots last season, which was the same total as Bynum, although the former Magic star played in six fewer games. Howard is always one of the league's premier rebounders, and grabbed 14.5 of them per game last year, while Bynum led the Lakers with 11.8 rebounds per game.

Howard is going to prevent the Lakers from having to defend multiple possessions at a time because he will dominate the defensive glass and help the Lakers' fast break get started. The Lakers were 15th in opponents' points per game last season and ranked ninth in opponents' field-goal percentage. Howard will help the Lakers improve in both of these areas next year.

Los Angeles wasn't able to defend well enough in the paint during its second-round series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA playoffs. Since many of the top teams in the NBA are very athletic, such as the Thunder, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, the Lakers needed a more athletic center like Howard to have a stronger chance to beat these teams in the playoffs.

Defense will ultimately determine how much better Howard makes the purple and gold in the 2012-13 season. His offensive contributions will still be important, but his defense could make the difference for the Lakers next spring.

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