L.A. Lakers: Breaking Down the Best Way to Shut Down Each Starter

James PearsonCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2012

L.A. Lakers: Breaking Down the Best Way to Shut Down Each Starter

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    The additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash give the Los Angeles Lakers arguably the best starting five in the NBA.

    Offensively, the Lakers' first five will be virtually impossible to shut down.

    However, that doesn't mean that they can't be slowed down.

    Considering the immense talent of the Lakers' starters, slowing them down is just about all that defenders can hope to do.

    In what will be one of the toughest defensive assignments for any NBA team next season, here is the best way to slow down each starter on the Lakers roster.

PG: Steve Nash

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    With Dwight Howard behind him, Nash's subpar defensive skills won't be so detrimental to his new team.

    Offensively, there is nothing Nash can't do. He can beat you in any number of ways.

    So how does one slow him down?

    The one area in his game that has dropped off significantly is his points per game average.

    After averaging a career-high 18.8 points per game in his MVP-winning 2005-06 season, Nash's average has dropped in each subsequent season. His scoring average dipped all the way down to 12.5 points per game last season.

    The best chance defenders have to slow Nash down is to make him the primary scoring option for the Lakers.

    He is certainly capable of burning a team by scoring, but I would rather force Nash to score 25 points a night than watch him set up a wide open Kobe Bryant or throw it to Howard for easy jams all night.

SG: Kobe Bryant

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    The recipe to KFC chicken might be easier to obtain than the one to shut down Kobe Bryant. Slowing him down, however, is possible.

    Easily one of the best NBA players of all time, Bryant is set up to have a very nice year. With Dwight Howard in town, he can take it easier on defense. With Steve Nash running the point, he also won't have to work as hard to get open looks.

    Looking at his stat line, there is really only one thing defenders can force Bryant to do:

    Shoot more three-pointers.

    Bryant shot nearly five threes a game last season, making them at just a 30-percent clip. He is only a 33-percent shooter from downtown for his career, but still attempts close to four three-pointers per game.

    It is not exactly a glaring weakness, but allowing Bryant to jack up threes is the one small flaw that opponents can attack.

SF: Metta World Peace

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    Metta World Peace was even worse than Kobe Bryant last year from three, but that percentage should improve with the open looks that will be created by the Lakers' new additions.

    World Peace is able to hit open threes. Therefore, the best way to defend him is to make him drive to the hoop.

    At age 32, he has lost a step. He is no longer the fast, energetic wing who can jump and finish at the goal. He is now a poor finisher at the rim and is even worse with his shot selection. Opponents need to limit his open looks and make him create his own offense.

    With a slower step and diminished hops, World Peace will struggle to take the ball to the hoop. Even if he were able to get it to the rim, fouling him wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. He shot 61 percent from the charity stripe last season and hasn't cracked the 70-percent barrier in three years.

    Opponents should take their chances with World Peace taking it to the hoop.

PF: Pau Gasol

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    Pau Gasol is coming off a fantastic Olympic appearance in which he led his native Spain to a silver medal.

    He will benefit as much as anyone from the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.

    He is obviously a stellar offensive talent, but the one thing missing from his game is toughness.

    Opponents should look to get physical with Gasol and make him uncomfortable. Getting Gasol to catch the ball as far away from the hoop as possible is ideal.

    Teams do not want Gasol, with his lofty field-goal percentage and excellent touch, getting clean, close looks at the basket.

    The only way to really slow down Gasol is to bully him around and get as physical as the ref will allow on any given night.

C: Dwight Howard

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    The sequel to the first Superman show in Los Angeles is going to look a lot like the old one.

    It stars another dominant force in the paint with the same kryptonite: Free-throw shooting.

    With the star power the Lakers now have, fouling Dwight Howard might end up being more popular than Hack-a-Shaq. It may be the only way to really shut down the Lakers' starting five.

    Coming off a year where he shot 49 percent from the foul line, the term Hack-a-Howard might be heard very often this season for the Lakers.