The Dwight Howard saga was the story of the NBA offseason. Now, the Los Angeles Lakers addition is about to be the biggest story of the regular season.
Recently, NBA.com held a survey asking all 30 general managers various questions about players and coaches around the league. Howard was named the acquisition that will make the biggest impact with 70 percent of the vote.
This is unsurprising, especially considering the same GMs also named him the best center (with all but two votes), the best defender and third behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant among players to build a new team around.
There is no denying the talent. The big man is a force in the paint, and it has helped him win three Defensive Player of the Year awards. He has been on the All-NBA first team in each of the five years. In his career, he is averaging 18.4 points and an amazing 13 rebounds per game.
However, his stat line is likely to look a little different this year.
Howard was able to finish each year with impressive stats mainly due to the fact he was the dominant force on his teams. He led Orlando in shot attempts per game in each of the last two years and only recently received support in rebounding. From his rookie year until the 2010-11 season, no teammate averaged more than six rebounds per game.
On the Lakers, the center's point total is likely to go down with Kobe Bryant taking precedent on the court. Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will also take more shots than Howard's usual teammates. Additionally, Gasol has averaged three-straight double-double seasons and will cut into the rebounding numbers.
Fortunately for Los Angeles, the box score will not be indicative of Howard's impact this season.
Defensively, he not only shut down the opposing team's frontcourt but many guards as well. Howard averages 2.2 blocks per game and affects many more shots with intimidation alone.
Players that are used to getting points by driving into the lane and finishing at the rim will have to find a better option. In the clip below, Ray Allen thinks he has a clear look at the basket, only to have the shot swatted into the stands. This likely altered the veteran's plans for the rest of the game.
Bryant, Gasol and Metta World Peace are already good on-ball defenders, but they can all be even more aggressive with a safety net behind them like Howard.
On offense, the center should be able to provide as much as Andrew Bynum last season if not more. He keeps pressure off the other scorers, and when he gets the ball, he can finish as well as anyone in the NBA.
Los Angeles has an incredibly accomplished starting lineup, as well as some solid depth in Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks. The key to success will be finding a way to gel as a team. On the court, that should not be a problem.
Howard has not had any issues deferring shots to teammates throughout his career, and he has never played with anyone as talented as Bryant. The other offseason addition, Nash, is one of the best point guards of all time and knows how to spread the ball around and keep everyone happy on offense.
While the preseason has not gone according to plan with an 0-8 record, the slate gets wiped clean in the regular season. At that point, the Lakers will be a scary opponent.
It might be too much to expect a championship in the first season this new talent. Still, this team is definitely one of the top contenders to raise the trophy at the end of the year.
As for Howard, his decreased stats should not prevent him from being selected to yet another All-NBA first team and entering the MVP discussion. He will not win, but he will prove to be an incredibly important addition as Los Angeles attempts to win yet another title in its storied history.
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