With the big man in the paint, the Lakers now have a legitimate center that can produce on both sides of the floor. That change, along with the others Los Angeles made this offseason, will push them to the finals.
Here are three reasons why Howard's presence in the paint will carry the Lakers to the NBA Finals.
Andrew Bynum took plays off. He showed up one night and decided not to try the next. It's evident that he is still immature.
While I can't defend what Howard did over the past two years (because I think it's nearly as bad as what LeBron James did to Cleveland), his motor is consistently high. He runs the floor. He hustles. He always shows up on the defensive side of the floor and you know he's trying as much as he can offensively.
Bynum didn't bring that. Bynum didn't run the floor like a gazelle. Bynum didn't show up consistently on the defensive side of the ball.
On a team with Steve Nash, Howard will be rewarded for running the floor. If he's open, Nash will make the correct pass to give him an easy lay-in. And on defense, you already know that Howard will give you two blocks per game and several defensive rebounds to boot.
Howard isn't the best offensive center in the league. It's the only area that former Laker Andrew Bynum does better than Howard. However, Howard is such a force in the paint, teams are forced to double-team because he overpowers defenders on the block.
Posting up and capturing great post position is an area Howard has always excelled in. Not often will you see him catch the ball 20 feet or more away from the hoop. When he gets the ball, he is generally in position to score.
Now that he's on a team with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and other quality weapons, expect Howard to get more space defensively. In other words, he won't receive as many double-teams, and if he does, he has the guys on the outside to make defenses pay for their decisions.
Not only is Howard the best rim protector in the NBA, averaging 2.2 blocks per game in his career as well as altering several shots per game, but his help defense also stands alone on a pedestal.
Will the Lakers win the Western Conference?
He can turn average defenses into well-above-average defenses. He can turn good defenses into great defenses. And the Lakers are hoping he can turn a questionable defense into a plus defense.
Steve Nash is a terrible defender. Antawn Jamison isn't much of a defender either. Kobe Bryant is older and is clearly not the defender he used to be. Metta World Peace isn't the Ron Artest type of a defender we are accustomed to seeing.
Howard will rectify those issues.
When quicker point guards and wingmen get by the Lakers backcourt, the big man will prove his worth by altering double-digit shots per game.
Without him the Lakers defense would be gutted and exposed. With him they are championship worthy.
With him they will win the West.