Pros and Cons of LA Lakers Becoming Dwight Howard's Team
If Dwight Howard chooses to sign the maximum contract offer the Los Angeles Lakers will present to him some time this summer it will send a clear message that the future of the franchise rests wholly on his shoulders.
Some fans see this scenario as a natural progression from the trade that brought Howard to the Lakers while there are a few others who wish the Lakers would cut their losses and let Howard fade into the sunset.
Retaining Howard is the best move the Lakers can make at this point and while there are certainly some drawbacks to offering the franchise's soul to "Mr. Indecisive", there are potential benefits to be reaped as well.
The question is, do the pros of re-signing Howard to be the Lakers' standard-bearer out-weigh the cons?
You be the judge.
Pro: The Lakers Tradition of Dominant Centers Continues
If Dwight Howard comes back to Los Angeles he will join a long list of other great centers who have manned the paint in purple and gold.
Besides the color of the uniform they are all bound by one common thread.
They each punctuated their careers with championships.
Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal were great centers and great players, but they became great when they helped the franchise add to to its championship legacy.
No other center with Howard's skill and ability has ever come to Los Angeles without leaving with a ring, and in most cases, multiple pieces of jewelry.
In Howard's case, however, one world championship ring would do for now.
Of course it will be up to Lakers' president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak to surround Howard with players who are conducive to success, but as the centerpiece of the team, Howard will shoulder the majority of the responsibility on the court.
Con: Do We Really Know If Howard Is That Center?
I forgot to mention that Wilt, Shaq and Kareem had something else Dwight Howard has yet to acquire besides championships.
Each had dominant, consistent offensive games as well.
Howard may be a better natural defender than all three former Lakers' legends and I understand the old adage that says defense wins championships, but teams also need a reliable scorer in the paint who can convert during pivotal moments.
Is Howard that guy?
Wilt was nearly unstoppable around the rim due to his athleticism and imposing physicality. Shaq was just as physically imposing and had a drop-step that no one his size should be making. Kareem had the sky-hook.
What does Howard have?
Howard doesn't have good enough hands or footwork to be a dominant player back to the basket and his face-up game is limited to a sweeping hook while crossing through the lane.
Wilt, Shaq and Kareem all had the ability to carry their Lakers' teams offensively, but could Howard carry his?
Pro: The Lakers Will Assume a Defensive Identity
A healthy Dwight Howard immediately makes the Lakers a better defensive team and Howard was able to prove that theory in spurts during the regular season.
His ridiculous athleticism and timing allows him to make plays on the ball all over the paint and he has the ability to erase the mistakes of perimeter players beaten off the dribble.
A real training camp along with a season to gain familiarity should make Howard an even more imposing figure on the Lakers' front line, but that all depends on the team's ability to take advantage of it.
Con: Does a Defensive Identity Matter If There's Nothing Underneath?
Having the most imposing defensive presence in the NBA doesn't really mean much if you have a coach who isn't really interested in the concept of playing good, consistent defense.
Some of Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni's backers have claimed that he has gotten a bad rap when it comes to the other end of the court, but in truth, their defense of him has been far better than anything D'Antoni has offered on the hardwood.
Most of D'Antoni's issues with defense seem to stem from a stubborn belief in his own offensive system. Maybe someone should remind him that all those points have led to exactly zero NBA Finals appearances.
If the Lakers hope to compete for a championship with Dwight Howard in the near future then it needs to be understood that their strength will come from Howard's ability to change the game on the defensive end.
Is D'Antoni the right man to deliver that message?
Pro: Kobe Bryant's Successor Is in Place
Some Lakers' fans have nervously wondered what would happen to the Lakers once legendary guard Kobe Bryant finally retires.
If Dwight Howard does choose to return to the Lakers next season, that question will be answered.
Howard's return would affirm the Lakers' blue-print for building successful teams around a dominant center in the paint, and the only thing left to do would be finding players to surround him with on the court.
That shouldn't be too hard since the only players under contract for the 2014-15 season would be Howard and Steve Nash, opening a wealth of possibilities and directions for the Lakers to take.
Lakers' management seems to believe that with Howard in place, premium players will flock to Los Angeles to join him. That has worked for the franchise in the past, but will the same hold true with Howard as well?
Con: Is Kobe Ready to Be Succeeded?
Lakers' fans are anxious to see if Kobe Bryant can make a complete recovery from his injured Achilles' tendon and re-capture the form that made him an elite player in his 17th season.
Kobe is definitely motivated to prove he can come back stronger and deadlier than ever, but ironically, that could be disastrous for the prospects of a Dwight Howard-led Lakers' team.
In all honesty, the torch should have been passed to Howard from the moment we learned that Bryant's injury was a complete rupture of his Achilles since it's so difficult to regain the lateral movement and quickness that is lost to such an injury.
Adding to the irony is the awkward chance that Lakers Nation could find itself divided, on one hand rooting for Kobe to regain his form once he returns or else hoping he will step aside if his comeback attempt is actually hurting the team.
In a perfect world, a healthy Kobe would return, humbled by his injury and ready to pass the reins of the franchise over to Howard.
Then again, if we lived in a perfect world, the Lakers would still be playing right now.