After countless reports of contradicting nature, All-Star center Dwight Howard confirmed via his official Twitter page that he has signed a contract to join the Houston Rockets. While countless analysts have debated what this means for Houston and the rest of the Western Conference, there's one thing we cannot ignore.
The Los Angeles Lakers must alter their philosophy for winning titles after yet another free-agency debacle.
The Lakers are coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history, possessing a starting lineup laced with Hall of Famers and finishing the regular season at 45-37. Not only did they struggle to maintain a record above .500, but they also were eventually swept out of the first round.
In turn, they established a reputation as one of the biggest busts in league history.
With Howard's departure, the Lakers are again stuck in a state of disarray, with an abundance of stars and an absence of promise. This is a situation reserved solely for the Lakers, who have mountains of expectations that few teams can compare to.
If this failed experiment has taught us anything, it's that L.A. needs to build their contender in a different way.
Using the Draft
Free agency will remain a prominent aspect of the Lakers' strategy—and rightfully so. If there's any way to find a reliable source of production, it's by signing a player who has proven capable of handling the NBA grind.
With that being said, the Lakers have one glaring void on their roster—they lack youth to develop and the athleticism to build their defense with.
Howard would have helped in both regards, but D-12 would have been the only player under the age of 32. Currently, that player is 25-year-old Jordan Hill, who has displayed the potential to be a double-double type of player.
Unfortunately, they don't have much else to hang their hat on—that truth comes down to mismanaging the first round of the NBA draft.
The Lakers haven't used a first-round draft choice since 2009, when they selected and then traded point guard Toney Douglas to the New York Knicks. They haven't kept a first-rounder since 2007, when they picked Javaris Crittenton.
If the Lakers hope to win with their current core, or any other group of players they may potentially acquire, holding onto their first-round draft choices and drafting starting-caliber players is the only way to go.
Overvaluing the Lakers' Name
If the past year has taught us anything about the Los Angeles Lakers, it's that they overvalue their own name value. While the Lakers do have their reasons for confidence—geographic location and 16 NBA championships, for instance—this is a new era of basketball.
The most powerful draw is the team with the pairing of cap space and the ability to bring in multiple stars.
While the Lakers may have cap space looming in 2014, there is an undeniable sense of uncertainty surrounding their organization. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace will all become free agents, with at least No. 24 in line to receive a massive re-up.
Their ability to draw attention from other stars could hinge upon their willingness to play with a 35-year-old leader.
There may be the perception that the Lakers are immune to dry spells as an organization, but that's hardly the case. For every period of championship glory has come one in which the Lakers have seen a stunning collapse.
The common theme in each of those recovery periods has been their ability to pair a star prospect via the draft with a top-tier free agent.
The Lakers clearly believe that they can achieve the latter feat, using their name brand as a reason to join the franchise. What they're ignoring, however, is the ever-important factor of finding the youth they need to create their future with.
By seeing Howard walk, the only hope remaining is that they realize their wrongs and begin utilizing the draft as they're supposed to.