NBA Trade Rumors: Chris Paul Should Be Lakers' Top Priority, Not Dwight Howard

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IJune 30, 2011

NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 24:  Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets guards Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at New Orleans Arena on April 24, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

I can appreciate Lakers fans who drool over the prospects of bringing Dwight Howard to town: the last time the club acquired a Superman-obsessed center by way of Orlando, it worked out pretty well.

And given the lack of good centers right now, Howard would be just as dominant and unique a player as Shaq was for L.A. a decade or so ago.

But inside presence is not the greatest flaw on the Lakers roster. Provided they keep Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, they're set around the paint.

It's the defensive woes of the backcourt that should be Mike Brown's biggest concern. Obviously Kobe Bryant—even at his "advanced" age—is still a top notch defender. I'd take a 32-year-old banged up Kobe on the defensive end ahead of 99 percent of the other players in the league.

But for several seasons now, Derek Fisher has been a real weak link on the defensive end. He may have played as many seasons in the NBA as Kobe, but he's four years older and just doesn't have the necessary speed to contribute enough.

Fortunately, Chris Paul seems to be available to anyone willing to pay the price and even though parting with a Bynum or Odom or whomever else would weaken the Lakers up front, it's worth it to get a player like Paul.

We all know how valuable Paul can be on the offensive end. He's good for 10 assists and at least 15 points per game and since he doesn't really take that many shots (less than 12 per game last year) he can contribute but not take shots away from Kobe or from Gasol in the paint.

Still, it's what Paul can do on defense that makes him the ideal fit in L.A. He's got tremendous quickness and led the NBA with 2.35 steals per game. A defensive-minded coach like Mike Brown will love that part of his repertoire.

Certainly Howard would also be a defensive force in LA—he has won the Defensive Player of the Year award the last three seasons and would be an intimidating presence in the paint.

But to improve team defense, and not just rack up blocks and highlights, Paul is the better fit.