According to ESPN's NBA insider Chris Broussard, the Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly interested in adding both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard to complement Kobe Bryant for the upcoming lockout-shortened 2011-2012 NBA Season.
The move would require the departure of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, but would be considered an upgrade and immediately place the Los Angeles Lakers as one of, if not the favorites to win the NBA Championship.
When Magic Johnson said the Lakers needed to be blown up at the end of last season (and may I quote, "INCLUDING Kobe") he incensed Lakers Nation with something Tinseltown isn't accustomed to hearing: the truth.
While Laker fans are probably still reeling from the embarrassing sweep at the hands of the eventual 2011 NBA Champion, the Dallas Mavericks, the Laker front office has apparently quickly taken to pursuing the biggest ticket trade options.
It is apparent through all this off-season activity that both New Orleans and Orlando are looking to move Chris Paul and Dwight Howard and receiving otherwise untouchable talent in return before the beginning of the season, as opposed to dealing with the constant media speculation that surrounded Carmelo Anthony's departure from Denver last season.
The move would. of course, have serious implications.
1. Kobe Wouldn't Be the Best Player On His Own Team...But It Would Be OK
And not in the "LeBron isn't the best player on the Heat, Dwyane Wade is" sense. (By the way, LeBron is the best player on the Heat). Dwight Howard would unquestionably be the best player on the team, being the freak of nature that he is. As for the leader of the team—it is assumed that Kobe Bryant would assume a leadership role.
...Or Would He? If Dwight Howard and Chris Paul come to L.A., who is the Lakers' best player?
Would Kobe's hubris harm the team's chemistry and lead to an ugly soap opera a la the Lakers circa 2001-2004? After all, the dude was named after a type of beef.
I say not; Bryant has exhibited maturity since days past, and has acquired some accolades under his belt. Furthermore, Kobe Byrant's primary beef with Shaquille O'Neal was a result of clashing gigantic egos, and it takes two to tango. I'm as big a supporter of Shaq as anyone, and while I firmly believe Shaq had a legitimate issue to raise with Bryant over-stepping his boundaries, the dude at his heaviest weighed two Kobes and had an ego to match.
There appears to be few such ego issues with Chris Paul, who is seemingly on the T-Mobile Fave Five of every NBA player and their mom. As for Dwight Howard, his humility actually negatively affects the fulfillment of his potential.
2. The Lakers Lose the "Forest," Only to Gain a Fortress
During last year's playoffs, opposing teams had some trouble moving the ball against the Lakers as three of their players, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, were over 6'10 and had the length to match. One reporter remarked that it was like a "forest" of arms in the paint, which was fantastic since the Dallas Mavericks started to swing the ball around the perimeter and then proceeded to make it rain threes for four straight games.
With the addition of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, the Lakers would gain a three-time NBA All-Defensive Teamer in Paul and the three-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Howard. So the Lakers would then have two of the league's Top-10, on-the-ball defenders, and then when you manage to get past one of them, there would be Dwight Howard waiting in the paint.
The only thing I could compare this to is waiting in line at the D.M.V.; you wait in one excruciatingly long line, only to have to wait in another longer line.
Horrible analogies aside, Mike Brown would have to hose himself down after acquiring the first competent defensive big man he's coached since Tim Duncan, and L.A. would gain a reputation for something it has virtually never been known for in franchise history: hard-nosed defense.
Nothing gets Hollywood all hot and bothered like the words "sound defensive fundamentals."
3. The Lakers Secure Contention for Roughly Five More Years
Kobe Bryant may have had a knee operation to bring him back to early career form, but Paul, 26, and Howard, 25, are at their physical peaks. Kobe will do something Shaq was unable to do—age like wine. Even as his body starts to break down, Kobe continues to look for ways to ensure career longevity (the guy wants to re-write the record books after all). Laker fans can count on Kobe to look out for himself, as he's done an excellent job of this his entire career.
Do I believe Chris Paul has enough gas in the tank to last him another six to seven years in peak form? Not with the meniscus tear, but I'd wager four strong years before a slight drop off. As for Howard, big men are notorious for losing their knees at earlier ages than their smaller counterparts; it would not be unreasonable to suggest Howard starts declining early as well.
That said, the Lakers would have another five-year window to chase their champagne wishes and Larry O'Brien dreams.
The trade would create more "power teams" a la Major League Baseball; you'd have the Yankees, Sox, Phillies (and soon, the Marlins) with talent stuffed to the gills... and I'm sure those of us in the major markets, and the NBA fans in general, couldn't be more excited to see the drama that unfolds.
Here's to hoping that the Lakers land the trade and set off the powder keg for what will prove to be the most exciting, contentious and talent-rich season the NBA has ever seen.