NBA 2011-12: Lakers in Heavy Pursuit of Howard; Paul Is Actually a Better Fit

Shel HillContributor IIIDecember 7, 2011

Laker should put their focus on getting Paul and returning to a running team.
Laker should put their focus on getting Paul and returning to a running team.Brett Deering/Getty Images

The free agent frenzy is in full throttle and full steam ahead. The pursuit of the big market stars has gained momentum rivaling that of the LeBron James sweepstakes of a year ago. Whenever a big market team like the Los Angeles Lakers are publicly in pursuit of someone, the splash made feels more like getting hit by large water balloons at close range.

With Dwight Howard and Chris Paul openly saying that they do not wish to re-sign with their current teams right now, their teams are respectively listening to trade offers before they lose out on their superstar like the Cleveland Cavaliers did with LeBron. The Lakers have made it known that they wish to add Dwight Howard to list of Hall of Fame centers that have donned Laker uniforms and contributed to the many championship banners posted in the Staples center.

Dwight Howard is notably the most athletic and dominating center in the league right now but the Lakers already have a young center in Andrew Bynum who many think, if he can remain healthy, can himself be the best all-around center in the NBA.The Lakers are attracted to Howard's athleticism as well as his star power. Some think that this would be a move to better the team now, as well as keep a star attraction in Los Angeles whenever Kobe Bryant decides to call it quits.

The Lakers have also shown interest in Chris Paul, probably the purest point guard in the league. Adding an All-Star point guard to rule the back court with Bryant would potentially make one of the best back court tandems in NBA history. The Lakers have been more aggressive in the pursuit of Howard, but their energy may be in the wrong place.

In a league that is not currently driven by dominant big men, getting an All-Star level point guard would make the Lakers better now and in the future. Mike Brown, the Lakers' new head coach, is known for being a good defensive coach and allows his teams to run on offense. He is also known for allowing his super star to control the ball a bit too much, which has also been his downfall thus far in his career.

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 24:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic grabs a rebound against Jason Collins #34 of the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 24, 2011 in Atlanta,
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If the Lakers get Howard instead of Paul, the Lakers may sink back into the team before Pau Gasol was traded for. That was a Laker team highlighted by the enormous scoring numbers put up by Bryant, but also with teammates that stood around on the court and watched him go to work. This team was not as successful in terms of winning and losing although it is the only time Bryant won an MVP.

If the Lakers get Paul instead of Howard, the ball will be in the hands of someone who is comfortable with getting players involved and in the right spots to be successful. Bryant will be more efficient because teams won't be able focus on him with the ball in his hands. Bryant is just as capable of a scorer coming off screens as he is dominating the ball.

It will also allow the Lakers to be a much better running team, like the Showtime Lakers of the 80s lead by Magic Johnson, the purest point guard to ever play the game. Bryant will no longer be the best ball handler on the team and will be able to get out on the break and fill the lanes instead of having to bring the ball up more if Howard was rebounding and giving an outlet to him.

Eventually, when Bryant does retire, it is always easier to find people to fit in with a stellar point guard than to find high caliber guards to amply feed the post. Howard isn't exactly seven feet tall and does have problems with taller players like Bynum. So when his athleticism begins to slow down, will his game progress to a level of Tim Duncan where he can leave the paint and still be effective? That is a part of Howard's game that remains to be seen and even more of a reason to go after Paul.

Paul is already a polished player and is excellent in every aspect of the game. In a league where the point guard can literally control the success of the team, when someone like Chris Paul is available, the window to get him is very small. The Lakers need to squat down really low and jump in that window before it too late.