Dwight Howard is widely considered the NBA’s best center, but when he and Steve Nash finally join forces in 2013, the big man will have a chance to go down as one of the all-time great centers in Los Angeles Lakers history.
The moves to bring in Nash and Howard this summer were brilliant on the part of Mitch Kupchak. He knew something needed to change in L.A., and he made it happen.
For Howard, the move to choose the Lakers was even smarter.
The storied franchise of the Lakers has played home to a number of the NBA’s best big men. George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal have all made their presence felt in Los Angeles.
It’s true that these are some of the most celebrated names in the game to live up to, but if Howard chooses to re-sign with the team following this season, he’ll be carving his own legacy alongside the great ones who came before him.
Every athletic big man in the world would love to play with Nash. He runs uptempo, he can find anybody in transition and he takes the pressure off teammates with his ability to score.
He’s the ideal facilitator for most bigs in the league, and his secret weapon—which is far from a secret—simply can’t be stopped.
Nash is one of the top pick-and-roll point guards in the NBA. He averaged the second-most assists in the league last season with 10.7 despite playing just 31.6 minutes per game.
He can pass on the move, throw the ball between defenders and toss it right where it needs to be like few others in the league.
At 38 years old, the future Hall of Famer is far beyond his prime, but having never relied on physical tools throughout his illustrious career, he still has the jump shot and the basketball mind to remain one of the best.
Nash will have an impact on every player on the Lakers' roster, but his ability to create less isolation is going to set up Howard on a regular basis.
With Nash running the offense, Kobe Bryant must adjust to an off-the-ball role if this team is going to succeed. The star shooting guard will remain the No. 1 option, but he’ll no longer be required to shoot the ball 23 times a game, creating opportunities for Howard that he wouldn’t otherwise have.
Without Nash on the roster, Bryant would have had no reason to defer to Howard, and hero ball may have still been in full swing upon the big man's arrival.
If Howard had come to L.A. at last season's trade deadline, do you think Ramon Sessions or Steve Blake would have been able to get Bryant to play off the ball?
Not a chance.
Nash also has the ability to shoot with the best of them. His shot is still lethal, and with the ability to score so efficiently off screens, he will command defenses to step out and occasionally lose track of the big man rolling to the middle.
But don’t forget, this isn’t just about Nash.
Howard is one of the best pick-and-roll finishers that the game has to offer.
Despite his massive frame, Howard is one of the more graceful centers in the league today. He can set hard screens, finish at the rim and with Nash’s incredible court vision, he should make up one-half of the league’s best pick-and-roll duo this season.
You thought Howard was good in the pick-and-roll game with Hedo Turkoglu? Wait until you see him with Nash.
Howard may not have the greatest post game, but that can take a backseat as long as he puts up numbers like he did last year (20.6 PTS, 14.5 REB, 2.1 BLK, 57.3 FG%).
It’s true that someday Howard will lose his athleticism, and his back-to-the-basket game could suffer as a result of never establishing it early in his career; but remember this: Howard is just 26 years old.
The big man isn’t entering L.A. as an old man. He’s in the prime of his career and he has plenty of domination left in him.
We’re not talking about a player who has the potential to be good in this league; we’re talking about Howard—the 6’11” center who has conquered the NBA since his arrival in 2004.
He has never averaged less than 10 rebounds per game, he is pushing his career average in points closer to 20 every season and he is truly an anchor on defense year after year.
Howard has a lot of basketball yet to be played, and while it’s true that Nash only has a few seasons left, the two will begin doing work right away in 2013.
Nash is a player who’s never relied on athleticism. He may have a bad back and his minutes might be limited, but his basketball IQ isn’t going anywhere and he remains the perfect player to boost Howard to an even greater level.
While this Lakers team is going to need time to get used to each other, if anybody can get so many stars to work together, it’s Nash.
The veteran point guard is smart, crafty and above all else, selfless.
The Lakers are still Bryant’s team, but with Howard officially on board, this squad is building toward the future.
The big man recently met with Abdul-Jabbar and indicated to fans that he will be working with him “For many years to come.”
— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) September 3, 2012
If Howard can improve with his back to the basket, he’ll be virtually unstoppable. If he can’t, he still has a number of years left to physically impose himself upon a league that lacks elite big men.
We all know the parallels between Howard and some of the greats. Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar left smaller markets for Los Angeles in an attempt to win championships. O’Neal left the exact city Howard spurned for his shot with the Lakers. Howard and O’Neal even have similar charismatic traits, being two of the more light-hearted players in the history of the league.
Howard comes to L.A with aspirations of winning, and he comes with one of the best partners in crime that a player of his skill set could ask for.
Nash has the chance to be the best floor general the Lakers have seen since Magic Johnson—the same point guard who finally helped Abdul-Jabbar grab another ring following his arrival with the team.
The two players will work wonderfully together while they’re in L.A., and if this team can click sooner rather than later, Howard has a chance to join the biggest names in Lakers history by the time it’s all said and done.