Reasons LA Lakers Fans Want Dwight Howard to Stay Put

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2013

Reasons LA Lakers Fans Want Dwight Howard to Stay Put

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    Dwight Howard's future with the Los Angeles Lakers is suddenly etched in sand, not stone.

    With the Lakers' play well below .500 basketball and facing a steep uphill battle to make the playoffs, plenty have questioned whether or not this dynamic is going to work—including Howard himself.

    But just because there is a call for change in Hollywood doesn't mean Howard is the one who should go. It's quite the opposite, in fact. Los Angeles has no intention of trading Howard. At all.

    And not only should it stay that way, but those within the City of Angels should also embrace his continued presence.

    Why?

    Because as bleak as the future appears now, it would look even darker if Howard weren't in it.

    *All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.

What's the Alternative?

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    A few brave but equally naive souls have boarded the "Trade Dwight Howard" bandwagon, which is just ridiculous.

    Who else are the Lakers to turn to to anchor in their front court? 

    Why, Pau Gasol, of course. 

    Sure, Los Angeles could play that game. But for how much longer?

    Gasol is 32 and clearly on his last legs, the plantar fasciitis has told us that much. While I understand he is posting a 27.4 PER per 48 minutes at the center position, I also understand that his best days are behind him.

    Plus, should Howard be traded, what happens to the Lakers' already depleted post presence? Jordan Hill is done for the season and Robert Sacre remains inexperienced. At least with Howard the Lakers have some depth at the 5.

    Personally, I'm an advocate of Gasol coming off the bench. He can spend a majority of his time at the 5 where he's most effective, and it renders the Lakers deep at one position.

    And God knows they need all the depth they can get.

A Cornerstone for the Future

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    The Black Mamba is more than capable of holding down the Lakers for the time being, but he's 34, and the team needs someone to turn to after that.

    Remember, Bryant and Pau Gasol become free agents after next season, and Steve Nash the year after that, so Los Angeles needs a face for its future.

    Enter the 27-year-old Howard.

    Bryant and company aren't sources of youth. They're a collective wealth of experience, but youthful exuberance is not something he nor any other key members of the Lakers can provide.

    Except Howard.

    With him, Los Angeles has a plan for life after Kobe, it has a concrete blueprint for tomorrow.

    Without him, though, what do they have? Nothing.

    Should the Lakers decide to trade Big Dwight for a Dirk Nowitzki or even as part of a deal for Josh Smith or Al Horford, that leaves them without a legitimate superstar to build around for the future.

    As agitated and anxious as Laker Nation may be about today, much of this season has to do with tomorrow. And tomorrow is a day suited for Howard.

Summer of 2014

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    The Lakers will have a King's ransom worth of cap space during the free-agency frenzy of 2014 even if they retain Dwight Howard—which is huge.

    As appealing of a market as Los Angeles is, stars like LeBron Jameswhom the Lakers plan to target—are still going to want assurances. Not financial assurances, but personnel ones.

    Translation?

    Howard provides Los Angeles with a star-studded sales pitch less than two years from now. Again, by this time, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will all be history and/or two years older. They won't intrigue the caliber of free agents that Howard will.

    If the Lakers want to give themselves the best possible chance at using their eventual cap space to land a superstar or two (or three) more, then hanging onto Howard is essential.

    For both the rest of this season and beyond.

D-E-F-E-N-S-E

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    Los Angeles is a terrible defensive team. Like you-wouldn't-even-know-Dwight-Howard-is-on-the-roster atrocious. Just imagine how much of a pushover the Lakers would be without him, though.

    At present, Hollywood's finest rank 23rd in points allowed per 100 possessions. They're one of six teams relinquishing more than 100 points a game (101.5) and (per teamrankings.com), the 44.9 points per bout they allow in the paint is second most in the league.

    More troubling than that?

    Those marks come with Howard blocking 2.5 shots a night (fourth in the league) and holding opposing centers to a below-average PER of 14.2 per 48 minutes. He's also second in the NBA in defense overall, allowing just 0.62 points per possession.

    What's going to happen should he be shipped out? Admittedly, Howard needs to get back to calling out his teammates on defense, but that's an easy fix. Attempting to reconstruct a broken defense without him isn't.

    If the Lakers are to have a puncher's chance at becoming the type of defensive team their two-way talent suggests they can be, it's going to start with Howard.

    Not his departure.

Excellence Through Pain

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    Thus far, the Lakers have only gotten a taste of the real Dwight Howard.

    If you asked everyone, most would admit they've been disappointed by Howard's performance. Putting up 16.7 points and grabbing 12 boards a night is impressive, but not indicative of the 20-and-14-per-game Howard we have become accustomed to.

    Yet, what we must understand is that Howard isn't even close to healthy. He himself even admits that his back (and now shoulder) has hindered his performance and that he wasn't supposed to play until January.

    Through such pain and physical impediments, though, Howard has managed to post a PER near 20 and remains the only player in the NBA averaging at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. He's also an All-Star starter at a time when the center position is no longer on the ballot.

    That he has been able to put forth such a performance despite injuries and team-wide ambiguity is incredible. But that's only indicative of his resolve and potential, not his actual ceiling.

    At full strength, his ceiling knows no bounds. And neither will the Lakers'.

    Provided they do whatever it takes to keep Howard from sporting anything other than purple and gold.

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