L.A. Lakers: Passing on Dwight Howard for a Point Guard Is a Foolish Idea

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJuly 12, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 24:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic walks downcourt after a turnover to 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, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum will never be an elite NBA player.

That needed to be said for those of us who have been fooled by Bynum's flashes of potential, which would seem to indicate that he could soon assume his place among the Lakers' great centers of the past.

I have always liked Bynum and I still do, but the specter of injury that looms over his career is much larger than any chance he may have to reach NBA stardom.

And what's really sad is that in today's NBA it really doesn't take much to be an elite center, since the talent pool at the position is dreadfully thin.

Some observers who follow the Lakers use that logic when offering the opinion that the Lakers should concentrate on their area of most pressing concern, which is the point guard position, instead of worrying about Bynum's future in L.A.

I can understand this sentiment, because after all Bynum did help lead the Lakers to back-to-back NBA championships in 2009-10, and his performance in the 2010 NBA Finals most likely endeared him to legions of purple and gold fans.

So I see the logic when it comes to the Lakers focusing their attention on the lead guard position since it's obviously the weakest part of the team, but for me all that logic goes out the window if Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard's name comes up.

Talking heads and writers like myself love to pontificate on how Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak should take a measured approach to repairing the Lakers, and the most sane, analytical and logical way to do that would be by signing a competent point guard.

That may be a rational way of looking at things, but in my case I'm not being very honest, because deep down I feel the Lakers would be crazy if they had an opportunity to acquire Howard and passed on him.

And that should be true under almost any circumstances.

Since George Mikan the Lakers franchise has seemingly always been identified by the presence of a legendary big man, and although Los Angeles has won championships with mediocre point guards, they have never won titles without a dominant big man.

Forward Pau Gasol filled in that role nicely during the Lakers 09-10 championship seasons, but although Gasol put up some very impressive numbers, I would stop short of calling him dominant.

Gasol did average nearly 20 points per game, and 11.1 rebounds per game during the 2010 postseason and those numbers were preceded by an 18.3 points per game average to go along with 10.8 rebounds per game in the 2009 NBA Playoffs.

Those were pretty good seasons for Gasol, and he definitely served his purpose as Kobe Bryant's side-kick, but was he really Bryant's equal on the court?

Gasol managed to shine while lingering in Bryant's shadow, but a player like Howard would be able to claim his own space in the sunshine, much like a few recent Lakers centers named Shaquille O'Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did.

O'Neal and Kareem were unquestionably the most dominant centers of their respective eras, but can anyone really say that Bynum will be designated with the same honor in his future, while keeping a straight face?

Probably not, but Howard is already the most dominant post player of this era, and it would be ridiculous to pass on a player of his talent, simply to fill a need at the point guard position.

Point guards may not be a dime a dozen, but they sure are easier to come by than elite centers.

And that goes for players such as Chris Paul and Deron Williams who have both been called better free agency targets for the Lakers than Howard.

Don't get me wrong, I like Paul and Williams, but I question their ability to lead any NBA team to a title without an elite big man, and their window with the Lakers current crop of post players would be very small.

The only question for the Lakers if Howard becomes available should be how much are they willing to give up to acquire his services?

In any scenario Bynum would likely be on the first thing smoking out of Los Angeles in a deal for Howard, but Kupchak and Buss would also face the probability of losing Gasol, Lamar Odom or both players.

Is Howard really worth that much?

At first glance probably not, but think about a Lakers future that includes Howard on the roster, and now think about the present state of the Lakers, with no superstar in sight for the eventual transition that will take place once Bryant finally retires.

Bynum is too injury-prone to really take seriously when it comes to leading the Lakers franchise into the future, and although Gasol is talented enough he is aging, and he has never demonstrated any leadership qualities.

The Lakers lost any trade leverage they had with guard Shannon Brown when he decided to opt out of the final year of his contract, so putting together a package for Howard that Orlando would accept could be a daunting task.

But it's not impossible, and if Buss and Kupchak are serious about leading the Lakers into the future and remaining one of the league's top franchises, then they should look to the past for guidance.


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