On August 9, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired the biggest fish on the NBA trade market, nabbing center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. Last season the Lakers finished 41-25, won the division title, a playoff series (vs. Denver), before losing 4-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
The Miami Heat, last June defeated that Oklahoma City Thunder team, in the NBA Finals, 4-1, to capture their second NBA title. The Heat also won the Eastern Conference in 2010-2011, before falling in the finals to the Dallas Mavericks, in six games. With all that being said, many people say that the Heat are still the favorites to win the NBA crown, as they have their big three, of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Who could really say that is a ridiculous thought, to say that the Heat are the NBA favorites.
Many people would also say that the Oklahoma City Thunder are the Western Conference favorites. People say that they are a young team, who is only getting better, lead by the NBA’s likely second-best player, in Kevin Durant. They also beat the Lakers last season in five games, with two resounding victories, including a 106-90 win to end the Lakers’ season.
Despite all that, I have to say that the Lakers are now the NBA favorites. With mostly the same team, that won three straight Western Conference titles (2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010) and two NBA titles (2008-2009, 2009-2010), they got to the second round of the playoffs the last two years. This off-season, they only lost Andrew Bynum, while acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Those two guys have been franchise changers, during their respective careers.
Steve Nash, while 38, is still one of the NBA’s best, and can jump-start any offense. Kobe Bryant, is still great, even when creeping up in years, but will be benefited greatly, by someone like Steve Nash getting him much easier shots. He also will help the Lakers’ other new addition, Dwight Howard. While Howard doesn’t have a great offensive game, he can certainly dunk the ball and Nash’s passes will lead to many alley-oops and easy buckets. This position had been a black hole for the Lakers, who played the likes of Smush Parker, Derek Fisher, and Ramon Sessions, at the position, over the last few seasons, as their starting point guards.
Dwight Howard is an even bigger addition to the Lakers than Steve Nash. Howard helps the Lakers, with something that they struggled with last year, defense. He was the 3-time defending NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2009-2011), and is also the best rebounder in the NBA. While Nash helps Howard on offense, Howard’s defensive prowess does the same to hide Nash’s shortcomings on defense.
Lakers’ Points allowed per game, with league rankings in parenthesis:
2011-2012: 95.9 (15)
2010-2011: 95.4 (8)
2009-2010: 97.0 (9)
2008-2009: 99.3 (13)
2007-2008: 101.3 (19)
2006-2007: 103.4 (25)
2005-2006: 96.9 (15)
2004-2005: 101.7 (27)
The 2004-2005 season, was the first season, following the departure of Shaquille O’Neal.
Last season’s Lakers starting lineup:
OWS: Offensive Win Shares, DWS: Defensive Win Shares, WS: Win Shares
G: Ramon Sessions: 64 G, 23 GS, 11.3 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.3 RPG, 26.7 MPG, .428/.443/.782 shooting, 2.9 OWS, .8 DWS, 3.7 WS
G: Kobe Bryant: 58 G, 58 GS, 27.9 PPG, 4.6 APG, 5.4 RPG, 38.5 MPG, .430/.303/.845 shooting, 4.2 OWS, 2 DWS, 6.2 WS
F: Metta World Peace: 64 G, 45 GS, 7.7 PPG, 2.2 APG, 3.4 RPG, 26.9 MPG, .394/.296/.617 shooting, .9 OWS, 1.7 DWS, 2.6 WS
F: Pau Gasol: 65 G, 65 GS, 17.4 PPG, 3.7 APG, 10.4 RPG, 37.4 MPG, .501/.259/.782 shooting, 5.3 OWS, 3.1 DWS, 8.4 WS
C: Andrew Bynum: 60 G, 60 GS, 18.7 PPG, 1.4 APG, 11.8 RPG, 35.2 MPG, .558/.200/.692 shooting, 4.8 OWS, 3.3 DWS, 8.1 WS
These are the statistics of the Lakers two star additions:
Steve Nash: 62 G, 62 GS, 12.5 PPG, 10.7 APG, 3.0 RPG, 31.6 MPG, .532/.390/.894 shooting, 5.2 OWS, .6 DWS, 5.8 WS
Dwight Howard: 54 G, 54 GS, 20.6 PPG, 1.9 APG, 14.5 RPG, 38.3 MPG, .573/.000/.491 shooting, 3.3 OWS, 4.4 DWS, 7.7 WS
Before last season, when Howard had back surgery, he lead the league in defensive win shares in: 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010 & 2010-2011, and his win shares were very good as well: 12.9, 13.8, 13.2 and 14.4 in those years.
For all these stats: basketball-reference.com
They also added Antawn Jamison, who, while in decline, is still a valuable player, and figures to be a great contributor, off the bench.
With all these added pieces, the Lakers are clearly the NBA’s best team, in my mind.
This is how their starting lineup matches up vs. the Heat and Thunder:
G: Steve Nash G: Russell Westbrook G: Mario Chalmers
G: Kobe Bryant G: Thabo Sefolosha G: Dwyane Wade
F: Metta World Peace F: Kevin Durant F: LeBron James
F: Pau Gasol F: Serge Ibaka F: Chris Bosh
C: Dwight Howard C: Kendrick Perkins C: Joel Anthony
The Lakers own a clear edge, in talent, over the Thunder and a debatable one, over the Heat. My own personal odds are:
Will Dwight Howard and Steve Nash get the Lakers a title? Stay Tuned…
sources: espn.com, basketball-reference.com