Does Dwight Howard Make The Lakers The Favorite To Win The NBA Title Next Season?
I think I speak for all NBA fans today when I say…FINALLY! After months and months and months and months and months of trade rumors involving Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic finally shipped him to the Los Angeles Lakers early this morning in a four-team trade that also involved the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nuggets will receive Andre Iguodala from the Sixers. The Sixers will receive Andrew Bynum from the Lakers and Jason Richardson from the Magic. The Lakers will receive Howard, Chris Duhon, and Earl Clark from the Magic. And, the Magic will receive Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington from the Nuggets, Nikola Vucevic from the Sixers, and a protected first-round draft pick from each of the other three teams.
Did the Magic get the short end of the stick here? Eh, time will tell. Everyone is being hard on them right now for not getting more in exchange for Howard—or, better yet, not accepting a deal from the Brooklyn Nets last month that would have been much better for them in the short term. But, they’re clearly going to go through a rebuilding process that should make them better in the long term. By not adding any stars, they’ll be a lottery team for the foreseeable future and will collect some nice draft picks over the course of the next five years or so.
That’s not what I want to discuss today, though. I want to discuss what the addition of Howard means to the Lakers. Specifically, does it make them the favorite to win the NBA title next season? My gut reaction: No. In fact, in my mind, it still doesn’t make them the favorite to win the Western Conference right away, either. Last I checked, the Oklahoma City Thunder still match up well with the Lakers and have a much younger team that can still run most of the guys on the Lakers out of the gym. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash aren’t getting any younger. Pau Gasol still has to prove himself as a legitimate big man (and show that he can coexist with Howard). And, just in case you forgot, Howard is coming off back surgery that could limit him a bit next season.
So, would I make them the favorites? Not yet. Not with the way the way the Thunder have played the last few years. Not with the way the Miami Heat have gelled as a team. And, definitely not with the way that the Lakers have finished off their last couple of seasons. So, before we crown them, let’s sit back and see them play together. Once they get used to playing as a cohesive unit, then we can start talking about a championship. But, until then, don’t be so quick to put the Lakers in the 2013 NBA Finals. They’ve still got a long road ahead of them—even if they do have one of the best big men in the NBA running with them now.