Dwight to LA, Miami still favourites
Orlando has finally awoken from their Dwightmare, albeit in a cold sweat. A deal has been reached in principle to send Howard to the Lakers, Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson to Philadelphia, Andre Iguodala to Denver and Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless (that’s all, seriously) to Orlando.
In a vacuum, Howard isn’t a massive upgrade over Bynum. An upgrade, sure, but Bynum has really narrowed the gap between him and Howard over the past few seasons.
However, I’m yet to see basketball played in a vacuum and in the context of this team, Howard provides upgrades in multiple areas.
He’s a much better fit with Steve Nash, due in no small part to his speed and athleticism which promises to make him a deadly pick and roll partner with LA’s newest point guard.
Howard also brings his league best defence to LA. Kobe and World Peace have seen their defensive abilities decline and Nash is awful defensively.
Thankfully for LA fans, Howard will now be guarding the rim as the last line of defence whenever some of his less defensively talented teammates are beaten of the dribble – think Tyson Chandler last season.
Not to put a negative spin on things (just watch me) but LA has replaced one ageing point guard with another, and the second best centre with the best centre.
Sure, Nash and Howard (particularly Nash) are upgrades at their positions, should fit together, plus they’ve also added Antawn Jamison, but this doesn’t catapult LA ahead of Miami.
For argument’s sake, let’s say LA and Miami meet in the finals. When it comes to championship series in the NBA, the team with the best player on the court usually wins.
Yes, it sounds brutally simple, and before you direct my attention to the 2011 finals, I’m aware this isn’t always the case. However, so often it is. In the finals, the stars come out to play and the best player on the floor is usually able to elevate his team to a higher level.
My next two problems relate to defence (not personally of course, although my defence has been labelled shaky at times). Continuing with the theme of brutal simplicity, last season Miami played elite defence, LA didn’t.
While Howard alone will improve them, it still won’t compare to Miami’s breathtaking defence.
In a league which revolves around superstars and superteams, fans focus on big 3s and big names. So they should. They’re fun, fascinating and captivating.
But if you wish to examine what wins championships, look further than the names. Yes Boston and Miami both won with big 3s. They also won with league best defences.
I worry about LA’s backcourt on the defensive end. Kobe has declined defensively, and then there’s Nash who each night is a defensive nightmare for both teams.
In Phoenix, players like Shawn Marion and Raja Bell were able to guard the other team’s starting point guard. Who’s going to be able to do this in LA? In this golden era of freakishly athletic and talented point guards, it’s certainly a cause for concern.
Don’t let LA’s big names distract you from their very weak bench. Jamison boosts their stocks, but they’re still isn’t much else coming off the pine. The rest of their bench consist of Hill, Ebanks, Blake, Barnes, Goudelock, Eyenga, McRoberts, Morris, Murphy Johnson-Odom and Sacre.
Yikes. Certainly no one of Allen, Cole, Lewis or Battier quality.
I hope I’ve succeeded in pointing out some of the realities to the overreacting “give them the trophy now” people.
LA has undoubtedly improved, but as of right now, the Miami Heat are the championship favourites.