Hollywood got its next big leading man as all-star center Dwight Howard joined the Los Angeles Lakers, making it the biggest NBA move of the summer. Add in all-star point guard Steve Nash and the constant pro in all-star swing man Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are clearly the favorites to come out of the west and compete for another NBA title.
Howard was a dominant big man in Orlando, averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds in his eight-year career, but for whatever reason became disgruntled and wanted out. Howard got his wish as he was shipped to the Lakers as part of a big four-team trade that saw the Lakers say goodbye to center Andrew Bynum who went to Philadelphia.
Before he missed the final 12 games of last season with a back injury, Howard was putting up 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds a game. Howard will give the Lakers so many different options on offense. He is athletic enough to run the fast break and finish, with Nash pushing the ball. Howard is nimble enough to run the pick-and-roll which Nash is brilliant at. And with Howard clogging the middle, likely drawing double or even triple teams, Bryant and Nash specifically should be wide open to knock down jumpers on the kick-out from Howard. He still needs major work on his free throws, making only 58 percent for his career.
Defensively, the chiseled 6'-11" Howard is an intimidating presence in the middle, having averaged 2 blocks a game for the Magic. Howard is a game-changer and he will alter the Lakers look immediately in all facets of the game.
Before Howard came on board, the Lakers created a mini-stir by trading away two future first-round picks for the 38-year old Nash. The two-time MVP just makes players around him better as he averaged 13 points and 10 assists for Phoenix last season. Even though he's pushing 40, the Lakers believe Nash has several good years left in the tank.
The Lakers also hope the same for forward Antawn Jamison who signed a one-year deal with L.A. The 36-year old can still score the ball as he averaged 17 points a game for Cleveland last season. Jamison would likely be the Lakers' sixth man this season. Jamison is no stranger to that role, as he won sixth man of the year award with Dallas in 2003-04.
The Lakers also added shooter Jodie Meeks with a two-year deal for 3-million. Meeks hit 36 percent of his three's last season, including a season high 7 against the Cavaliers in March. Meeks is another player who will benefit from the presence of Howard down low. Jordan Hill signed a three-year deal for 8 million to stay with the Lakers and he will back up Pau Gasol at the power forward spot.
Bryant, a winner of five NBA rings, is back, and although he's getting older he is still one of the best scorers in the game. The 34-year old scored 28 a game last season as the Lakers lost to Oklahoma City in the second round of the playoffs.
The Lakers have arguably the best starting five in the game with Nash, Bryant, World Metta Peace, Gasol and Howard -- and their bench led by Jamison isn't too shabby. They made the biggest splash of the off-season and it should pay huge dividends come the post-season. It's likely an NBA title or bust for this talented crew.