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Are Lakers Better Without Dwight Howard?
Posted By Jabari Davis On July 9, 2013 @ 1:55 pm In NBA | No Comments
Having been asked if the “Los Angeles Lakers could actually be better off without Dwight Howard?” about a dozen times, it’s time to address it once and for all. In the immediate, the answer is clearly “no” the Lakers are not better off without the services of the most physically gifted center in today’s NBA. Even when slowed by the recovery period of a debilitating back surgery, which he’d very much prefer that you remember and acknowledge, Howard led the league in rebounding and was fifth in blocked shots. Replacing productivity of that nature is not something that should be taken lightly by an increasingly unsettled fanbase.
The front office was completely dead-set upon retaining Howard, and draping that “face of the franchise” moniker upon his broad shoulders, but were taken by surprise when the indecipherable free agent decided to agree in principle with the Houston Rockets. Hampered by the restrictive nature of the current CBA, the Lakers find themselves in the unenviable position of being over the salary cap with several glaring voids to fill.
Free Agency Additions/Rumors
One of the voids was presumably filled when the Lakers agreed in principle with free agent center Chris Kaman. Relegated to reserve minutes over the past two seasons, Kaman has remained a productive player during his time. In just under 21 minutes per night with Dallas in 2012-13, Kaman averaged 10.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Obviously, those numbers pale in comparison to what Howard can provide, especially from a defensive prospective, but the Lakers are going to have to do their best to duplicate them with a combined effort from Kaman, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill.
Perhaps, additional front line support could come in the form of a familiar face in free agent Lamar Odom. Although the Lakers have reportedly agreed to spend their entire mini mid-level exception ($3.2 million) on Kaman, they’ve remained in contact with Odom and it is believed he is deciding whether a veteran’s minimum contract will be enough to lure him back across the hallway. Odom, once a major contributor with these Lakers, has spent the past two seasons languishing with the Mavericks in 2011 before providing quality minutes for the Clippers last season. With Earl Clark agreeing in principle with the Cavaliers (two-years, $9 million), the Lakers could definitely utilize a player with Odom’s versatility and willingness to play multiple positions. Depending upon the matchup and circumstance, the 33-year-old Odom is still able to range from the power forward to the center position.
The Lakers have already reunited with another familiar face, as the organization has agreed in principle with Jordan Farmar. The six-year NBA veteran has played each of the past two seasons with Anadolu Efes, in Turkey. The proposed deal, pending a buyout with Anadolu, is reportedly worth the veteran’s minimum (approximately $1 million).
Benefits of Amnesty Provision
The addition of Kaman could suggest the Lakers’ willingness to keep Metta World Peace on the roster. Unfortunately, for World Peace, the rumors still haven’t died down. If the OC Register’s Kevin Ding’s speculation is accurate, and the Lakers are still determined to amnesty his contract, then they could conceivably be in a position of not having a true small forward on the roster. Why would the Lakers do such a thing, knowing how much it would set the roster back even further, you might ask? The potential savings of $20-21 million (minus $7.8 for MWP’s contract) in a year where they are not expected to contend for a title is significant, regardless of whether you agree with the potential decision.
According to HOOPSWORLD and LA Times Blogger Eric Pincus, only teams beneath the salary cap would be able to claim him, and additional savings for the Lakers are possible depending upon how much World Peace is claimed for. While you can certainly place a returning (Achilles) Kobe Bryant in that position depending upon the matchup, you’d still think the Lakers would have to look to acquire additional wing players via free agency.
Free Agency Wishlist
Swingman Nick Young also remains on the Lakers’ free agency wishlist, but it isn’t known whether the Los Angeles native would consider a hometown discount for the opportunity to play alongside Bryant, Nash and Gasol. His relative youth, 28, and athleticism would be a more than welcomed addition to an aging roster.
Fourth-year shooting guard Wayne Ellington has also been a player the Lakers have been in contact with regarding a contract. Ellington has decent size at the position, and could also provide much needed productivity during what will be vital rest periods for a 35-year-old Bryant. Ellington’s 39.2 three-point percentage from 2012-13 would also be a key addition for a team that often struggled to maintain any consistency from that distance. Anthony Morrow is another player the Lakers have contacted who would fill that need.
Ronnie Brewer and Austin Daye have also been mentioned as players the Lakers could potentially have interest in. Brewer, while not a shooter, is a 6’7 rangy small forward that could provide length and energy around the perimeter. Austin Daye is a 6’11 Southern California native that can actually stretch the floor due to his range and agility.
Clearly, the Lakers are looking to maintain the unprecedented amount of cap flexibility they’ll have following the 2013-14 season. They may not be in a “better” position with Howard having just left, but they could be better off in the long-run. If we’re being honest, the $50 million being tied down between Bryant and Gasol, no matter how great the players are, makes things extremely difficult under the current CBA. While Howard’s loss is significant, unless you are paying LeBron James or Kevin Durant, teams are actually better served to sign several contributing players rather than one big name moving forward.
More teams are going to attempt to not only streamline their spending per contract, but will also need to cultivate young talent through the draft and free agency. Teams can also look to add young talent after monitoring the undrafted free agents participating in the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues.
The Lakers, while able to spend and acquire talent at will in the past, are now being forced to play the game closer to the same way all other participants are consigned to. Whether fair or not, the adjustment must be immediate and fluid, as the rest of the league isn’t looking to do them any favors along the way.
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