On Thursday night, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak pulled out his batters helmet and helmet to cap off a home run summer with a grand slam deal by exchanging Dwight Howard for Andrew Bynum without giving up Pau Gasol. In a historical context, his haul is only the fourth time in NBA history that a franchise added two players with six All-Star appearances each during the same offseason.
Bynum was an All-Star last season and may not have reached his ceiling at 24, however, he worried many within the organization with his immaturity. At least Dwight Howard waited until he was behind closed doors to exhibit insubordination. Howard won't even look at the three-point line, much less defy Mike Brown by promising to shoot the trey as Bynum did early in the shot clock against the Golden State Warriors. Aside from Bynum's antics, here are five substantive reasons why Howard is an upgrade to the Lakers starting lineup on the hardwood.
5. Howard Is The Best Center In The League
There's no simpler way to put it. Bynum is easily the NBA's second-best center but that's only because of the paucity of quality post-up big men in today's game. However, Howard's overall game is in another stratosphere.
Bynum put up career-bests in points (18.7) and rebounds (11.8) last season but Howard's averages (20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game) were still better despite his inferior supporting cast. He even had a slightly better shooting percentage despite his robotic Wall-E set of post moves. In Los Angeles, Howard will be just one of multiple threats instead of the singular offensive focal point. Don't be surprised if he posts career highs across the board as well next season.
This doesn't even include Howard's defensive superiority.
4. Pick And Roll Defense
Not only can Howard patrol the post better than Superman does the skies of Metropolis, but his mobility and ability to defend the pick and roll will drastically improve the Lakers championship odds. According to Synergy sports Howard was 25th in the league defending isolation plays. Bynum was 75th. On spot-up shots, Howard was 46th, while Bynum was 86th.
If Nash gets beat by Westbrook on pick and roll plays next season, Howard is a more reliable help defender than anyone in the league including Bynum.
The defending champion, Miami Heat were one of the best defenses in the league at defending the pick and roll last season. Bynum's armory of post moves dwarfs Howard's but his bad knees hindered him on pick roll defense out near the high post.
3. Howard's Athleticism Paired With Steve Nash's Naturally Up-Tempo Style
During his MVP-years in Phoenix, Steve Nash excelled in Mike D'Antoni's 7 seconds or less offense. Nash isn't young enough to recreate that magic but he is still a wizard on the fast break. He'll enjoy running the floor with Dwight Howard by his side much more than he would have with Bynum laboring behind him. Howard had a late growing spurt in high school and still sprints to both ends of the floor like an athlete that played guard most of his life.
2. The Princeton offense
The Lakers are fully committed to installing a Princeton offense facsimile next season. They even hired Eddie Jordan, who executed the Rick Adelman-style Princeton offense as an assistant coach.
The Princeton offense relies on cutting and movement, while Bynum's strengths involve one-on-one battles in the post. The Princeton offense will enable Steve Nash to take advantage of Howard's athleticism and move the Lakers offense away from last season's stagnant and putrid 15th ranked offense. This leads to the No. 1 reason why the Lakers will be better off with Howard as their starting center than they will with Bynum.
1. Pick And Roll Offense
In the pick and roll, Nash and Howard will replace Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan as the NBA's new Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. According to Synergy sports, Dwight Howard is the NBA's best roll man in pick and roll sets. Nash is the NBA's best pick and roll point guard this side of Chris Paul in the entire league.
Nash and Howard's beautiful pick and roll combo will be basketball's version of Brangelina.