Rebirth of the Big Man: How the Lakers and Bucks Are Bringing Back the Big

(Image/Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

After years of ascending small-ball, the Association’s best are winning with size.

The last 20 years of NBA basketball can be seen broadly as a process of reorienting the focus of play from the low post to the perimeter – specifically to the three-point line. The NBA in the 1990s was a brutal place, where “freedom of movement” did not really exist and intimidating defensive bigs took sadistic glee in physically punishing anyone who dared attack their baskets.

The most common strategy NBA teams employed to deal with those bigs was isolation offense. The two general options featured either a countering big large and skilled enough to take the punishment and score anyway (Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson), or a smaller player who could operate in space while the bigs manipulated the illegal defense rules to clear the paint (Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller).

Beginning in the early 2000s the league decided to actively discourage isolation ball, particularly from the post. Anxious to prop up viewership after Jordan’s second retirement and faced with a seemingly unstoppable post player in O’Neal, the league reasoned that loosening up the ball and refocusing play toward the perimeter would make the game more exciting for fans.

(Image/Andrew Bernstein/Getty Images)

First to go was the illegal defense, changes to which permitted partial help positions that fell short of a double team, effectively legalizing zone defense for the first time in the NBA. The variety of additional defensive coverages this rule change allowed made scoring in isolation from the post significantly harder. Then came the outlawing of hand checks and the freedom of movement rules, both designed to give perimeter players the room to run freewheeling motion offenses.

The collection of new defensive rules made post-ups with bulky centers a less attractive and less efficient option on offense, even in the presence of a mismatch. The consequence was that when elite teams – eg the LeBron James-era Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors – chose to go small and space the floor with a bevy of strong wings rather than play traditional bigs, teams who did play those bigs were exposed on defense and unable to compensate offensively.

The center position became smaller, quicker, and emphasized switchability over rim protection on the defensive end. On offense, former back-to-the-basket bigs found themselves required to stand in the corner or the “dunker spot” as floor spacers while their ball-handlers attacked the rim. Those who were unable to space effectively found they had little left to contribute.

Collectively, these changes paved the way for the brand of maximally spaced, three-point gunning, wing-dominant basketball we have seen in the association for most of the last decade. In the process, they banished the kind of slow, bruising defensive big so popular in the 90s and 00s. Guys like Roy Hibbert and Timofey Mozgov, once important pieces on contending teams, found the market for their services wither and die in the space of two years.

Offense

As mentioned above, the necessary thing for a modern big to provide on offense is spacing. Spacing in the new NBA generally comes with the connotation of three-point shooting, but that need not be the case. Non-shooting lob threats such as Javale McGee and Jarrett Allen have leveraged their length and athleticism to space the floor in the third, vertical dimension rather than laterally toward the three-point line.

There is a simple reason why a pure lob threat can be impactful in the NBA today in a way that a more skilled back-to-the-basket scorer who lacks athleticism cannot; offenses no longer begin in the post. Initiating the offense from the post position allows 20 years’ worth of rule changes to work against it.

It is much more efficient to penetrate from the perimeter, where the rules are friendlier to the offensive player, and then allow the big to read the defensive help and act as a finisher. Regardless, a plausible big on a successful NBA team must be able to either step out to the three-point line or be a lob threat and elite finisher from the screen and roll.

(Image/Getty Images)

The Lakers have gone all-in on the latter approach, sacrificing more shooting from the 5 positions in exchange for athletically gifted finishers. They are able to do so because both McGee and Dwight Howard are significant lob threats and skilled finishers around the basket from the bounce pass. The offense rarely runs through them, but they make themselves essential by expanding the variety as well as the location of passes a ball-handler can make.

Anthony Davis provides yet another degree of complexity as he is a finishing threat from the pocket pass, lob, or three-point line. LeBron James, with the potential to shoot or drive from all three levels, finds that he regularly has several shooters and a lob threat/finisher from which to select his preferred assist. Regardless of who provides the help, he is always one pass from a good shot.

The Bucks, alternatively, have focused on the shooting big approach with players like Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova. Uniquely in their case, Giannis Antetokounmpo is properly classified (for now) as a non-shooting big but is also their primary ball-handler. As a result, the Bucks have found it convenient to play a 5-out offense. They trust Antetokounmpo’s superior physical gifts to break down the defense and give him an array of three-point shooters to choose from based on the source of the help defense.

Defense

The defensive end of the floor is the most important for bigs. As analytics gurus since Dean Oliver have pointed out, even in the days of the illegal defense, it was never necessary for a successful offensive team to have a dominant big. Elite perimeter players can score just as well.

On the contrary, almost every great historical defense has been anchored by an intimidating big. The reason is obvious; the two most efficient shots in the game are layups/dunks and foul shots, and a skilled defensive big significantly reduces the number of such shots an offense can produce.

(Image/Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

The problem, as illustrated, is that with the increased efficiency of the three-point shot in the last ten years such a player must be able to reasonably contest the three-point line as well as rim protect. If the big cannot do both, the defense has to find some way to compensate on the perimeter in order to keep him from being played off the floor.

The Bucks are able to play a slower-footed big like Lopez on defense in a way most teams would not be. They can do so because of the absurd length and athleticism across the remainder of their lineup. Their array of wings can cover the necessary space on the perimeter to allow Lopez to use his talents and timing as a rim protector without being taken advantage of by perimeter players with too much regularity. The fact that they can make their rotations more quickly means they either don’t have to switch quite so frequently or are able to recover faster.

The Lakers, by contrast, have been blessed with three proper bigs who have the combination of quickness and length needed to contain ball-handlers in Davis, Howard, and McGee. In important game situations throughout the season, the Lakers have trusted those three in 1v1 situations against smaller players and found that the switch is not systematically exploitable.

The Formula

The scarcity of the true big in recent years is largely due to the rapidly changing nature of the position. It is hard enough to last 5 or 10 years in the grueling climate of the NBA, but to be asked to do so from a position the demands of which are shifting in ways many players are unable to accommodate seem downright cruel. Teams have found it easier to play small and diversify skill-sets than to have to pick their poison with players who are more physically gifted but less versatile.

The Lakers and Bucks have taken two distinct but related approaches to solving these problems which deliver a solid collective blueprint for how to play with real size in the modern NBA.

(Image/Natheniel Butler/Getty Images)

The Bucks use their shooting bigs to provide maximum space for Antetokounmpo on offense while covering for their perimeter defensive deficiencies with the combination of elite size and athleticism at the other positions. The Lakers, meanwhile, have chosen to employ multiple switchable rim-protectors for maximum defensive versatility, while compensating for their lack of shooting bigs with several elite lob threats who provide vertical spacing.

Both choices have benefits and drawbacks. The Bucks are far and away from the best in the NBA at defending the rim, in part because they always have their primary rim protector somewhere in the vicinity. The Lakers conversely allow fewer three-pointers than the Bucks because their switchable bigs are able to deter otherwise-good shots.

For all their stylistic differences, the essential commonality is that these two teams have found a way to play big without being overextended by jump-shooting, wing-heavy lineups of the sort that have been the most successful in recent years. The fact that the two teams doing this most effectively are the two best teams in the league by every commonly used metric is suggestive.

There are a number of cogent arguments to be made that the NBA ought to consider rule changes to revive some of the skilled big play lost in the last 20 years. Even in the absence of those changes, though, it seems that perhaps – like many dinosaurs – the NBA center is not dying out so much as simply evolving. As more bigs are brought into the league to specifically fill the strategic niches exposed by teams like the Lakers and Bucks, playing larger may well find itself in vogue once again.


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Are Howard And Davis The New Robinson And Duncan?

Image result for anthony davis dwight howard
(Image/Harry How/Getty Images)

A huge claim to say the least, but with the young superstar in Anthony Davis and the aging former MVP candidate, yet effective veteran, in Dwight Howard. Are they the next big man duo to set the NBA alight?

Let’s get this out of the way early. I am not comparing Dwight Howard at this moment in time to an in his prime David Robinson.

I am simply comparing Robinson at age 33 and Dwight Howard at age 33 (now 34 but for the start of the season, aged 33). Tim Duncan and David Robinson throughout their illustrious career accomplished more than most NBA players ever will and it would be unfair to compare careers to this point. For the sake of argument, we are comparing the production of Howard and Robinson at 33 and Anthony Davis and Duncan at 25.  Are we all in accord? Great.

The Los Angeles Lakers after suffering an opening night loss to their city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, have put together some impressive wins to open the season and have shown that they have the potential to make some noise in the playoff picture moving forward.

On the back of stellar play from superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the purple and gold have put teams to the sword at times and look to be the unstoppable pairing most NBA analysts believed they would be.

Their collective skill-sets have lent perfectly to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. LeBron being the elite play-maker and leader, and Anthony Davis being the elite defender and pick-and-roll monster.

While LeBron and Anthony Davis have rightfully garnered most of the plaudits, several significant role players have stood up and been counted. The likes of Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso, Danny Green, and to a lesser extent JaVale McGee, have all been important pieces to the Lakers’ early-season exploit.

However, one former superstar, who was thought to be on his way out of the league has been one of the key ingredients to the Lakers’ success. None other than the former “Dwightmare” himself, Dwight Howard. I think we as Lakers’ fans can now put to rest that difficult period in Lakers’ history and move on to the next chapter.

Howard has been providing valuable minutes for the purple and gold so far this season. His ability to set bone-crushing screens and slam down some perfectly timed lobs have been greatly appreciated by Lakers Nation and he seems to be doing everything he can as a teammate to get rid of the memory of the “Dwightmare”.

While Howard’s incredibly efficient offensive ability has been in full view and has been great, it is his work on the defensive end that has fans of the purple and gold raving.

Let’s start with his blocking exploits. To start the season, he was 5th in NBA in blocked shots, averaging 2.33. What made this statistic even more remarkable is that he was and still is doing this while coming off of the bench. Howard is currently splitting minutes with JaVale McGee, and with McGee as the starting center.

While Howard’s block numbers have gone down to 1.5, he is still providing a huge amount on the defensive end in turns of staying in-front of his man and his ability to stay in-front of guards to effect their shot. While the blocking stats are incredible, it is the overall contribution in help defense that has endeared him to Lakers Nation.

If he isn’t swatting shots at the rim, he is sliding over to help his teammates as a weakside defender. He has proven to be a nuisance to opposing players and long may it continue.

Alongside superstar Anthony Davis, Howard has formed one of the most formidable big men pairing in the league, which got me thinking about some of the best big men pairings in NBA history.

McHale and Parrish, Kareem and Worthy, Sampson and Olajuwon, some of the greatest frontcourt pairings in NBA history, but the first, and in my opinion best pairing, was David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

Robinson is one of the best and in my opinion the most underappreciated centers in NBA history. His name is often forgotten among the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon as one of the true great centers of the post-Kareem era.

While Dwight Howard was considered the best big man in the league during his prime, he is far from his prime now, but that’s ok.

Comparing his numbers at aged 34 to that of Robinson’s, and the admiral has him beat in pretty much every category, however a few things need to be taken into account.

Howard is playing 12 fewer minutes per game then Robinson was, and is not the first, second, third and sometimes not even the fourth option when it comes to scoring the ball.

To start the season Howard was averaging similar numbers when it came to blocks, averaging 2.3, this has since gone down to 1.5 and so far he has been an ultra-efficient scorer.

Pete Zayas of Laker Film Room masterfully outlines Howard’s contribution on the defensive end.

Again, he is not a better center than Robinson but at the same age, they have potentially similar stat lines. Granted Howard has been poor the last number of years, while Robinson was the height of consistency throughout his storied career.

With Howard as a defensive-minded veteran like Robinson, you need someone who has similarities to Tim Duncan. Look no further than Anthony Davis.

Duncan is understandably considered the gold standard when it comes to power forwards. To me, he unquestionably the greatest power forward in NBA history.

The greatest compliment that can be bestowed upon Anthony Davis is being compared to this Spurs legend. Davis in a rapid period has gotten into the conversation as one of the greats at the power forward position. Yes, Davis has a ways to go yet to catch the “Big Fundamental”, but he is on the right track and has the potential to reach the mountain top.

With Davis’ abilities on both ends of the floor, it is hard not to see similarities to Duncan and Davis’ game. Both beasts on the offensive end, Duncan would beat you with his razor-sharp fundamentals and IQ.

Davis while also a savant on the floor can beat you with his array of post moves and if that doesn’t work Davis is going to use his superior physical build to beat you up in the post.

On the defensive end, both Davis and Duncan were/are juggernauts. Each man among the league leaders in blocked and contested shots. It was truly a marvel to watch Duncan on the defensive end of the floor and I can easily say the same about Davis right now.

So Davis and Howard, are they the next Robinson and Duncan at the same stages of their career? I’m going to say this. The potential is there.

If Dwight Howard can get more minutes and continue to be ultra-effective on the offensive end whilst still wreaking havoc on the defensive end then yes, Howard and AD have the chance to be a special pairing.

It is extremely early days and it would be blasphemous to put them in the same league in terms of achievements throughout Duncan and Robinson’s career. But with Howard and Robinson at 33 and Davis and Duncan at 26 years of age, there is a chance that the Lakers duo could have a similar output to Duncan and Robinson, if even only on the defensive end.

If Davis and Howard can keep this level of play up, stay healthy and learn to play together even better then the rest of the NBA better be on notice. With their defensive abilities, they can be special.

With Davis and LeBron James the main focal point (rightfully so), Howard can continue to grind on defense and maybe just maybe the Lakers can bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Staples Center.

Los Angeles Lakers Roundtable – Part 2

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns
(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Welcome back for part 2 of the Lakers Fanclub UK roundtable. Many thanks again to Matt Evans, Kojo Larsen, Frank Gaulden, and Phil Sizemore for their answers in part 1.

In this part, we hear from Jonathan Kiernan (@JonathanKNBA), Srikar Devireddy (@srikardr999), and Jamie Cox (@_TheJMan81).

The Los Angeles Lakers have continued their hot start to the season with another statement win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, 142-125, with Anthony Davis going off for 50 points. 

If the Lakers can keep this level of play up they will be almost impossible to stop come playoff time.

Lets hear from Jonathan, Srikar and Jamie:

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers

Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

1. Other than Lebron James and Anthony Davis, who has been the Laker’s most impactful player to start the season? Explain their impact.

Jonathan Kiernan: There have been numerous performers who have given a solid account of themselves so far this season for the purple and gold. Kuzma, Bradley, Caruso, and KCP have been extremely solid and deserve praise for their efforts. However, I am going to go with Dwight Howard.

Howard has shown Lakersnation this year everything they wanted to see in his 1st stint with the purple and gold. He is showing heart, effort on both ends of the floor, blocking shots at an elite rate, setting bone-crushing screens and dunking the ball whenever he gets the chance. He is going about his business and is being a good teammate. While he is no longer the All-Star he once was, he is a valuable piece to the Lakers and will be big in a playoff run.

Srikar Devireddy: “Lebron James and Anthony Davis have been great for the Lakers, securing their place as some of the best players in the league right now. But another player that has been very productive to the Laker’s success has been Danny Green.

His ability to space the floor at all times and hit big-time shots gives him a special gravity on the floor. Green is also being more aggressive by driving to the paint and making effective passes. He is also an efficient defensive player, who is reliable to defend other elite three-point shooters.

Jamie Cox: Apart from the superstar duo, the most impactful player has been Dwight Howard.

I don’t think any Laker fans expected him to be so influential in the majority of games. The way he blocks shots and protects the rim has been on point and his general energy in games has lifted the crowd and his teammates to new levels.

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Lakers
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

2. While the Lakers are firing on all cylinders currently, what is a weakness the Lakers have shown so far this season? 

Jonathan: Inconsistency in terms of effort for 4 quarters has been very prevalent this season for the Lakers,.

While they have been able to put most teams away in the 4th quarter, it would be so more efficient for the Lakers to punish teams early on, build up a big lead and rest the likes of LeBron and Anthony Davis late in the 4th allowing them to save their legs instead of forcing them to make clutch plays late and play big minutes in order to get the win.

Coach Vogel and Co. have made adjustments to the squad when needed, hopefully putting lesser teams away early is made a point of emphasis and leads to blowout wins and in turn, allows the Lakers to rest key players in the second half of the season.

Srikar: In many games, the Lakers look nearly unstoppable, however, they are not perfect. A quarter through the season, one of the Lakers’ flaws seems to be their lack of playmaking.

Now, Lebron James is one of the most effective floor generals in the league and the return of Rondo certainly helps, but when the ball is not in one of these two players’ hands, the Lakers tend to turn to a more isolation dependant team on the offensive side.

Although there are many talented iso players on the roster, it is almost always better to move the ball and get more open shots.

Jamie: The biggest weakness so far this season has been the 3 point line – not only shooting from it but also protecting it.

The Lakers have had tough games against teams who shoot the 3 balls well and despite adding plenty of shooters in the summer, the outside shooting could still be a lot better.

While it has improved over the last number of weeks, consistency from the 3-point line will be key. Defending the 3-point line is of great importance, at times not defending the 3-point line can be put down to effort. Exerting more effort on that end of the floor could lead to a significant drop in other teams’ 3-point percentage against the Lakers.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

3. In a potential buyout market, who would be an ideal player to add to the Lakers? 

Jonathan: The Lakers could be one of the key destinations for players bought out in the buy-out market. With a team built to compete for a championship, it might only take 1 or 2 pieces to push the Lakers to the next level.

Realistically I could see the Lakers getting players like Jae Crowder, Trevor Ariza, Andre Iguodala and at a stretch Goran Dragic. Players of this ilk would give the Lakers real depth in positions of potential weakness. The Lakers must get depth behind LeBron James as to not run him into the ground in the latter parts of the season.

Srikar: There are a lot of potential players to add that could help the Lakers at the moment, two of which include Keneth Faried and Jamal Crawford.

Keneth Faried could serve as a great three and D player who would be able to further space the floor, as well as help, get more rebounds.

Jamal Crawford could also come in and be a similar player to come off the bench and add some playmaking, an area which the Lakers could have some improvement in. Crawford can provide bursts of scoring and control the pace of the game.

Jamie: The number 1 player that has been talked about for the Lakers to pursue in the buy-out market is André Iguodala and with good reason.

His abilities on defense alone would change the Laker’s ability to guard opposing wings. He would be the perfect fit on the perimeter for this Lakers team who sometimes struggles on defense outside of the paint. His basketball IQ is stellar and would be a valuable asset to this Lakers squad.

His Championship pedigree would also be extremely useful in a team full of experience, the “been there done that” factor will be extremely important in the playoffs.

Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Lakers
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

4. If you could bring back a former Laker role player and add him to this squad, who would it be and why?

Jonathan: Lamar Odom without a question. Odom was well ahead of his time, his skill set along with his length would be of premier value in 2019.

His ability to be a playmaker, to rebound to score inside and out and his toughness would lend extremely well to this year’s Lakers team.

Having a point forward like Odom would allow for LeBron to get rest throughout the season and with Odom coming off the bench the Lakers would have one of the strongest benches in the entire league.

Srikar: One former role player that would be great to add to the Lakers is none other than Lamar Odom.

He was a pivotable piece of the championship team in 2009 and 2010 and rightly so. Lamar Odom was an incredibly versatile player, excelling at nothing, but being able to do everything at a proficient level.

Odom could serve as a swiss army knife of the team, being able to somewhat play all five positions, providing solid defense and efficient scoring on a nightly basis. Odom could help the Lakers by being a well-rounded player and giving the Lakers constant production.

Jamie: Lou Williams would be the ideal choice of any former Laker player to add to the current squad.

Anthony Davis and Lebron James contribute around 50% of the Laker’s total points so when they are off the floor, a 3rd man must step up to fill that void. Williams is definitely that guy, averaging a little over 21 points this season so far. He would push a talented Lakers bench to the next level.

Whether part of the starting line-up or coming off the bench, Williams would make a huge impact on a team that heavily relies on LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the vast majority of its scoring load.

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs
Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

5. Predicting the Lakers record for the rest of the season and why? 

Jonathan: The Laker’s record will be heavily reliant on their ability to stay healthy throughout the season. While there have been minor injuries to the likes of Anthony Davis and Avery Bradley, there have been no season de-railing injuries which have put the season in jeopardy.

If the purple and gold can remain healthy, then it is quite likely they will be the 1st or 2nd seed in the West. The Lakers have the depth to allow the likes of Anthony Davis and LeBron James to take a back seat in the second part of the season, they will still play a key role in games, however, resting them during back to back games could prove very helpful come playoff time. I predict the Lakers finish 60-22 this season.

Srikar: The Lakers are on a roll right now, however, I find it hard to believe that they can retain this level of production for the rest of the season. I believe that once the Lakers reach 40 or so wins, they will begin to load manage LeBron and Anthony Davis more often, playing them fewer minutes throughout the game.

Because of this, I think they will start to win fewer games, ending the season with around 55-60 total wins.

Considering their schedule and projected season-script, I have them ending the regular season with a record of 58-24.

Jamie: The Lakers will face a much tougher schedule from here on in but there is no reason why they cannot have a 60 win season.

Thus far, they are not slipping up against some of the weaker teams like they have done in the past, but it is so tough to keep the high energy up for an 82 game season.

Taking this into account and some load management for the big 2, not to mention injuries, a realistic target should be 55-60 wins before the real tough games start in the postseason playoffs.


Many thanks to Jonathan Kiernan @JonathanKNBA, Srikar Devireddy @srikardr999, and Jamie Cox @_TheJMan81 . Give them a follow on Twitter. Once again thank you to Matt Evans @Mattyyyevans, Phil Sizemore @phsizemore, Kwadwo ‘Kojo’ Larsen @kwadwo_l and, Frank Gaulden @FrankGaulden

Here at Lakers Fanclub UK, we are proud of the hardworking contributors who lend their talents to the website. Their dedication and love of the Los Angeles Lakers is felt in each and every article and we thank them for their stellar work.


Lakers Fanclub UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

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Los Angeles Lakers Roundtable: Part 1

Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a red hot start to begin the year. Even the most hardened non-Laker fans must admit that this Lakers team has the chance to be something special.

With LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the charge, the purple and gold look like a powerhouse capable of making a deep playoff run.

Here at Lakers Fanclub UK, we are proud to have a group of dedicated, talented and hard-working contributors who love everything Los Angeles Lakers.

We have all gotten together to give our opinions on some pressing Lakers questions that could be important this season.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

dwight howard 2019
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

1. Other than Lebron James and Anthony Davis, who has been the Laker’s most impactful player to start the season?

Matt Evans: “Alex Caruso. He’s the perfect role player for any roster, the Lakers are truly blessed to have him. For a player of his talents and impact to have been picked up undrafted, through the G-League, is a steal.

He does the dirty work, drawing charges, earning the Lakers extra possessions. He is solid on defense too, always locked into his duties, being a nuisance, causing opponent errors. He’s currently 4th on the Lakers in steals per game, with 1.1. And 5th in plus/minus out of the entire roster, which shows his consistency night-in-night-out. Plus, those dunks from time-to-time are fun!

Phil Sizemore: “Dwight Howard. This team has a lot of guys showing their best game right now, but none of them have the game-wide impact Dwight can have. His ability to switch and stay in front of guards – he’s had great stretches this season against fast guards like Devin Booker and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – as well as protect the rim and rebound is huge for the defensive game the Lakers want to play.

If he and Davis stay able to keep guards in check 1v1 when called upon, then the Lakers have found a way to avoid the dreaded size/quickness trade-off with their two best bigs. It’s a recipe for a historically good defense. He’s also been active and unselfish on offense, which is the cherry on top.

Kwadwo ‘Kojo’ Larson: For me the most impactful player on this roster so far this season has been Dwight Howard. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with his ability to stay locked in defensively and his energy to always be a team player. His contributions off the bench have been monumental for this team and are a reason why the team has had this level of success so early on this season.

Frank Gaulden: Aside from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the most impactful player for the Lakers to start the season has surprisingly been Dwight Howard. With Anthony Davis insisting on playing the bulk of his minutes at power forward, the Lakers needed a center who could capably play alongside Davis.

Howard has done this by making an already improved defense even better. The combination of he and Davis has led to stifling defense. According to Basketball-Reference, Howard’s offensive rating is 127, meaning that the Lakers score 127 points per 100 possessions with Howard on the floor. At the same time, his defensive rating per 100 possessions is 99. This is an impressive ratio and it is why Laker fans’ attitudes have done such an about-face since his signing late in the summer.

Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

2. While the Lakers are firing on all cylinders currently, what is a weakness the Lakers have shown so far this season? 

Matt: The Lakers haven’t shown too many weaknesses so far this season. Early on it was the ability to defend the 3-point line that looked to be an issue, but that hasn’t been too bad throughout the season so far, despite slips now and then.

A weakness though would be the ability to do work offensively from the 3-point line though. Statistics show that the Lakers don’t focus their game too much on shooting beyond the arc. But at times this season, the Lakers have converted poorly from 3-point land. If they could find some consistency in that category, maybe some of these wins could be more comfortable.

Phil: Ball handling at the guard position. We saw this coming before the season with the roster construction, and the injury to Avery Bradley, who is the only handling guard on the roster aside from Rajon Rondo, has made the problem worse. But being dependent on Rondo for play-making when LeBron James doesn’t have the ball isn’t great no matter how good a distributor Rondo is, because it makes the offense predictable.

Additionally, Rondo likes to command a set offense, which makes him a sub-optimal partner for high-level improvisers like Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso. The team could use one more ball-handling guard who can run the pick and roll and find guys like Kuzma on cuts to the basket, but without the ball-dominance that comes with using Rondo as much as they have.

Kojo: As of right now, there isn’t any clear weakness for the Lakers. If you would have asked me 3 weeks ago, I would have said the three-point shooting was a problem, however, as of late, the team is shooting just under 50% from the three-point range.

The Lakers are pretty much solid in all areas of the game and that is why I hold the belief that if this team can stay healthy we are certainly title contenders.”

Frank: The biggest weakness the Lakers face is their lack of credible wing defenders. Notwithstanding LeBron’s defensive resurgence, their lack of wing defense was seen in the games they’ve lost.

The few teams that have bested the Lakers thus far have all had one thing in common: dominant wing play for which the Lakers could not adequately matchup.

The Lakers have lost to the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors with Pascal Siakam, and Dallas with Luka Doncic. With the current crop of wings, aside from LeBron James, consisting of Kyle Kuzma or an out-of-position Danny Green or often mismatched Kyle Kuzma, it is clear the Lakers must tighten up this loose end for their stellar defense to hold
up against wing-heavy competition going forward and in the playoffs.

Adam Pantozzi-NBAE via Getty Images

3. In a potential buyout market, who would be an ideal player to add to the Lakers?

Matt: All eyes appear to be on Andre Iguodala, and that is realistic. He should get bought out from the Memphis Grizzlies eventually if they can’t find a trade suitor. The Lakers need a defensive-minded wing presence at the moment, and Iguodala would fit the bill. Even at 35-years-old, he could be an impact player in multiple facets of the game, defense (as previously mentioned), rebounding, distributing the ball, and shooting.

Another good option would be a wing, Jae Crowder, who is also currently with the Grizzlies.

Phil: Everyone says Andre Iguodala and his usefulness is obvious, but a ball-handling, distributing guard who can also get his own shot seems a more pressing need for this team than perimeter defense.

Reggie Jackson in Detroit is an intriguing prospect in that regard. He’s making a lot of money at the end of his prime and Detroit is an objectively bad basketball team. Detroit should be looking for younger talent to pair with Drummond. Jackson is a free agent after this year, so he doesn’t stand to lose much in a buyout if he wants to play on a contender.

Coming off the bench as a ball-handling scorer who is capable of both getting hot himself and making decent reads on the fly, he could help unlock the Lakers’ offensive tools when LeBron is off the floor or away from the ball.

Kojo: “The Lakers would be in prime position if the Memphis Grizzlies can buyout Andre Igouadala’s contract. Many fans of the purple and gold believe that the team could do with another wing player who’s aggressive on the defensive side of the game.

Numerous NBA experts and analysts believe at this rate the purple and gold are the favorites to make it to the conference finals alongside their cross-city rivals the L.A Clippers. To beat the Clippers, you will have to create defensive matchups to nullify the likes of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Adding Iggy to the mix would go a long way in doing this.

Frank: The obvious choice for the most ideal player the Lakers can add in the buyout market is forward Andre Igoudala.The major problem with this is that Memphis knows he’s an ideal fit for not only the Lakers but also several other NBA contenders such as the Clippers.

Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that Memphis does not plan to buy out Igoudala, but will only entertain a trade for him. With Igoudala’s current contract totaling a whopping $17 million in 2019, he is harder to move in a trade than one might think. So it may be that Memphis is merely posturing to see what they can get at this point. Memphis has nothing to lose by holding onto him until the last possible second to see if a team gets desperate.

A player that also plays in Memphis, Jae Crowder, who is also a wing player could fill a similar role to Igoudala, though it’s unknown if Memphis would buy him out either.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

4. If you could bring back a former Laker role player and add him to this squad, who would it be and why? 

Matt: “It’s a no-brainer, Lou Williams. He is the ultimate scorer off the bench. Kyle Kuzma has been relatively inconsistent in such a role so far this season, but he should find his groove eventually. But Williams would provide the scoring punch needed to pull away from teams in close games and carry the team when LeBron and AD go cold.

It’s just a shame he’s doing just that currently with the Clippers.

Phil: Hands-down, this is Michael Cooper. Cooper was such a hounding defensive presence that he won DPOY from the bench in 1987, which is the sort of need the Lakers are looking to fill eventually with Iguodala.

He had both the size and quickness to defend elite wings like Kawhi Leonard and James Harden and got a sort of manic glee from irritating great offensive players. His overall offensive game wasn’t elite, but it was unusually complete for a role player. He was a capable handler, slasher, and distributor as well as a league-leading outside shooter who also happened to possess the athleticism to play above the rim. Bringing Cooper back would eliminate essentially every weakness this Lakers team still has.

Frank: If the Lakers could go back in time and take a past Laker role player to fit on the current 2019 squad, the player they should obtain is Rick Fox. Since the Lakers need a wing defender, few former Laker role players could fill this void more capably, if any.

Fox played on a Laker team where everyone other than Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had to accept a secondary role. Fox did this capably by being the perfect, gritty, “3 and D” role player the Lakers needed. On the current team where the pecking order is equally as defined with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Rick Fox’s skill set would fit perfectly within the team concept and a position of need.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

5. Predicting the Lakers record for the rest of the season and why? 

Matt: The Lakers could win around 60 games, it could be more, however. When the team has lost this season, they have bounced back in a resilient fashion. But the time will most likely occur where a losing streak kicks in, and that’s where some games could be dropped from the win column.

1st place in the West is the goal, but it isn’t the end of the world if the Lakers slide to the 2nd or 3rd. As long as they maintain that home-court advantage going into the playoffs. All of this is, of course, depends on the health of the roster moving forward, however.

Phil: During the preseason, ESPN predicted the Lakers would win approximately 46.6 games. For perspective, the Lakers would have to end the season 38-32 after their 19-3 start to have as few as 47 wins. They will have a much trickier schedule from December through the yearly long road trip in January, but the end of their season projects to be nearly as soft as the early games were.

The eye-opening performances they turned out on back-to-back nights in Denver and Salt Lake City demonstrated that when this team is healthy and focused on getting a win, it doesn’t matter who they’re playing or where the game is. Barring a significant injury to a superstar, these Lakers are a 60-65 win team.

Kojo: “The Los Angeles Lakers will have a record of either 58-24 or 60 -22. I’m proclaiming this!!! If the teams stay healthy I have no reason not to believe that they will accumulate high amounts of wins in the regular season.

To go into more detail, a 1st or 2nd Seed is where I can see the Lakers finishing this season.

Frank: The Lakers’ current record puts them on pace for 70 wins. However, their most likely record by season’s end will be somewhere from 55-60 wins. As the season goes on, the Lakers are likely to find an increasing amount of games in which to load manage LeBron James and Anthony Davis who has missed very little game time in the first quarter of this season.

The Lakers’ December schedule has been and will continue to be extremely difficult which will likely add some more losses to the Lakers’ record. For instance, three games leading up to Christmas day include the Milwaukee Bucks, the Denver Nuggets, and Los Angeles Clippers.

An NBA team would be hard-pressed to play a more difficult three-game stretch in an NBA season. After the grind of the regular season, the Lakers would be smart to give Davis and LeBron rest leading into playoffs so they are as fresh as can be when they will be needed most.

Many thanks to Matt Evans @Mattyyyevans, Phil Sizemore @phsizemore, Kwadwo ‘Kojo’ Larsen @kwadwo_l and, Frank Gaulden @FrankGaulden for participating in the article.

Part Two is coming soon!.


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Dwight Howard’s Redemption Season Is Well Underway

(Image/Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

It is rare that anyone admits to being wrong about anything, especially in this social media dominant era. Well, all of this has gone out of the window after the first 4 games of the Los Angeles Lakers’ season due to the incredible play of none other than center, Dwight Howard.

I will admit that I was no President of the Dwight Howard fan-club after his less-than-memorable stay with the purple and gold in the 2012/13 season. In fact, I was downright upset the Lakers even signed Howard over available players like Joakim Noah. Yet, while Noah has not been heard of so far in this early season, Howard is making headlines, and for all the right reasons.

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(Image/Getty Images)

In my defense, there was absolutely no way I could have seen such a resurgence coming. Before being signed by the Lakers this past off-season, Howard had been on 6 teams in 3 years (Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and Memphis Grizzlies).

Howard had a reputation for being stuck in the past NBA, wishing to be fed in the post rather than reshaping his role to fit the modern game, by focusing on defense, rebounding, and rim-running. This fact seemed to show in that Howard didn’t appear to have been missed with any franchise he departed.

Last season in Washington consisted of him playing in just 9 games before missing the rest of the season following spinal surgery. After exercising his player option following the 2018 season, Howard was traded to the Grizzlies who promptly waived him. Just when it appeared Howard’s career may very well be over, the Lakers stepped in out of nowhere to sign him for the 2019/20 season, following the injury to DeMarcus Cousins.

Upon his return to Los Angeles, Howard uttered the same cliché phrases he had spoken previously when joining a new team. There are multiple video montages of him stating for his new team how much he was looking forward to having a “fresh start,” and accepting his role – whatever it may be.

Time after time, such rhetoric proved to be less than genuine. So forgive me for not quite buying into such professions of change and willingness to do whatever it took to win regardless of role from Howard.

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(Image/FanSided)

However, after the first 4 games of the season on his second go-around with the Lakers, it is undeniable that I will write the 5 words I never thought would come from myself: Dwight Howard has been incredible.

Not only has he truly bought into his role, he is excelling in it in ways heretofore unimagined. The eye test alone would be proof enough of Howard’s effectiveness. His body is in incredible shape, as it appears he has shed weight he has carried in years past. His energy on the court has been apparent. Howard’s defensive presence has propelled multiple second half runs leading to victories. He is blocking shots like he is still playing in Orlando.

Howard even switched onto, and stifled, rookie point guard Ja Morant in the Lakers’ recent win over the Memphis Grizzlies. On multiple occasions Howard’s play has spurred the Staples Center crowd to give him standing ovations. What’s next? A round of applause from cats to dogs?

What’s more is that the numbers resoundingly back up what the eye test is showing in regard to Howard’s play. Since he has been coming off the bench, his counting stats don’t exactly jump off of the page. In 20 minutes per game, he is averaging 5.8 points a game, 7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 1.5 assists, on 68.8% shooting. However, the more advanced numbers show the impact he has had so far on Laker success.

For instance, Howard has an unbelievable defensive rating of 68.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions). The Lakers are also outscoring teams by 27.9 points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor. Howard’s best performance was against the Charlotte Hornets where he scored 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks, a stat line I didn’t believe he was still capable of having in a meaningful NBA game.

Lakers Head Coach, Frank Vogel, recently praised Howard for being a “star in his role”. It’s very early in the season and a lot can happen from now until playoff time. 4 games is certainly no sample size to go on. But how many people thought Howard would give 4 games like these all year, much less in the first 4?

If Dwight Howard’s play continues on this current course, he won’t just be a star in his role, he’ll simply be a star. Oh yes, I’m certainly eating crow in a big way, but it has never tasted so good. Here’s hoping this continues.

By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)


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The Lakers’ Roster Going into Training Camp

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We’re deep into the NBA off-season now, the majority of free-agents have been snapped up, rosters have taken shape, and training camp is fast-approaching (September 28). LeBron James is due to host a mini camp in Las Vegas, in which it is expected that all players will attend, between September 22-26.

The Los Angeles Lakers start their pre-season schedule on October 5, against the Golden State Warriors, in San Francisco. Before, kick starting the regular season in a mouthwatering encounter against cross-city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, on October 22.

To date, the Lakers have filled 14 of their 15 confirmed roster spots for the upcoming campaign, and have invited a further 4 players to try out for the vacancy.

With the 2 two-way contracts being occupied, the purple and gold are just short of the full 20 limit for training camp players, with 19. It is no secret that the Lakers are holding out to see what will happen with Andre Iguodala in the buy-out market, but as it stands, training camp will be extremely competitive with a handful of hopefuls looking to catch the attention of the Lakers’ front office and coaching staff.

LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, and Alex Caruso will be returning to the Lakers for the 2019-20 NBA season. The summer additions of Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook, Troy Daniels, Jared Dudley, Talen Horton-Tucker, and the now-injured DeMarcus Cousins, will be on-board with fully guaranteed contracts too.

In addition, Zach Norvell Jr and Kostas Antetokounmpo sit in the two-way spots, as both are set to split their time between the NBA and the G-League.

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(Image/Sportskeeda)

This leaves 3 players who the Lakers have assigned to ‘Exhibit 10’ deals, in Devontae Cacok, Jordan Caroline, and Demetrius Jackson. Center Dwight Howard will also try out for the final roster spot on a non-guaranteed veteran minimum deal.

With an ‘Exhibit 10’ deal, it is essentially a one-year non-guaranteed deal worth the minimum NBA salary, which according to Basketball Insiders, is $582,180.

As Hoops Rumours have described, such deal can include an optional bonus ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. This bonus acts as an incentive for players to stay with their team’s G-League affiliate team, in this case, the South Bay Lakers. 60 days must have passed before the player receives their bonus.

So, the outcomes that could occur for Cacok, Caroline, and Jackson are: 1) They make the Lakers’ NBA roster ahead of Dwight Howard, pocketing the $582,180 minimum salary in the process, or.. 2) They fail to make the NBA roster but impress enough to earn a contract with the South Bay Lakers, of the G-League, thus making them eligible for their $5,000-$50,000 bonus. The latter seems the most likely scenario.

Exhibit 10 deals can be converted into two-way contracts also, in which the player is entitled to the bonus, even if the team waive the player at a later date. However, this scenario cannot unfold as the Lakers have already used their 2 two-way roster spots.

We know what to expect with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Kyle Kuzma. They certainly don’t need any introductions. With the other fully guaranteed players, we have already put together an article looking at each player. You can find this here.

With Cacok, Caroline, and Jackson, they come in as relatively unknown players to most. Therefore, we have provided some background on each of them, as they prepare to fight it out for a shot at the last roster spot, or for an opportunity in the G-League for the South Bay Lakers.

Devontae Cacok

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(Image/NBA.com)

Devontae Cacok is a 22-year-old power forward/center from Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in Riverdale, Georgia and represented Alpharetta during his high school years. As a senior he averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds, whilst leading the school to a regional title.

At the collegiate level, Cacok committed to UNC Wilmington, where he played between 2015-2019. After a quiet freshman campaign, he averaged 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore, on an incredible 80% shooting. He led the nation in field goal percentage, setting a record in the process, and built a solid reputation defensively.

Throughout his 4 years at UNC Wilmington, Cacok appeared in 129 games and averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds, on 64% shooting. This earned him 2 All-CAA First Team, and 3 CAA All-Defensive Team selections.

After going undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft, Cacok represented the Lakers at Summer League, where in Vegas (5 games, 23 mpg) he averaged 11.8 points, 9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 2 steals per game.

Primarily listed as a power forward, Cacok can be effective at the center position, despite standing at 6-foot-7. He does the majority of his work offensively in the paint, but is capable of knocking down the odd mid-range jumper. In terms of shooting, his game doesn’t move beyond the arc. In addition, he is a solid rebounder.

There are question marks against Cacok’s defensive consistency and there are doubts whether his size and game can translate in the professional ranks. But he undoubtedly plays hard and holds bags of energy.

Jordan Caroline

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(Image/Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Lakers have also invited 23-year-old Jordan Caroline to training camp on an Exhibit 10 deal. Caroline is a 6-foot-7 small forward from Champign, Illinois. He played high school basketball for Champaign Central High School before transferring to Montverde Academy, where he played alongside Ben Simmons and D’Angelo Russell. Montverde won national titles during his time there in 2013 and 2014.

From here, Caroline committed to Southern Illinois University, where he averaged 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. After the season, he transferred to the University of Nevada, where he flourished between 2016-19. Throughout his time in Nevada (105 games), Caroline averaged 16.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2 assists, with a 46% shooting rate from the field.

Strong performances earned him 2 All-Mountain West First Team and 1 2018-19 MWC All-Defensive Team selections. In addition, he left Nevada as their all-time leader in career rebounds. He also led the team to 2 appearances at the NCAA Tournament in 2018 (Sweet Sixteen) and 2019 (1st Round).

After going undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft, Caroline represented the purple and gold at Summer League. In 4 Vegas games (20 mpg), Caroline averaged 16 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists, on 50% shooting.

Caroline is a versatile scorer that can get to the rim, initiate contact, and shoot from range. He can convert both off the dribble and as well as being a spot-up shooter. On his day he can be lights out. Also, he is a well-rounded athlete who can rebound and dish out an assist.

He can be disengaged on the defensive end, and has a tendency to play wildly from time-to-time. As he matures the game will slow down for him which should alleviate his raw playing style.

Jordan Caroline was touted as being a potential 2nd round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft but fell undrafted. He possesses upside, which the Lakers are clearly aware of. He could fill the void of a wing presence that the team needs, that or he signs for the South Bay Lakers, where he should really tear the G-League up.

Demetrius Jackson

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(Image/AP Images)

The final Summer League player that the Lakers invited to training game on an Exhibit 10 deal is 24-year-old, Demetrius Jackson. Standing at 6-foot-1, Jackson plays predominantly at the point guard position. Born in South Bend, Indiana, Jackson attended Marian High School. As a senior he averaged 25.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.6 steals per game.

He finished his high-school career as the all-time leading scorer in St Joseph County, with 1,934 points. Jackson’s performances earned him selection to the 2013 McDonald’s All-American Boys Game.

Jackson then committed to the University of Notre Dame, where he played for 3 seasons. He was part of the teams that got the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight for 2 consecutive years in 2015 and 2016, losing to Kentucky and North Carolina, respectively.

As a junior at Notre Dame, Jackson averaged 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.2 steals, on 45% shooting, through 35 contests. This earned him a 2nd round selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, by the Boston Celtics.

In the 3 years since, he has bounced around the NBA with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers, but has spent the majority of his time in the G-League. In fact, he has only featured in 26 NBA games since joining the professional ranks, averaging 1.8 points in 5.2 minutes.

For the Delaware Blue Coats in the G-League last season, Jackson posted impressive averages of 19.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 1.1 steals, in 8 games.

Demetrius Jackson does lack height at the point guard position but does possess a 6-foot-5 wingspan and impressive athleticism. His quickness allows him to blow past defenders to the rim where he is more than capable of finishing with contact, alternatively he can feed an assist. From time-to-time, Jackson pulls off clutch, highlight reel plays.

However, he isn’t a consistent outside threat which puts a marker against his name, especially in the modern NBA. Defensively he tends to wonder at times too, and struggles to fight through screens. He does possess a strong frame, so the potential is there for him to become an average defender.

Jackson is an impressive well-rounded prospect on the offensive end though, which is probably the reasoning for the Lakers giving him a closer look.

By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)


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Who Should Be the Lakers’ Starting Center?

(Image/Chris Elise/NBAE)

The Los Angeles Lakers have two starting-caliber centers, in JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, on their roster. Which leaves the question, who is going to win the starting center spot?

In early July, the Lakers were sitting on cloud 9. They had signed numerous starting-caliber free agents, and had padded the roster with fantastic depth and experience.

One of those key free-agent signings was DeMarcus Cousins. Having spent the majority of his career with the Sacramento Kings, Cousins had proven to be one of the most dominant big men in the NBA. However, the Lakers were able to acquire Cousins at a reasonable price due to his recent injury history.

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(Image/NBA.com)

The Lakers received encouraging signs from Cousins during the off-season. He lost a considerable amount of weight and had ample time to rest and get healthy. Then tragedy struck. Cousins suffered a serious knee injury which effectively ended his season before it had even begun. But the purple and gold were still in a relatively strong position as they had already re-signed last years starting center JaVale McGee.

With McGee, the Lakers get a familiar face who showed growth last season and an ability to be an elite shot blocker. However, with Cousins out for potentially the entire season, Pelinka and Co. needed to add depth at the 5, fast.

In enters former 3-time defensive player of the year, Dwight Howard. While Howard is not the superstar center he once was during his time with the Orlando Magic (2004-12), he still can contribute to a contending team.

With both McGee and Howard on the books to cover the center position, many have been discussing who will start for the purple and gold this coming season.

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(Image/FanSided)

JaVale McGee

To most, JaVale McGee is the obvious choice. He held the position last season and did a good job for the majority, whilst starting. With McGee, you get one of the most athletic big men in the league. Standing at 7-feet tall, he is extremely agile, energetic and can impressively get up and down the court with ease.

While he may not be the most skillful, or have the highest basketball IQ, he is capable of slamming down every single lob that comes his way. He can block shots at a borderline All-Star level, and when locked in, he is going to give you non-stop effort.

McGee, when he was locked in last season, looked like a borderline Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Swatting shots left, right and center, he was certainly a big asset to the purple and gold.

Although, with McGee, the good can sometimes be outweighed by the bad.
While he is capable of doing all the above, it all depends on whether he is tuned in or not. An example of this can be seen last season. McGee seemed locked in early on in the season, but when LeBron James‘ injury occurred, McGee’s production went off a cliff.

In his defense, he did suffer pneumonia in December of last season, which is an extremely severe condition. But upon returning he just didn’t seem the same for the remainder of the campaign.

McGee is also likely to make several frustrating decisions each night, which leaves both fans and spectators alike shaking their heads. This can be legitimised by his numerous appearances on “Shaqtin’ a Fool”.

Is having McGee in the starting line-up worth the time and effort? Will we see the shot-blocking borderline Defensive Player of the Year candidate, or are we going to see the lackadaisical, comes in and out of games without making much of an impact, McGee?

If the Lakers get the latter JaVale McGee, then his time in the starting line up will be very short-lived. This is now championship basketball. Title or bust appears to be the expectation in Lakerland.

If he can maintain his focus and lasers in on being the best version of himself he can be, then McGee could be odds on favorite to win the starting job.

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(Image/ Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)

Dwight Howard

The former Laker, turned villain, is once again a member of the purple and gold to the disgust and anger of a faction of Lakers Nation. The hate is somewhat understandable. During a pivotal and franchise-altering period for the Lakers, Howard departed a mere season after his trade from the Orlando Magic.

Howard leaving left the Lakers high and dry as Kobe Bryant was recovering from a torn Achilles and Steve Nash was fighting an injury that would eventually end his illustrious career. It has taken the best part of a decade for the Lakers to get over his betrayal and now, the former 3-time Defensive Player of the Year has returned.

Why should Howard be considered for the Lakers’ starting spot? Well, while he is not the uber-athlete and dominant big man he used to be, he still has some mileage left in him. Let’s not forget, this is the same guy who was the best player in the Magic-Lakers NBA Finals series of 2009.

While Howard isn’t a 20-point a night guy anymore, he is still a walking double-double. He can still be categorised as an elite rebounder, and while he isn’t the premier shot-blocker of his past, he is still able to disrupt play around the rim forcing opposing players to alter their shot.

Let’s also not forget, Dwight Howard was one of the scariest pick-and-roll big men in the entire NBA once upon a time. Watching Howard set a bone-crunching screen and rolling to the basket was the stuff of nightmares for opposing players.

If Howard can get back to a fraction of that level, he could be very effective alongside one of the best pick-and-roll passers in the game, in LeBron James. Having reportedly losing a considerable amount of weight to be in peak physical shape for the coming season, we might just be getting motivated, in-shape and humbler Howard.

His championship and big moment experience could prove valuable in a playoff series, and could very well be the difference between winning and losing.

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(Image/Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

So, who should be the starting center for the Lakers?

Verdict: Dwight Howard

This could be an unpopular opinion, but Dwight Howard should be the starting center for the 2018/19 season. A few reasons justify this decision. Those being:

  • Dwight Howard with starters minutes on the Charlotte Hornets through the 2017/18 season averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds, per game. That season he only missed one game, featuring in 81. Even in his prime, JaVale McGee has never been able to average close to that in points or rebounds.
  • If Howard is in shape and has some bounce left in his legs, he is going to get a ridiculous amount of open looks with the level of attention that LeBron James and Anthony Davis are going to receive.
  • While Howard can’t shoot, LeBron and Davis can, so they are going to keep the opposing defense honest, allowing for him to destroy people in the paint.
  • Howard’s big-game experience will be extremely beneficial to the Lakers when it comes to closing out games both in the regular season and playoffs. I wouldn’t be confident that McGee would have that level to his game he can call upon night after night.
  • With Kyle Kuzma on the bench, having McGee join Kuzma makes the most sense from a chemistry point of view. With both, you have pre-existing chemistry that would be extremely beneficial in that 2nd unit. Add the likes of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso to that and you have a group of players who know how to play together and know each other’s tendencies. With that grouping of players, you could have one of the most potent 2nd units in the NBA.

The possibility of Dwight Howard getting back close to an All-Star level is too much to ignore. The odds are stacked against him being Orlando Howard, but you have to give him a chance to get back to that level because if he can get close, the Lakers would be getting a very valuable contributor to a team that already has championship aspirations.

I firmly believe it will be a battle in training camp between Howard and McGee. It could go either way and McGee has a real chance to stake his claim for the spot, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was given the nod, but the potential of Howard could be too much to ignore.

Keep it simple, Dwight; play a role, work hard, win a championship, and ride off into the sunset.

By Jonathan Kiernan (@KiernanJonathan)


Lakers Fanclub UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

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Dwight Howard Clears Waivers, Signs with the Lakers

(Image/9News)

On August 23, after a week or so of speculation, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Dwight Howard and the Memphis Grizzlies were finalising a buyout, with Howard planning a return to the Los Angeles Lakers.

On August 26, it was suggested that the 33-year-old center, who stands at 6-foot-11, had cleared waivers and would begin his second tenure with the purple and gold.

The first tenure being in the infamous 2012-13 campaign. Long story short, the Lakers traded for Howard, who was an All-Star at the time, the season went terribly, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant suffered serious injuries, and a first round blowout occurred in the playoffs at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.

Injuries weren’t all to blame during Dwight Howard’s unsuccessful first spell however, which is often referred to as the “Dwightmare” season. The team didn’t appear to mesh and Howard’s attitude lacked, severely. It was clear that he wanted to take lead of the team that was in Bryant’s hands at the time.

After getting ejecting in his final game, Howard snubbed the Lakers’ maximum contract offer and joined the Houston Rockets. This left a sour taste in the mouths of fans of the purple and gold, and rightly so.

Well, against the odds, the man once nicknamed “Superman” has returned to Los Angeles. In addition, it appears that Rob Pelinka and Co. have protected themselves in case this all goes south.

Howard’s contract will be a non-guaranteed deal. ESPN’s front office insider, Bobby Marks, has stated that the contract is often termed a “summer contract” due to its $0 salary protection. Marks goes onto reveal that Howard will earn $14,490 for every day that he is on the roster, starting from October 21.

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Image/@Stadium/Twitter)

If Howard’s attitude isn’t up to expectation, or if he suffers an injury, he will get cut from the roster, it’s as simple as that. This is a solid move by the Lakers’ front office, who are due some credit to the way they’ve conducted their off-season business so far.

On the attitude front, Howard has reportedly impressed the Lakers’ hierarchy and star players, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. By the sounds of it, he may have turned over a new leaf and will accept a lesser role to be part of a team that is expected to push for championship honours.

He wanted redemption in L.A., too, after how his lone season alongside Kobe Bryant went. He wanted to be part of a championship team, and he was willing to do whatever was asked of him, no matter the role, and be held accountable at all times, Howard told them.


The Lakers had gathered momentum in their own research into Howard over the past week, but needed the roster to be fully on board. Howard won over the players in the locker room, including James and Davis, for his approach and mindset in the visit, sources said.

Shams Charania, 23/08/19

Howard’s career at this point can go in one direction or another. He can redeem himself in Los Angeles and be part of a successful team, or his career could rapidly deteriorate where he would surely have to consider retirement.

Luckily for the Lakers, they have done their due diligence and signed him to a deal that protects the franchise for the upcoming campaign, if things go pear shaped.

But there is no doubt that Laker fans want this to work, the past is all water under the bridge, especially if a championship is at stake. Howard has reportedly lost 25 pounds and is ready to maintain his health to buy into what the Lakers are building.

Fingers crossed that all works out and Dwight Howard can be a success in his second tenure with the purple and gold. If so, it would make a brilliant documentary one day!

By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)

Cousins Injured, Lakers Look at Replacements

(Image/Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)

On August 15, newly acquired center DeMarcus Cousins was diagnosed with a torn ACL, just 40 days into his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Cousins picked up the injury in an off-season scrimmage, after clashing knees with an opposing player.

With the injury to Cousins forcing the Lakers into a scramble for a new big man, Rob Pelinka and Co. have scheduled workouts with three veteran centers. These being; Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, and Marreese Speights. All of whom have been highly regarding at some stage of their careers.

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(Image/AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Dwight Howard and the Lakers is a partnership that, on paper, should have been fruitful back in 2012-13. However, it was anything but, with the Lakers getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round of the playoffs that season. This was to be Howard’s solitary season in Los Angeles after turning down a 5-year, $118 million maximum contract extension, to sign with the Houston Rockets

Since then, Howard has gone on to play for 4 teams in last 5 years. With a reoccurring injury, he only suited up 9 times last season for the Washington Wizards, where he averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds, in 25 minutes. 

Say what you like about Howard’s off-the-court antics, which are usually cited as being the reason for his frequent movement around the league, but you’ll be stretched to find a player that, when fit, can happily average 12 and 12. 

With LeBron James heading up a roster packed with veteran leadership and a clear championship goal, Dwight Howard may well change his ways and buy into this project. All while providing valuable minutes alongside JaVale McGee at the center position. 

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(Image/FanSided)

Joakim Noah has played just 124 of a possible 328 games in his last 4 seasons. This included his final season with the Chicago Bulls, his poor tenure with the New York Knicks, and his, somewhat, mini resurgence last season with the Memphis Grizzlies

Averaging 7 points and 5.7 rebounds with the Grizzlies in just 16.5 minutes, we saw glimpses of the player that Chicago fans idolised for nearly a decade (2007-2016). However, the fiery, hard-nosed defensive presence that Noah brought to the league may be a thing of the past. Anything less would not be enough to combat the agile bigs that the NBA currently has to offer, including; Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Karl-Anthony Towns

The injuries that Noah sustained in his career will, unfortunately, mean that he will never be able to be that high-energy tenacious all-defensive team center from his prime. But, at 34-years-old, if fit, he could add valuable numbers to a Lakers outfit in desperate need of a productive center. 

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(Image/Washington Post)

NBA Champion Marreese Speights spent the 2018-19 season playing his trade in China with the Guangzhou Long-Lions, where he averaged 22.7 points, and 7.4 rebounds, in 31 minutes. Speights also shot 35.7% from beyond the arc, which matches his NBA career average of 35.6%.

Speights would be a very different option to that of Howard or Noah, as he provides a skill-set, at 6-foot-10, that would stretch the floor whilst maintaining size. Although, if the Lakers are looking to fill the 5 position with a traditional rebounder then Speights just isn’t going to be a viable option in that regard.

The Lakers have already held a workout in Las Vegas for Speights this summer, so this is the 2nd time that Pelinka and Frank Vogel will be casting an eye over the 32-year-old veteran. 

Whoever the Lakers choose to fill that center spot will likely be no comparison to the injured DeMarcus Cousins. But, given the cards that the have been dealt, and with Anthony Davis not looking like much of an option at the 5, going into the season with another tried and tested veteran could be a positive.

A positive that sees the Lakers possessing a player looking for a resurgence in form to save their career, whilst sharing the team’s title aspirations.

By Ashley Hooper (@Hoopdream_