Let me start this by saying I was COMPLETELY wrong on my Dwight Howard predictions when the trade was completed this summer. I thought they would find a way to make it work with two centers and it was mostly because of the presence of Steve Nash. However, when they made the switch to D'Antoni, I became very critical of the direction of the Lakers. How was a guy who prefers almost zero low post presence supposed to maximize the abilities of two of the best?!
Fast forward to the present and clearly this situation isn't working. If I'm the Lakers, I blow it up in a big way. The only way Kobe and Nash get a title together in LA is if the front office admits their mistakes and fixes them ASAP! So how do they do that? In my opinion, it can be done if these two moves are made now.
1. Trade Dwight Howard. To who? For who? Well take a look at the 4 team trade I have
put together. If you look at it from each team's perspective, I would say that
all 4 improve greatly.
a. BROOKLYN NETS receive Dwight Howard
b. LOS ANGELES LAKERS receive Josh Smith, Gerald Wallace, and Marshon Brooks
c. ATLANTA HAWKS receive Nicolas Batum
d. PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS receive Brook Lopez
If you're wondering about contracts, etc. I double checked it with ESPN's "trade machine" and according to it, the money would work.
Brooklyn Nets: Here's a team that has put itself on the map for the first time since the Jason Kidd lead Nets went to the Finals. However, despite all of their dealings, they are still in that "second tier" of teams behind the Heat and Thunder even at their best. From a basketball perspective you get the best big man in the game to play alongside a top 5 PG and a top 10 wing scorer. Howard's game meshes very well with Williams and Johnson. Both of those guys can stretch the floor for Howard which will give him more room to operate in the low post. One could argue that in terms of ranking the "big 3's" these 3 would complement each other much better than the Heat or Thunder. From a non-basketball perspective, it would give the Nets a superstar and face of the franchise they've been craving. Williams as the #2 and Johnson as the #3 fits their personalities perfectly and it gives Howard what he's been craving all along and that's the attention of an entire city and organization. Lastly, it would FINALLY make Howard happy which could translate into a much better performance than what we've seen from him the past 2 seasons when he's been seemingly unhappy. Yes he's a diva and a baby but he's also a
top 5 player in the league when he's on his game and the Nets will bet on that.
Los Angeles Lakers: As mentioned before the current situation isn't working and the problem they are running into is that they are trying to win now at the end of Kobe and Nash's careers while also keeping the future face of the franchise happy in the meantime. Well it's not going to happen and they need to make a decision: do whatever they can to win now or keep Howard happy until Kobe retires and then retool for a run then with Howard as the centerpiece. You obviously can't have both.
So the question becomes what/who can they get in return to help them win now? Well in this scenario they would obtain Josh Smith, a versatile, do-it-all 3/4 man that brings MUCH needed athleticism and scoring punch. His ability to play almost any position from 3-5 gives them an upgraded version of Lamar Odom from their championship runs. The other major piece of this for the Lakers is the acquisition of Gerald Wallace. Similar to Smith, Wallace brings versatility and athleticism to the wing which they desperately need. Wallace also gives them a lock down perimeter defender to take some of the defensive pressure off of Kobe. Smith and Wallace are also perfect fits with Nash because they can run the floor and play some of their best basketball in the open floor. Brooks is more than a throw in for the Lakers; he can provide some scoring pop off the bench which is something else that is much needed. He has seen his minutes diminished this year but on that Lakers bench he could be the scoring option that second unit desperately needs.
Put it all together for the Lakers and you're starting 5 and bench would consist of the following:
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: Josh Smith
C: Pau Gasol
6th Man: Metta World Peace
7th Man: MarShon Brooks
8th Man: Earl Clark
9th Man: Steve Blake/Chris Duhon
10th Man: Jordan Hill
Bench: Meeks, Morris, Jamison
All of a sudden your bench has some pop to it with World Peace, Brooks, and Clark. And it gives you the potential to put a defensive lineup on the floor that consists of Bryant, Wallace, Smith, World Peace, and one other player; that's an outstanding defensive unit.
That's a roster that can compete for a title right now. The pieces complement each other about as well as one could hope. Wallace and Smith don't need plays ran for them to be a major impact on the game offensively; the offense can rely on Nash/Gasol pick and rolls and Kobe Isolation plays with Smith and Wallace getting theirs off of that. It also gives the Lakers a second unit that can use Brooks perimeter scoring matched with World Peace's scoring versatility to provide a spark.
Atlanta Hawks: What would an NBA season be without a few Josh Smith trade rumors? Well Atlanta has a chance to finally pull the trigger on Smith and get comparable talent in return. Batum was a sought after restricted free agent this offseason and has been very good for the Blazers. He gives the Hawks a legit perimeter scorer to match with Horford in the low post. He's a better fit for Horford than Smith because of that ability to stretch the floor and knock down shots as opposed to Smith who relies more on slashing. Batum is also 24 years old and when you match him with 26 year old Horford (both of whom are under contract for 4 more years) along with 24 year old Jeff Teague you have a very solid young nucleus that could be a player away from seriously contending.
Portland Trailblazers: The last team in this 4 team blockbuster is the Blazers and some may be asking why get rid of Batum who they fought so hard to keep this offseason? The answer to that would be the emergence of Lillard. He gives them a tremendous scoring punch from the PG position and with Matthews already on the wing, it makes Batum expendable. And if they can get a legitimate center that can rebound and score the ball, they become even more dangerous. With Aldridge at the PF position and Lopez at Center, the Blazers become a matchup nightmare for most teams. Lillard, Matthews, Aldridge, and Lopez give the Blazers a real chance of competing in the West in the coming years. This would put them an athletic wing defender away from talking championship.
END RESULT: The Lakers and Nets become threats for an NBA title right now (which is what they both want) and the Blazers and Hawks set themselves up with a young nucleus that is one player away from becoming serious contenders in the near future (which is what they both want).
2. Fire Mike D'Antoni. Hire Jerry Sloan.
The first part of this equation has to happen. D'Antoni has officially crossed into the realm of old crazy,egotistical coach. Think about this: he has basically said my system with mediocre players is better than any other system with great players. Huh?! On what planet is that true in the game of basketball. Superstars and great players win in this league; plain and simple.
The second part of the equation is just something I'd love to see. Everything about the hire makes sense to me. First of all, him and Kobe are cut from the same cloth in terms of basketball mentality. They have an old-school toughness about each of them and I'd love to see that dynamic play out in the coach/player relationship that would develop. Second, here's a guy who spent 19 years coaching the greatest pick and roll duo of all-time. He made an art out of putting them in the best possible situation to be effective in the pick and roll and now you could give him arguably the best PG in the league at using the screen and the most skilled big in the
league. Oh and by the way that's Kobe Bryant standing over there not Byron Russell. Lastly, he would demand the most immediate results from the supporting cast which is exactly what Kobe and Nash need. However, the only way this works in time this year is if they do it now.
Now if I could just get the Buss family to read this blog...