All is Not Done If Dwight Leaves

Andre Khatchaturian —  July 4, 2013

With all the courtship that has been going on for Dwight Howard’s services over the last week, one may be inclined to think that if he leaves Los Angeles, the Lakers will enter a downward spiral and burn into flames. However, this is definitely not the case.

Sure, the Lakers will be better off with Howard on their roster. He is and should be the biggest priority for the Lakers this offseason. He’s a dominant force on both ends of the court and if his shoulder shows signs of improvement, he could put up MVP type numbers like he did in Orlando in 2013-14. There is no doubt that the team has a better chance to win a title with him in the lineup.

With that said, having Howard in purple and gold is not a necessity for the team to be successful this year and beyond. This isn’t the same situation the Cleveland Cavaliers faced when LeBron James bolted to Miami, leaving Cleveland with limited and marginal players.

If Howard leaves, the Lakers will have seven players on the roster for 2013-14 in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Jodie Meeks. The team has also given center Robert Sacre a qualifying offer to bring him back. Finally, assuming they sign second round pick Ryan Kelly, the Lakers will have nine men on the team.

No matter what happens with Howard, the Lakers must bring in a few bench players this summer who can shoot, defend, and show signs of athleticism that will fit in Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced system. Even if Howard stays, the Lakers aren’t winning anything without some much needed depth.

But, if Howard leaves, even more importance will be placed on the quality of the players they decide to bring this summer.  There are plenty of shooting options available for the Lakers in free agency and they can definitely improve their depth if they make the right moves. They’ll need to rely on their mini mid-level exception plus a few good pickups with their veteran’s minimum, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that they succeed using their exceptions.

Once Kobe returns from his injury, the Lakers could have a potent starting lineup featuring Gasol, Hill, World Peace, Bryant, and Nash. Additionally, D’Antoni can have the flexibility to fully run his system without having to try to appease Howard. The Lakers can become the run and gun team D’Antoni has wanted to see.

There was also precedence of the Lakers doing well without Dwight in the lineup. The Lakers were 3-3 last season when Superman was injured. However the three losses came with Gasol out of the lineup as well. With Kobe, Gasol, and Nash healthy, the Lakers were 3-0 with a +7 differential per game. In fact, having every member of the “Big Four” in the lineup got a bit crowded at times. The Lakers were clearly better with just three of the four stars on the court at once.

Losing Howard will also mean that Jordan Hill will have a chance to step up and finally get a long awaited opportunity to be a full time starter in a contract year situation. Hill has never averaged over 20 minutes per game in a season throughout his career, but he has put up solid Per 36 numbers (15.2 points, 13.0 rebounds per game) along with a 18.5 PER last season.  He’s definitely earned a chance to start and if Howard leaves, there’s a good chance he will earn that spot.

What about the time without Kobe in the lineup as he nurses his injury?

Luckily for the Lakers, the first two months of their schedule are generally filled with tons of home games. The schedule hasn’t been released yet, but November and December are generally packed with dates at Staples due to the Grammy Road trip in early February. The Lakers could manage to float above .500 with Gasol and Nash if they have a plethora of home games. When Kobe returns in 2014, they will then maximize their potential for the playoff run.

Best of all, if it doesn’t work this year with this bunch, the Lakers literally start from scratch in the 2014 offseason when all but one of their contracts come off the books.

Once again, signing Howard should be the priority. However, let’s not act like the Lakers are toast if he doesn’t return.

The Lakers biggest problems last year were health and cohesion because of the installment of a new head coach with a unique system in the first month of the season. When chemistry started growing in the second half of 2012-13, the Lakers started winning more games until injuries derailed them in the playoffs.

The bottom line is that the Lakers can still be a contender without Howard. They just need to get lucky in terms of the injury bug.

Not firing your head coach in the first two weeks of the season could help, too.

Andre Khatchaturian

Posts

42 responses to All is Not Done If Dwight Leaves

  1. If the Lakers are healthy (without Dwight) next season, they will be better than Houston.

  2. I’d rather they just tank the year for a superior draft pick. Nash/Kobe/Gasol is a very very old core and can’t compete for a title without extremely good role players. The Lakers will only sign 1 year role players and that’s not going to attract anyone very good. I just don’t see the point to driving for a good record this year when you restart next year anyways. Furthermore, we all know that it’s highly unlikely Gasol comes back next year. Why not try to move him for at least something.

  3. Earl signed with the Cavs. Who will be our bench next season?! damn…

  4. Who are we kidding? long time Laker fan since 1959, this team is headed for a tailspin with or without D12, nobody is talking about the real problem (ownership – lack of leadership) give control to Jeanie Buss and then just maybe things will get better – Jim Buss? really slow downfall ever since Jerry West left – come on Jim put the play toy down and give the team something to look forward to, no disrespect but you are taking the team down, do the right thing, be a man!

  5. Yeah there are almost no quality surprise guys that we could find in FA in our price range.

    Even guys that would play for the min will have the option in san antonio,okc, miami, NY, clippers and even indiana who because of the cap are all trying to add guys on the cheap

    I find it weird that you havent seen more moves by lower level teams to try and get better …why… because they all want to tank which is a bigger reason why the new cap was much more about the owners squeezing players for more cash than them trying for parity – parity will neber happen in the NBA

  6. I think we should find guys who can be mentored by our veterans: Kobe, Nash, Pau and even Metta.
    We do have Blake, who surprised us all after Kobe’s injury. I think the years with Kobe and, especially, a year with Nash did him good.
    We do have Meeks, and Nash-Blake-Meeks backcourt can be quite solid, I think.
    Clark’s departure doesn’t help, obviously, so we should find a serviceable SF or two.
    Call me crazy, but I do think that newcomer Kelly, being from Duke, can learn a thing or two from Gasol and our other veterans, he should have good BB IQ.
    We do have Hill, who has shown progress in his game and willingness to expand it.
    Without Howard, Gasol-Hill-Kelly frontcourt is quite thin, but Metta can also slide there to be a PF.

    So, as it appears, even without Howard, our main task is to get a couple of SG-SF shooters. Knowing that under D’Antoni nearly everyone suddenly started to shoot better, this shouldn’t be a problem, I think. And, also, I have faith in the FO in finding one or two under-used guys like Hill or Clark.

    As for Metta, people here are acting as if he is not a player anymore, but he was one of the best Lakers the first part of the season, dribbling, spinning and dunking on people. He still knows how to get the job done.

  7. “nobody is talking about the real problem (ownership – lack of leadership)”

    You must be new ’round these parts.

  8. Problem with Dwight leaving isn’t this season, it’s the seasons that follow. The whole 2014 plan is a joke. The only free agent that would actually help the Lakers become the best team in L.A. is LeBron. Danny Granger, Luol Deng and Carmelo Anthony aren’t going to put the Lakers back in contention. If the Lakers miss out on Howard and refuse to accept the necessity of tanking this upcoming season, then they’ll need to hit on some seriously unknown draft picks considering we don’t have many first rounders the next few seasons.

    2013-2014 isn’t the concern, it’s that the Lakers will have basically no options for the foreseeable future (and I highly doubt James comes to L.A., if anything he’ll go to Cleveland).

  9. Since people are bagging on Kobe for his tough love to Dwight, I’d also like to relay this message he sent Dwight, which I think is extremely wise:

    –“Bryant told Howard he needed to “plant his roots in one place and grow.” He said there always would be issues to deal with in whatever city he plays but that he would be better able to deal with them once he commits to one team and one city, sources described.”–

  10. Going online now co-scribed w/ @WindhorstESPN: Warriors have begun aggressively shopping three expiring contracts to boost Dwight chances

    –Marc Stein

  11. Jeff: “nobody is talking about the real problem (ownership – lack of leadership) ”
    MannyP: I clearly have not been posting as often as you said – I think an apology is in order : )
    Snoopy: LOL

  12. The focus needs to be on quality role players with or without Howard. We are way too top heavy and have no serviceable players on the perimeter outside of Kobe. We have a PG driven league and we are starting a 39 year old PG. People have to accept that Nash’s best years are behind him and we need an athletic up temp PG to back him up and limit his minutes. No contending team has had more dead weight over the last couple years than the Lakers. We need to stop trading draft picks and try to get some quality players to surround our top end talent. We CANNOT rely on our aging starters the whole season again. And is anyone else highly disappointed with the Lakers’ poor scouting? There are plenty of players out there that could help if given the opportunity, not ‘sexy’ names, but solid basketball players.

  13. Earl Clark for that amount is a come up for him. His agent didn’t even need to bother Mitch with questions of matching. And reports are Cleveland is going to play him at the 3. I’m predicting an Ariza-ish future. He’s not going to get significant minutes at the four and he’s too slow at the three. Good luck, Easy. Prove me wrong.

    Tyrus Thomas is getting amnestied because of Al Jefferson taking his locker. He might not make it past the 13th and he doesn’t fit an immediate need aside from athleticism but last I saw him (years back) he could launch into space. Worth a look if possible.

  14. Man, hope Dwight stays and we could sign Calderon and Copeland…

    Cross fingers…

  15. Back from a bbq/early fireworks show.

    There will be, I expect, starting tomorrow, plenty of time for Life After D12 Conversations. My .02 at the moment:

    1. The Lakers almost certainly, as in 99%, cannot contend if Howard leaves.
    2. I am not 100% opposed to tanking, but for a variety of interconnected reasons, I am not sure that it is a great idea and I do not think that the FO will actually do it in any case.

  16. rr: you talk about the ultimate goal is to remain a contender, and signing Dwight would do that. In the same breathe Kobe is who he is. Like going in a meeting basically giving ultimatums to a free agent is smart. But it’s okay because Kobe is who he is. How do you plan on the Lakers winning if Kobe won’t let go off the reins?

  17. The thing is, a petulant Howard won’t cut it. So if Howard is to sign, he needs to go along with what we have(Kobe), and there’s no need to sugarcoat that.

    We’ll see how things turn out, but I have a feeling that the TV deal may actually be the tipper despite what Howard says about championships.

  18. What KObe said to Howard is very clear, you come to Lakers to learn to win championship, you can’t be number one option, if Howard doesn’t like that ,it’s normal , if Howard is 20 years old, he may like what Kobe said to him. Looking back, the problem is lacking communication between Howard and Lakers FO, Howard should say that he wants to play low-post before he got trade to Lakers, Howard knew that Lakers is Kobe’s team and it will not change, also Lakers FO should ask Howard ‘s opinion playing in P@R offense before hiring MDA. Some Lakers fan blaming MDA on Kobe’s injury, but they forgot the Lakers just signed billion dollars contract with Timer Warner, you can’t get billion dollars and miss the playoffs, that’s why Mike Brown got fired.

  19. Does anyone here actually believe Howard is ready to take the reins? I mean, as far as truly doing everything necessary to lead his team to a championship (post up game, free throws, balancing focus vs enjoyment, etc.), I don’t see it just yet. He just isn’t adding dimensions to his game from year to year, and I’m worried that he’s cool w/ being as good as he is now and letting it ride. At least Kobe was keeping it real and letting him now that he’s still got quite a bit to learn (although likely to be taken the wrong way given the public’s understanding of D12’s personality).

    Maybe I’m just giving my Lakers an out, but if D12 gets freaked out by Kobe’s challenge to step up and take his game to another level, maybe he isn’t the next cornerstone we’re looking for (although, as he is, he makes a killer #2).

  20. Kevin,

    Never said what Kobe did was smart; l just said that I wouldn’t call it stupid per se. But as Robert pointed out, Kobe isn’t going to change. Plus, like I said in the other post, you are one who has been going on and on about how Howard isn’t a Top 5 guy, isn’t a guy to build around, doesn’t have the killer instinct, doesn’t want to be a leader, etc. Seems to me that you of all people should be OK with Kobe’s challenging Howard in the meeting. If you’re not, and therefore you are seeing Howard’s potential value to the team more clearly, then that is a good thing.

    So, if you want to get mad at somebody for the Howard/Kobe stuff, and you think it is a real issue, my unsolicited advice is to get mad at the FO/coaching staff for not dealing with it in a more proactive manner earlier in the game because Kobe is, in fact, who he is, and as Lakers fans, we take the good with the bad.

    And,of course, who knows–maybe Howard will stay.

  21. The teams in the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes spent Independence Day in fairly agonizing fashion, left with no alternative but to wait and hope that a decision from the NBA’s most coveted free agent indeed comes Friday.

    It was a particularly uncomfortable holiday for the Los Angeles Lakers, sources told ESPN.com, as fears mount within the organization that Howard’s current employers could have fallen to as low as fourth in his pecking order.

    After team sources initially indicated the Lakers were feeling better about their chances after their face-to-face meeting with [Dwight] Howard on Tuesday than they did coming into it, pessimism began to creep back in Thursday, stemming mostly from ongoing questions outside and inside team headquarters about Howard’s ability and willingness to co-exist alongside Kobe Bryant and play for coach Mike D’Antoni.
    Sources close to the situation stressed that the famously fickle Howard — deliberating at a hideaway in Aspen, Colo. — still was undecided about choosing between the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and incumbent Lakers. Yet, there were indications late Thursday that Lakers officials, already bracing for the worst, had begun to rethink their long-held position of ruling out sign-and-trade options in the event Howard decides to bolt to one of L.A.’s rivals.

    ____

    http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/9451262/los-angeles-lakers-bracing-worst-dwight-howard-sources-say

  22. Might this team be more fun if a trade for Thompson and Jack or others occurred? Has to be better then Dwight TO’s and bricked FTs. Not going to be in finals either way so how about a little fun next year?

  23. Obviously Howard will help us if he stays, but he is seriously overrated. I don’t care about his jovial attitude, his play on the court just isn’t that great. If he understood his limitations, he would be great, but how do you want to be a post up player and not have one go to post move? How do you have Kobe and Gasol on your team, to of the bet post players this game has seen, and not ask for assistance. Howard showed me who he was in the playoffs this year, and I’m not talking about him getting ejected. I just wanted to see one game where he dominated, no matter the outcome, and he couldn’t put the team on his back for one game. No wonder why Shaq hates when people compare them, he’s not being a hater, its just that Dwight is not even close to Shaq’s caliber of a player. So if Howard stays, great, i’m sure he’ll play better when he’s healthy, but if he leaves, it is not that big of a deal. He is not the guy you want to build around unless he changes his mentality.

  24. “Does anyone here actually believe Howard is ready to take the reins?”
    —–

    The same questions/doubts were aimed at Kobe when Shaq was traded. At the time he was the most disliked player in the league. The media and many Laker fans said he was too selfish. They said he lacked West’s integrity, Kareem’s dignity, and Magic and Shaq’s charisma. They said no other All Star players would ever come to L.A. to play with him. And we see how that situation played out.

    This is not to say Howard will evovled the way Kobe did. But the man still has room to grow. Kobe, LeBron, and Dirk all found their way even after many said they never would. Who is to say Howard won’t as well.

  25. As I said, I think the stuff about make-up is mostly narrative. Basketball is a team game; stars win when they get the right team, in terms of talent, fit, and coaching, around them. And it takes a little luck as well.

    I hope this ends tomorrow, but I expect that it will drag into the weekend now. Howard could commit to signing with Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, or the Lakers any time he wants–but Golden State getting involved drags it out.

  26. If the Laker organization is really freaking out that Dwight may “bolt” then I really fear for the future of this franchise. Let him walk without a sign-and-trade! We need the cap space to be great in the future, not mediocre in the present.

  27. As Darius has pointed out on Twitter, the issue with the S/T with GS isn’t summer 2014 cap space, it’s that taking on Bogut’s deal would leave the Lakers with a massive tax payment on it, since Bogut pulls in 14M.

  28. D12 cannot lead any team to a championship trophy by himself period.He cannot dribble,shoot etc.Godspeed.

  29. Warren Wee Lim July 5, 2013 at 3:14 am

    I have resigned to the idea that Dwight is no longer here next season. I am not saying we are better off without him, all I’m saying is thats what my crystal ball reads. Rumors early morning about GSW’s involvement, that includes prominent names of media that cover the Lakers suggest that there’s apparent hope of Dwight leaving but not leaving us dry. If anything, a “golden” choice would be preferable.

    (edited for trade speculation)

  30. I really can’t believe people are saying what Kobe said was wrong. Kobe’s approach waa 100% smart. Howard has to want to be here. He needed the truth. Go lool at what happened to Orlando after they begged him to opt in: 2 weeks later Howard was saying he was pressured by management to opt in. Howard is a child that needs to grow up. In my opinion, he won’t win a championship if he doesn’t realize he is his own biggest problem. The man has a serious character flaw and his 6 baby mamas is more proof. AAU basketball is to blame ultimately.

  31. Renato Afonso July 5, 2013 at 4:10 am

    We’re about to see what the plans are. If Howard stays, I guess the FO will be trying to move Pau and upset Kobe and Nash at the same time.

    If Howard leaves, then tanking is not an option. Pau is still one of the best low post players out there. Nash and Blake can provide some offense (not much on defense though). Kobe hopefully recovers to 80% of his former self which is still quite good. Hill can get some minutes at 4 alongside Gasol. The 3 spot would be the question mark, but nevertheless this is a playoff team once you get some guys to fill out the roster. Is it championship caliber talent? No, it is not but it will still be fun to watch. And about tanking, remember that we don’t have first rounders so there’s really no point in doing it.

    Now, if the FO is smart enough it will acknowledge that we’re not getting Lebron in 2014 and the best we can hope is for Granger. (edited for trade speculation)

  32. Pau Gasol: “D’Antoni is a coach for small players: running, shooting threes… And that style doesn’t fit with the current roster.”
    Read more at http://hoopshype.com/rumors.htm#8vH3LXaIdxThU8XB.99

    If we lose Dwight – it will be because of a single decision made out of pride by Jim – not hiring Phil Jackson.

    This is now the 3rd or 4th player to publicly state that Dantoni is not right for the team with antwaan making comments after the season that in the playoffs dantoni never made a single adjustment at halftime or made coaching defense a priority.

    The meeting we had with them even showed that as well – no laker legends (Magic,Kareem,Shaq, worthy), no phil, no gasol – just MDA, Nash, Jim, TW Rep, AEG Rep, Mitch … and Kobe – Kobe and Mitch were the only ones with ties to our past everyone else where Jim’s guys, I would even say Mitch is a Jims guy now – believing that all of our history and the other elements of being a Laker did not come into play and that the things that Jim built would be enough to get Dwight to sign on.

    If Dwight does not sign – Jim is going to get a ton of shit in LA – and yes with dwight gone we will have a hard time competing – we have no room to sign anyone of quality at all and guys that will want to chase a ring for the minimum will not be coming here – we will get 3rd 4th tier min guys that leave us in a similar position as last year except with no surprise earl clark type player coming out of the woodwork to help us.

    All of these reports are getting me so nervous – cant wait for a decision to actually be made.

  33. VHanz – do you think Calderon wants to come here – he has Pau in his ear who has openly been disrespected by the team and if Dwight signed he might get amnestied – wouldnt calderon want to play here with his national team buddy not without him?

    Its amazing that Pau is making all of these public remarks about being disrespected and we dont hear anything from the lakers along the lines of we love pau instead we here this is a business which is what they are telling pau —- in no way is this motivating to him and my perspective is that he bolts as well next year if we dont amnesty him because we are going to try and lowball him and he can just get a lowball offer from someone else who hasnt disrespected him.

    then where will we be in 2015 – no dwight, no gasol , really old kobe, ancient nash – 1 draft pick and Cap Room that would not allow us to really field an entire team if we go out and sign max guys – who will most likely get resigned by their own team – we wont have the $ to sign role players.

    I dont think this has ever happened at this level to a team ever if this is the route that happens.

  34. The decision is not going to change the performance of the FO. If DH stays it does not make them genius and if he goes it does not make them idiots. They are what they are – either way. Further, being forced into a S+T also will not make them genius. I know the spin machines are already churning about how we would rather have xxx, then DH anyway. Bottom line is the FO should be evaluated as to how they handled this and I think these quotes from rr’s link sums that up:
    “the extra fifth year and nearly $30 million they can offer Howard isn’t enough to hold off the competition” “ongoing questions outside and inside team headquarters about Howard’s ability and willingness to co-exist alongside Kobe Bryant and play for coach Mike D’Antoni.”
    There it is, as we have been discussing all along (some of us quite redundantly). The Lakers can offer the most money and our history and we did nothing else. We did nothing to help the KB relationship, and we did nothing to change/help the MD situation. We then added a bunch of family infighting, and an on again – off again relationship with Phil (evidently off again), just to make sure that the DH camp saw us as desperate amateurs. He may still take the money, and stay with us, but anyone of us could have delivered that message, and we could have done so without the excess baggage. Our FO is supposed to provide some value add – beyond a few billboards.

  35. If Dwight leaves, the best move for the Lakers is to amnesty or trade Gasol. Roll out a lineup that looks like:

    PG: Steve Nash (Blake once he’s hurt)
    SG: Jodie Meeks
    SF: MWP
    PF: Ryan Kelly
    C: Jordan HIll

    That lineup can compete with the Suns, Bobcats (now with Al Jefferson), Sixers, Celtics etc for the worst record.

  36. Wonder if pj not being in the room had any effect on dh…hard to see what was actually said since someone leaking part of a convo usually o it for their own interests.

    I wonder if anyone asked Dwight what he is gonna do to get better?

  37. If Dwight decides to leave the Lakers absolutely must tank – this is the absolute end of the line. Personally, I thought after last season it was the end of the line but then Mitch was able to come up with Dwight + Nash.

    Next season is one of the very few times in which the Lakers still own their own first round pick. In addition, it has become clear that Lakers are not willing to pay the repeater tax so they may as well get under the tax this year to tank. Finally, Kobe needs to take a Derrick Rose type season and get 100% healthy so he can have enough left in the tank for a possible run with a core of Lottery Pick (Wiggins?!) + 1-2 max free agents

  38. A few thoughts:

    -So if the Lakers TRULY would prefer to let Dwight walk instead of take back a player(s) in a sign & trade because they are looking for cap space….

    -& knowing there’s no way they’ll be a better team w/o Dwight & no Kobe for 1/2 a season & what, 75% Kobe for the 2nd half…

    -and they are keeping D’Antonio as coach this year…

    -and if they really want the following in 2014:

    1) a high draft pick in 2014
    2) a major free agent
    3) a healthy Kobe

    Why not amnesty Kobe and let him get fully healthy?

  39. I think Howard’s seen his best days. Not signing him and clearing the books for next summer is the best idea at this point. They’ll just have to dump Nash on a contender before then.

  40. rr: I’m not mad at anything. Your one of the biggest posters here who constantly give you vote of confidence to Dwight. Kobe saying he’ll teach him how to win when Lakers are already on thin ice hurts the chances to resign him. Everyone in the room is telling what he wants to hear but Kobe can’t because of his ego. Huge problem. My stance on Dwight the player still stands. Just saying the guy you defend all the time made a bad move.

  41. Reporters speculating on what a S&T could look like is NOT the same as the Lakers and said team engaging in talks about a deal. Hence, fans running with that media speculation to formulate deals isn’t going to fly on these boards. Have fun folks, but the commenting guidelines are real and will be enforced.

  42. Everyone in the room is telling what he wants to hear but Kobe can’t because of his ego. Huge problem. My stance on Dwight the player still stands. Just saying the guy you defend all the time made a bad move.

    Couple of points here:

    1. You spent a lot of time defending Kobe last year as well. Like I said, you tend to go back and forth a lot and lash out at whichever player is on your nerves that game or day.
    2. We don’t really know what the main issues affecting Howard are.
    3. We don’t really know exactly what was said by everyone in the meeting, and the “Kobe did it because of his ego” stuff is straight out of the Abbott and Simmons playbook. It would be just as easy to say “Howard couldn’t take hearing it because of his ego” or “Pau is bashing MDA because of his ego” or “Mike D’Antoni is the coach because of Jim Buss’s ego.”

    That said, sure, it probably would have been better if Kobe had said, “Here are the keys, big man” just like it probably would have better if Phil and Jeanie Buss had been at the meeting.