I’m doing a video show series on how the Lakers can will the NBA title this coming year. My two most recent shows address the Lakers biggest strength. Their big men. The show on Pau is here. Dwight is here. It’s actually been their biggest strength for a while now. Back in the day it was the combination of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and an occasional Andrew Bynum. Pau and Lamar played great together and helped define Laker basketball during the 2008-2011 run even more than Kobe. Laker fans liked the idea of a healthy Bynum, but in reality the Lakers were better with him on the bench, at least when it mattered. Last season, which was doomed from the start, featured Pau and Bynum together at last for a full season. Bynum and Pau were very effective but the Lakers team was their worst in years. Bynum became an all-star and cemented his status as the second best center in basketball. Pau was moved to Power forward full time where he settled more and more for jumpers but still managed to do everything very well to great (Pau was worthy of an all-star selection last year but was snubbed in favor of his brother Marc). The Laker’s problems last year steamed from their terrible supporting cast. They relied on their three stars for everything and couldn’t get past the mighty Thunder in the playoffs. Bynum was shipped out for Dwight Howard after a career year. Dwight Howard is still a major upgrade though. Bynum can match Dwight when it comes to offensive production or at least come close. He can score and rebound well and has better post moves. But Dwight destroys Bynum in defense and athleticism. Dwight is the best defensive player in the NBA while Bynum is just pretty good. Bynum is younger but moves much, much older. Dwight can run the floor as well as any big man. Bynum may have a better traditional back to the basket skillet, but Dwight is significantly better scoring off the pick and roll. Dwight is one of the best pick and roll finishers in the game and has one of the best operators in Steve Nash on his team. Dwight’s post moves are awkward looking but they work for the most part. The gap between Dwight and Bynum is the same as between Lebron and the rest of the league. Bigger than you’d think. Dwight may be the second best player in the league (Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and even Dwayne wade also have good cases). Nash is a nice pick up for LA but Dwight is the main reason they will be title contenders. Yes, Dwight is the Lakers best player. Kobe is the Man in name only. For the Lakers to beat the Thunder and the Heat Dwight has to play like the Man. The biggest question mark for Dwight will be his health. His back injury was no joke. Dwight wants to play opening day but may be better off waiting a little longer. Opening day doesn’t really matter to the Lakers; they need him down the stretch and completely healthy.
Dwight will play alongside the man who outplayed him in his only Finals appearance in 2009, Pau Gasol. Gasol again will play a bit out of position at Power Forward. Pau played well last year and had good chemistry with Bynum. I expect Pau to develop the same kind of chemistry with Dwight. Pau will hit Dwight with alley-opps for sure. Bynum wasn’t too good at getting Pau back, though hopefully Dwight will be an improvement. Pau played a lot out of the high post where he’s good but not great. I feel like he may be more effective there this season because the Lakers have more offensive weapons and Pau will have more open looks from there. Pau is money is open from there but struggles when he has to put the ball on the floor. Pau has more three-point shooters to hit in Steve Nash and Jodie Meeks as well. Mike Brown promised Pau more looks in the low post as well. That was before the Lakers got Dwight. To take full advantage of Pau’s skills the Lakers have to get him the ball in the low post more often. Obviously there is some overlap with Dwight much as there was with Bynum but the hope is the at Dwight is more versatile than Bynum and Pau can get more low post love. Another hope is that Pau can play center with the second unit to get touches down low. That is a strategy that failed last season because the Lakers reserves were so bad that Pau (or Drew) were doubled teamed hard every time they got the ball and were forced to pass to subpar three point shooters time and time again. The Laker reserves have bigger names and are better overall than last year and there is potential for Pau to be on the floor with at least one other star player at all times. Out of the Laker's best four players I expect Pau to get the most minutes due to his versatility and unselfishness. If the Lakers get the most out of their star big men The Heat and Thunder may have no answer for them and the small ball reign will end after one season.