Lakers should still covet Dwight Howard over Andrew Bynum
Each dunk, rebound and nifty post move that Andrew Bynum makes softens the Lakers' collective anxiety over how well they will perform this season.
But each sequence apparently has blinded some Laker fans to believe the current roster remains fine. According to a poll on Lakers Nation, 56.8% of fans argue the Lakers are better off keeping Andrew Bynum than shipping him off for a deal involving Dwight Howard. So much for that spirited defense I made last season that Laker fans are more intelligent than the general public believes.
OK, I'm just kidding. You guys are great. But it boggles my mind that Bynum's three games, in which he's averaged 22.7 points on 62.2% shooting and 17 rebounds suddenly changes everything, at least among the majority fans who voted in that poll. Bynum's strong start may have surprised even his most ardent supporters and assuaged the Lakers' feeling that they need to make a major move in order to contend for a title. But that doesn't mean the Lakers still shouldn't pursue Howard at Bynum's expense.
Comparing Bynum's stat line to Howard's (19.1 points) on 58.9% shooting and 16 rebounds remains hogwash. Howard remains a more physical defender, more capable of playing through double teams and more importantly will remain healthy. Bynum says he feels 100% fully healed and he's devoted more time to rehab his knee, but he remains adamant that he will wear a brace on his right knee for the rest of his career.
"It's always going to be in the back of my mind," Bynum said.
And that's one of the many reasons why Bynum's impressive play should simply serve as a complementary role. Should Bryant's wrist worsen and, heaven forbid, force him to sit out games, Bynum wouldn't thrive as much on the double teams defenses would throw at him. Howard practically deals with that all the time on Orlando. Bynum doesn't have the same appeal as Howard to draw other superstars to the Lakers. Howard's easygoing personality and desire for a championship make the Lakers' Hollywood aura a perfect fit. And measuring the two side by side, Howard's superior defense bodes much stronger into Mike Brown's system than Bynum's will, even if his improved conditioning and 7-foot frame still brings value.
The only thing that should change regarding Bynum's strong start involves the way the Lakers negotiate for Howard. Bynum's market value increases. This lessens the chance Orlando remains adamant that the Lakers have to deal both Bynum and Pau Gasol to land Dwight Howard. And while these talks continue, the Lakers can still feel comfortable they have a flourishing frontcourt with Odom's absence.
But acquiring Howard in a deal involving Bynum, the team's $8.9 million trade exception and a handful of role players still proves to be the better option. Even if sentiment among Laker fans suggest otherwise.
-- Mark Medina
Email the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Orlando center Dwight Howard kicks the ball as he shoves away Washington Wizards' Rashard Lewis, No. 9, and Kevin Seraphin at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday. Credit: Stephen M. Dowell / MCT.