The 5 Most Important Acquisitions in the Title Picture
1) Dwight Howard (Los Angeles) – It’s no grand revelation that Dwight Howard is going to help the Lakers a ton. Andrew Bynum did a good job as a rim protector and a mediocre job as a pick-and-roll defender. Howard is going to do a great job as a rim protector and as a pick-and-roll defender. Even if it takes him some time to get all of his athleticism back as he returns form back surgery, he’s such an amazing defensive player from a positional standpoint, that it’s almost immaterial. Howard takes a very good defense and makes it a great defense.
2) Steve Nash (Los Angeles) – Point guard has been a big issue for the Lakers the last two seasons. Derek Fisher got ancient right underneath their nose and Ramon Sessions wilted like a dead flower in last season’s playoffs. In the world of Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, anything worth doing is worth doing well, so he goes and gets two-time MVP Steve Nash sort of dropped in his lap and he sops him up like a biscuit sops up gravy. Nash affords the luxury of taking Kobe Bryant off the ball and having an all-time great passer get him looks coming off screens, which puts both of these greats in perfect roles at this late stage of both of their Hall of Fame careers. And the biggest bonus is that having Dwight Howard playing behind Nash defensively will help hide Nash’s one glaring weakness. This is the dictionary definition of the rich getting richer.
3) Rashard Lewis (Miami) – Part of the genius in how Miami head coach used LeBron James in last year’s playoffs was the reliance on Shane Battier largely because his strengths were complementary to LeBron’s. Battier plays out on the perimeter shooting 3-pointers offensively (quite well in the playoffs) and defending inside defensively. This allows James to have the low block to himself on the offensive end and to be able to use his disruptive perimeter skills defensively. Lewis proves a similar effect. At this stage, he’s not he shooter Battier is, but he’s a better interior defender. More importantly, this gives the Heat the advantage to always have a forward on the court next to LeBron who allows LeBron to accentuate his strengths on both ends of the floor. That’s an enormous advantage for the Heat.
4) Courtney Lee (Boston) – This era’s Boston Celtics under Doc Rivers has always made defense their calling card. In last year’s playoffs, their rotation was a little bit thin. Adding a guy like Lee not only gives them a big time wing defender to replace Ray Allen, but Lee brings some more of that youthful energy that Avery Bradley so refreshingly brought to the Celtics last year. Lee gives them another player who defends 90 feet and is good at generating turnovers. The better the Celtics’ defense is, the more special they can be. Courtney Lee makes the Celtics’ defense better.
5) Ray Allen (Miami) – The standard answer when looking at what Allen brings to Miami is that he’s a floor spacer who stretches the floor by knocking down 3-point shots. And that is a true statement, but Allen’s value lies far beyond that. Dwyane Wade labored through the playoffs last year with a bad knee and although he had it taken care of, he’s no spring chicken anymore. James, who carried an extremely high minutes burden last season, could not finish Game 4 of the NBA Finals because his leg cramped up. Each year this group is together in Miami, it will be more and more important to watch Wade and James’ minutes. Allen provides them a very viable solution at the wing spots which will allow Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to get James and Wade some extra rest, which will only make them both more effective. And the beauty of Allen is that he fits just fine on the court with James and Wade as well. His skills are well utilized in the Heat’s version of positionless basketball.
Five Players Most Likely to be Traded
1) Josh Smith (Atlanta) – The marriage between Smith and the Hawks has never been a math made in heaven. Smith has always taken too many shots for the Hawks’ management’s liking and Smith has never embraced the organization for any sustained period of time. New Hawks GM Danny Ferry either wants to sign a big free agent to accompany Smith and Al Horford. If he doesn’t think he can keep Smith after the season, Ferry will not hesitate to put him on the market. If Ferry is going to break it down to rebuild, he’ll incinerate it quick. And the great part for him is that there won’t be a shortage of suitors.