Did the Lakers really improve against the Thunder?
The Lakers got Dwight Howard who is the best center in the league. But, did they improve against their biggest western conference foe OKC? As some have pointed out, Kendrick Perkins plays Dwight Howard pretty well. The Lakers lose some inside scoring and size since Bynum was better offensively and a bit bigger and longer. So they will have to deal with Dwight on defense, but might have less to worry about on offense.
Another thing, the Thunder are at their best when they go small. That means, putting Ibaka at the 5. With Bynum on LA he is a lot bigger and stronger than Ibaka and a beast on offense. I think Dwight Howard is a better matchup up for a smaller Thunder unit. Ibaka is closer to the size, length, and athleticism than Dwight (maybe not as strong but probably even longer) with less to worry about on offense. The trump card for OKC here is a potential lineup of Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Perry Jones (a 6'11 forward with range and hops), and Ibaka in the middle. Too much length and athleticism even for the Lakers.
The Thunder also have the newly acquired Hasheem Thabeet, though limited, is a pretty big dude who can clog the middle, alter shots, and is good for six fouls a game. He could make things somewhat difficult for the Lakers inside combining K Perk's size and heft (but even more in those areas) with Ibaka's length and shot blocking potential. Hasheem can also throw down some dunks when he gets his feet set and has time to gather himself. Cole Aldrich offers some more size at the 4 or 5 as the fifth big.
If Durant, Westbrook, and Harden along with Maynor and Perry Jones can score a bunch then the Thunder's lack of inside scoring shouldn't hurt as much.
I think the Thunder could use another big man who can put a few points on the board, or a veteran small forward who can defend, shoot, and give Durant some rest. I think Matt Barnes would be great if he hasn't signed yet.
What do you guys think? I think these two teams will meet in the WCF and it should be a classic. The Lakers might have gotten better but this might help the Thunders' chances against them since they will have to rely more on Kobe scoring, and might give them less spacing on offense inside (before the trade either Pau or Bynum could work out of the high post) while Dwight Howard is strictly a low post guy.
Is he the most under appreciated big man in the league?
This is just seeing him in the Gold metal game, but he pretty much took Chandler the DPOY to school in the post.
Last season with all the trade talks, Pau probably got disstracted, but he played in the high post too much. Even though Pau has 3 point range, I would like to see him in the low post more, he can score on Chandler, he could score on Perkins and Ibaka. But now with Howard, how much time will the Lakers use him in the post, probably less than with Bynum.
Howard gives the Lakers a much better defensive presence than Bynum. The Lakers with Howard and Pau are too much for Perkins and Ibaka. If the Lakers take the game to a grind against the Thunder, Lakers will win. But if Thunder can force the tempo with their speed, Lakers wont be able to keep.
"As some have pointed out, Kendrick Perkins plays Dwight Howard pretty well."
Not really, and certainly not recently.
"Another thing, the Thunder are at their best when they go small."
One, they went small in the Finals and got rolled. Two, you can't go small against Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Look at the early games of the Heat-Pacers series. It drained LeBron having to guard David West.
"The Thunder also have the newly acquired Hasheem Thabeet, though limited, is a pretty big dude who can clog the middle, alter shots, and is good for six fouls a game."
You didn't really just write that you think Hasheem Thabeet can be a factor in a series against Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard?
Well the Heat did well when they switched from having Lebron guard David West to having Shane Battier guarding him. Shane Battier is one of the most versatile defenders in the league at 6'7", but David West is 6'9" while Pau Gasol is 6'11". I don't know if Shane Battier can work his defensive magic on Pau Gasol, but it would be hard to imagine he could seeing as how skilled Pau Gasol is offensively. Battier can match up against less skilled offensive centers though. The Heat do have the advantage of only worrying about the Lakers if they make the finals which may be hard to do since they'll still have to face OKC and the Spurs.
I think that in a five on five half court, grind-it-out game, the Lakers are superior to the Thunder. They have all the weapons: great, veteran HOF guards and two awesome all-star big men. Plus Metta to throw at Durant. I don't think the Thunder can win a grind-it-out half court game.
I think the Thunder can do better against them if they can pick up the tempo and move Ibaka to center. I think Ibaka matches up better against Howard than he does against Bynum. Then they can go with the perimeter trio of Westbrook, Harden, and Durant with either Nick Collison at the 4 for toughness, defense, rebounding, and shooting or Perry Jones who is a multi-talented 6'11 stretch four (or big small forward). An ultra-small lineup of Maynor and Westbrook in the backcourt with Harden, Durant, and Ibaka up front would be good for stretches too.
The Lakers have two weaknesses: Steve Nash on defense and Dwight Howard's free throw shooting. Those are two weaknesses that the Thunder can really take advantage of. Also, I do like the Lakers depth, I think they got deeper but they are as not as deep up front than the Thunder. The Thunder added Thabeet and drafted PJIII who might play some 4. The Lakers got smaller at center, but a better defensive 5, drafted Robert Sacre, and acquired Earl Clark (a stretch four kind of player) but lost Josh McRoberts who figured to be their fourth big man. I like Jordan Hill a lot but I think Nick Collison is a little bit better. ... if the Thunder can get hot from 3 it will also improve their chances.
I think that, for the Thunder, Pau Gasol is the really tough matchup here. Dwight Howard, not as much. The Thunder can match up with Dwight but if Pau Gasol really gets going then I don't think the Thunder can stop the Lakers inside.
how the Lakers mesh. They will not have Howard at the beginning of the season so they need to get off on a great start. If the Thunder have homecourt the Lakers will not win. Let's keep in mind that the Lakers starting lineup is going to be pretty old, Nash and Kobe are running on grandpa knees and may burn their bodies out unless they get a bench. Young athletic teams will give them their money's worth. Also, they're coached by Mike Brown.
How long will Dwight Howard be out?
I'm not sure. Could be just be a few games or a month in. He might be ready on game 1 but it's still going to take him some time to get back in bball mode.
The Thunder will probably try to use Ibaka to nulify Gasol or could even put Durant on him and have Ibaka double up on Gasol with Perkins if the Lakers have MWP at SF. The Lakers will be a nasty match up with Kobe, Gasol,Howard and maybe Jamison all playing off ball from Nash . But the the Lakers could have to defend Westbrook, Harden and KD with Nash, Kobe and MWP so that could be a stretch to cover Nash's limitations on defence.
Plus Miami could put out Allen, D-Wade, LeBron, Lewis and Bosh as an offensive 5, the big three plus two of the most experienced 3 point shooters in the league, one of whom Ray Allen is still one of the best off ball players in the league, so that would be hard to defend.
Westbrook will penetrate even more. I still like the Thunder in that. No one matches up with PJ3 I think he takes there bigs off the dribble often.
Anybody think the Lakers should look to add Carlos Delfino? A decent defensive player that can knock down threes to spread the floor. He can be L.A.'s Steve Novak/Mike Miller type of guy.
Good point Scout4Real. As I said right after the draft a lineup of Westbrook, Harden, Durant, PJIII, and Ibaka offers a ton of potential. That's a deadly lineup.
The Thunder would still have some more solid role players like Maynor, Thabo, Collison, and K Perk.
They can go big or small. More importantly they could go with a really fast, athletic team like that Durant, PJIII, and Ibaka front line and still be really tall and long with some good size. Speed kills. Speed along with size, length, and athleticism is even better.
I don't think they have money for delfino. He isn't a minimum type player. He would be an awesome fit on the Lakers though.
I think a lot of teams should look at Carlos Delfino. He's a good scoring and shooting option at the 2/3 spots. He would help the Lakers but he could also help the Thunder, Celtics, Heat, or basically every other team, too.
If the Lakers got Delfino they would have a solid, if undersized bench. They could go with Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Carlos Delfino, Antawn Jamison (stretch four), and Jordan Hill inside.
Wouldn't mind Delfino, but he won't come for the price LAL can offer. They also resigned (officially) Ebanks today to play the back-up(or if more improved start) the SF position and have no room for Carlos. Meeks will be backing up Kobe. Good idea, just no room or $$$. Pietrus, though, is a name to consider for the minimum if not signed throughout the season at the deadline if Ebanks fails to do his job and Clark can't realize ANY of his potential.
I have a lot of criticisms of Howard, but he comes to play every game and always plays defense. While I think he is an overrated man defender, he's perfect for the way a lot of his opponents play. Guys either want to shoot long jumpers or take it straight to the basket. There is no better person to have than a guy that covers as much ground as he does, as quickly as he can, especially when you have aging perimeter defenders in front of you, but it will be better than what he had with Orlando and they always did well defensively. Offensively he is not as versatile, but he's also going to be content with scoring off putbacks and the occassional lob.
I would still give the Thunder a slight edge, but I don't see them being able to go small against the Lakers. You have to have someone in to at least try to keep a body on Howard.
The answer is yes. The reason is they added two time MVP Steve Nash. Kobe's shots will decrease from a ridiculous 24 shots a game to a more normal 19 shots (about the same as Lebron, Durrant, Westbrook and Melo). Kobe will take less stupid hero ball shots and so shoot a higher percentage. Those five shots Kobe doesn't take will go to either Nash (ridiculous good jumper still), Gasol (see Olympics) or D. Howard (probably a dunk). Result, Lakers score 5 more points per game on average (a huge increase). Nash gives up 4 of those, but Howard makes D 4 points better for a wash on the defensive side.
So yes, Nash is going to improve their offense big time and Howard is going to cancel out Nash's D problems (and frankly Kobe is getting a little slow on the perimeter these days, but Howard will cover for that as well).
Note if Antwan Jamison insists on shooting his 15 shots per game then the shots that Kobe isn't shooting all go to Jamison and the Lakers fall apart. But I can't believe that Jamison is going to continue to get a green light with the other players on this team. That would be a travesty.