On Thursday night, the internet practically exploded when the news broke that Dwight Howard had been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Rumors of a Howard trade had been circling around for months, but this was the one that stuck. Considering the Lakers already added Steve Nash back in July, the acquisition of Howard makes them pretty damn scary.
There’s a lot of people claiming that the Lakers have become the team to beat in the West, or at the very least, that they are very close second after the Thunder. For fans of the Grizzlies, and every other playoff team in the west, this has to be a cause of concern. Getting through the western conference was the hard enough, now the Lakers have morphed into a rampaging beast. With the three-headed monster of of the Thunder, Spurs, and Lakers standing atop the West, do teams like the Grizzlies still have a shot?
Well, the future might not be as bleak as it looks.
I’ll be the first to admit, I was pretty nervous when the news initially broke. For one thing, the Lakers starting lineup looks strikingly solid now, with Nash, Kobe, Gasol, and Howard. Metta World Peace is the obvious weak spot, but he’s still an intense, highly physical player, and he’s also capable of getting hot from behind the arc. The addition of Antawn Jamison will also bolster what was a pretty weak bench for the Lakers last season.
But as good as the Lakers starting 5 looks, we have no idea how it will co-exist. Nash and Kobe are both talented players, but we don’t know if they can play together, especially since they both like to be in charge of the offense. For all we know, the Lakers backcourt could look a lot like the Knicks frontcourt; clouded and redundant.
So yeah, the Lakers are hardly guaranteed a title yet. As for the Thunder, their lack of depth was exposed in the finals. When one of their big 3 couldn’t get going – in this case James Harden – the lack of legitimate options becomes pretty obvious. As for they play a beautiful, clean game of basketball, but it can be disrupted, as the Thunder showed in the Western finals, when Perkins and Ibaka rendered them fairly ineffective.
So yes, all of these teams have flaws. They might be the three favorites in the West, but it’s hardly a three-team race, and with the right combination of chemistry and luck, a team like the Grizzlies could still reach the finals. If the lineup comes together, and Rudy and Z-Bo finally learn to co-exist, this team can still go very far next season. The Dwight Howard trade has made things a bit more difficult, but it hardly disqualifies the Grizzlies from contending for a spot in the finals.