The short term ramifications of losing Dwight Howard in free agency are obvious: even the most fanciful dreams of returning as title contenders next season are officially dead. The Lakers watched a 27-year-old center–whose capabilities, when healthy, make him a top-5 NBA player–walk right out the door. Gone is a future face of a franchise, whose defensive dominance would have kept the Lakers competitive even in the most dire of injury situations. The Lakers have lost their starting center, the fulcrum of their D and a perennial All-Star.
Long term? The damage could be much more profound. The ultimate cost may be losing a significant advantage that could have helped sign LeBron James in July 2014.
As I’ve detailed before, next summer’s free agency class is going to be much more underwhelming than many are making it out to be. Aside from James, there no other players that stand out as potential franchise cornerstones. Young players like Greg Monroe, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George will be restricted free agents (if they aren’t extended before the season begins) whose teams are likely to match whatever contract terms they are offered. The crop of unrestricted free agents will be players like Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut and Luol Deng, each of whom is either incapable of carrying a team by himself or too old to be a more than one or two year solutions at best. Then there are the handful of players that can choose to terminate their contracts early, such as the aforementioned James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.
Out of those four, LeBron is the only player that has age, talent and a winning pedigree on his side to truly serve as the type of franchise savior the Lakers need. Bosh has proven in Toronto that he’s not quite equipped for that type of responsibility, while Anthony has won just two postseason series in his ten playoff trips. Now that the Lakers do not have Howard’s services and Kobe Bryant is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, the self-stylized “Chosen One” could be LA’s best hope for a quick rebuild.
However, without Dwight Howard in tow, it’s going to be a tougher sell than ever before to get LeBron to sign on GM Mitch Kupchak’s dotted line.
(Read on at Silver Screen and Roll)