Dwight Howard Lakers Simulation From WhatIfSports.com image

Dwight Howard and Lakers take aim at Heat

New-look Los Angeles Lakers barely edge out Miami Heat in simulation

By Jake Wesrich - WhatIfSports.com
August 15th, 2012

Real creative, Lakers. Add the league's best center to your roster. There's a move we've never seen before.

The recent acquisition of Dwight Howard, coupled with July's sign-and-trade for Steve Nash, immediately vaults the Los Angeles Lakers to the forefront of the NBA title conversation. With the 26-year-old Howard, L.A. adds a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year who has career averages of 18.4 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 57.7-percent field-goal shooting. Howard joins the elite company of past Lakers' big men Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain, all acquired midway through their careers, as well as homegrown talent George Mikan, although Mikan's tenure occurred before the team moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.

But the question remains, do the new-look Lakers have enough talent to challenge the Miami Heat triumvirate for an NBA title? Using our Dream Team tool, we added Howard and Nash to the Lakers, as well as their other offseason additions Antawn Jamison, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark. To the defending champion Heat, we added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Our basketball simulation engine "played" the matchup 1,001 times and if the results are any indication, NBA fans may be tuning into a Game 7 in next June's Finals.

2012-13 Lakers vs. 2012-13 Heat
MatchupWin%Avg PPGWIS Interactive
2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers50.7102.3Simulate Matchup
2012-13 Miami Heat49.3102.2Build your own Dream Team

Howard used every tool at his disposal to hasten his exit from the Orlando Magic. In doing so, he undoubtedly upgraded his supporting cast by swapping Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson for Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. He also upped the expectations, however.

If Howard falls anywhere short of a championship during his time in Los Angeles, he will be considered a bust given the success of his predecessors. Though lacking the offensive punch of past centers to dawn the purple and gold, Howard matches well in defensive prowess. He contributes an increasingly rare skillset that the Lakers hope to exploit as the NBA moves toward a small-ball era.

Lakers' Centers - Career Stats
PlayerPPGRPGBPGYears w/ LakersTitles w/ Lakers
Dwight Howard18.413.02.22012-?0
Shaquille O'Neal23.710.92.31996-20043
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar24.611.22.61975-19895
Wilt Chamberlain30.122.9-1968-19731
George Mikan23.113.4-1948-19565

Note: Blocked shots were not recorded until the 1973-74 season.

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Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jwestrich@whatifsports.com.

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