Is Dwight Howard the Right Star to Lead LA Lakers into Unclear Future?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMay 26, 2013

The Los Angeles Lakers are hoping their ability to offer center Dwight Howard more money than any other team, along with the chance to lead one of the NBA's most storied franchises, will be enough to persuade him to stay in Los Angeles.

But when was the last time you heard the words "Howard" and "leader" in the same sentence?

Howard may have the physical talent and charisma of a star, but does he have the mental fortitude and skill set to carry the Lakers into an unclear future? Not if you believe some of the rumors lately.

According to, Howard has already complained about Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni behind closed doors, and he has made it clear that he is listening to offers from other teams, specifically the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks and Rockets can't offer Howard the same type of money or prestige that the Lakers can, but they do afford him the opportunity to hide behind another star if things go bad.

James Harden and Dirk Nowitzki are the unquestioned leaders of their respective teams, and that designation will not change if Howard is added into the fold.

So why would a player of Howard's stature forgo millions and the bright lights of Los Angeles to take a complementary role with a lesser franchise? Maybe because Howard, at his core, is nothing more than a complementary player.

Howard did lead the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Lakers in five games. But in hindsight, that achievement can equally be credited to head coach Stan Van Gundy's system and the three-point shooters Howard was surrounded by.

Howard was never asked to play the role of a traditional back-to-the-basket, low-post center, and it's a good thing, because he doesn't appear to have the skill set to do that.

For most of his career, Howard has gotten by with his physical dominance and superior athleticism, but what happens when he is forced to rely on skill?

Howard's back and shoulder injuries last season diminished his strength and athleticism, and Howard had no game to fall back on.

In order for Howard to follow in the footsteps of Lakers greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O'Neal, there has to be some substance beneath the size. But Howard spent last season proving otherwise.

Each of those players was capable of creating his own offense from an entry pass to the paint, but Howard was only truly effective when rolling to the basket or swooping through the middle of the lane with his signature hook shot.

When the Lakers needed Howard to create his own offense in the post, he either had trouble catching the ball or trouble passing out from the inevitable double-team.

How can you be a great center if you can't catch the ball in the paint or make the right decision once you do?

The Lakers will still offer Howard more money than he deserves, because right now, management probably feels like it's the best option. But the Lakers' murky future will become clearer once the summer of 2014 rolls around.

The only player under contract at that time will be Steve Nash, so the Lakers will presumably have tons of money to attract a free-agent class—that includes LeBron James—to one of the most attractive destinations in the NBA.

At that point, the Lakers could possibly sign the next player to truly lead them into the future. If Howard plays his cards right, he could be around to complement that player as well.