Originally written on TWolves Blog  |  Last updated 11/9/14
Magic_vs_raptors_17e6

 

Dwight Howard will keep his beaming smile much to the chagrin of teams and fans across the league.  After a year of committing some of the biggest PR blunders in NBA history, Howard has found himself in exactly the position he had hoped for- competing for a championship in a highly lucrative market.   As part of a four-team trade on Friday, Howard became the newest center for the Los Angeles Lakers, continuing the team’s long tradition of acquiring All Star big men in highly expensive fashion.  When one considers what past Lakers’ centers (Shaq, Kareem and Wilt) have done during their career in Southern California, there is reason to believe Dwight and his new teammates may pose a serious threat to the Western Conference competitors in the foreseeable future.

With Howard now on the starting roster, the Lakers are a true powerhouse in the league.  By joining Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, the Lakers’ starting five will have accounted for 33 All Star appearances.  If that fact alone does not give rivals cause for fear, it is also worth noting the Lakers have improved their bench considerably by adding Jodie Meeks this past week and Antawn Jamison earlier this summer.  Simply put, the team is stacked.  Only a few teams will have a roster that can not only handle but also compete with this talent.  The Thunder will still be able to hold their own, due to their speed, athleticism and any improvement from Durant, Ibaka, Harden and Westbrook this offseason.  However, there is another team that might be able to shake this Lakers cage- your very own Minnesota Timberwolves.

While this prediction seems bold and arguably outrageous given the Wolves’ past shortcomings, there is reason to not only entertain this possibility but perhaps even take it seriously.  Here are the factors to consider when examining these teams against each other: roster matchups, Adelman’s coaching success and looming risks for the Lakers.

1.  Roster Matchups

There are only few centers in the league that can match the strength and size of Dwight Howard.  There are even fewer centers that can actually slow him down.  One could argue a member of this select party is Nikolai Pekovic. In their one meeting this season, Pekovic was able to put Howard in foul trouble early and hold him to a mere 4-11 shooting.  Alternatively, Pekovic was able to score 16 points and grab 13 boards, proving he was a player to be watched throughout the season.

If Howard and Pekovic are indeed the elephants of the league, then consider Rubio and Nash the respective mice.  Just in the way that Nash can find more holes than Swiss cheese in a team’s defense, so can Rubio.  Their craftiness and overall court vision is unrivaled amongst their peers, making them the perfect matchup for this scenario.  Before his injury, Rubio barely trailed Nash in APG and quickly became the trusted leader of the Wolves squad.  If Kobe does not embrace Nash’s play the way the Wolves did with Rubio, it is possible Rubio could have an edge over his elder.

We saw in yesterday’s Olympic final that Love was desperately needed to battle Pau Gasol throughout the third and fourth quarter.  Love was able to quickly limit Pau’s output and secure key rebounds to help lead the US to victory.  Like Pau, Love was incredibly valuable to his Olympic team in generating extra possessions from his size and work on the boards.  But consider this stat per Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune- Pau Gasol & Kevin Love grabbed 61 rebounds each (most in Olympics). The difference- their minutes on the court: Gasol (228) & Love (138).  Love is considered by many to be the best power forward in the game right now.  While he might not be as strong defensively as Pau, he is arguably the more valuable commodity due to his three point shooting and rebounding skills.

Bryant and Roy may not appear comparable in the slightest; however, even they own some distinct similarities.  Both are recovering from the same blood spinning procedure they took on this past year.  Their success hinges on whether their knees can continue to battle the swelling and soreness as they play on.  Bryant has proved he can still compete at a high level, inspiring Roy to pursue the same goal.  Over the course of the next season we will see if this surgery is truly revolutionary or simply a band-aid for greater ailments.  On a side note, one can also not deny that before Roy went out he was one of the best closers in the game, a role that he and Bryant will likely take upon themselves even as they battle injuries.

2. Rick Adelman’s Past Success

Think back to the ‘Sacramento Queens,’ labeled as such by Shaquille O’Neal when he proclaimed “We ain’t scared of the Sacramento Queens” during the 2002 Western Conference Finals.   This Sacramento Kings squad, coached by Rick Adelman, was desperately close to reaching the NBA Finals and making Shaq and his fellow Lakers the butt of their own joke.  The Kings nearly defeated the mighty Lakers if not for some timely whistles, still highly controversial to this day.  This hard fought series became the heart of the Donaghy allegations and its egregious calls still leaves a lasting stain on basketball a decade later.  Spectators across the league were left to ask “What if?”, wondering if Adelman’s Kings were robbed for a chance at basketball glory.

Fast-forward to today and you’ll notice the 2012 Timberwolves seem to mirror that 2002 Kings squad with each team built around supreme foreign talent (Rubio, Kirilenko, Pekovic/ Turkoglu, Stojakovic and Divac) and players capable of knocking down corner threes (Budinger, Shved, Roy/ Jackson, Christie, Stojakovic) and effectively cutting to the basket.  Add a once-in-a-generation F/C hybrid in Love and Webber and one can dream these Wolves may go just as deep into the playoffs.  The one person that will be able to shape this team into a strong playoff competitor is Rick Adelman.  His unique ability to manage  game lineups and draw the most from young talent could very well take these Wolves further than most expect.

3.  Looming Risks for Lakers

Adelman is largely considered one of the best coaches in the league; the same cannot be said for Lakers’ coach Mike Brown.  Many wondered if Brown would even return to coach the Lakers after losing to the Thunder in last year’s playoffs.  Back for another shot, it will be championship or bust for Brown.   Unlike Adelman, Brown is not nearly as effective at toying with lineups and tapping into his players’ innate talents.  This fault leaves room for other teams to exploit the Lakers during the course of the game, forcing mismatches upon them and changing the tempo of the game.

The Lakers may also be forced to learn once again that first time isn’t always a charm.  We have seen multiple times throughout NBA history that chemistry doesn’t always develop within one season.  Even after securing Shaq, Kareem and Wilt the Lakers were never able to make the championship their first year.  With nagging injuries plaguing Nash, Howard and Bryant this season may be an even greater test to how quickly this team can mesh together.  Wolves should view this situation as an excellent opportunity to not only make a splash in the playoffs but also threaten the Lakers if they ever see each other in the postseason.

 

The NBA is a league of favorites.  Spectators and fans alike are more prone to make guarantees than to consider upsets and favor underdogs.  More opinions will state with confidence that the Lakers are going to the Championship than the Wolves will make it past the first round of the playoffs.  Let’s say the Lakers secure the #1 or 2 playoff seed and the Wolves land in the 7th or 8th spot.  Who’s to say there isn’t a fighting chance for the team with more lakes than celebrities in their state? Maybe there isn’t enough supporting evidence to make an argument for this case and this article is just a shot in the dark.  One way or another, there is always room for hope- even in the midst of so many assurances.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Aldon Smith was reportedly drinking with Ray McDonald

Johnny Manziel ruled out for Week 17 with injury

Dwyane Wade hopes Heat fans give LeBron a warm reception

Adam Silver: No NBA team is tanking

Penguins having three more players tested for mumps

Jay Cutler is not the answer for the Titans

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Josh Smith released by Detroit Pistons in surprising move

13 amazing NFL stats from Week 16

JJ Watt's bloody face defines 2014 campaign

Dominic Raiola insists he didn't intentionally stomp opponent

Jets call themselves the best 3-12 team in NFL history

Cam Newton calls out 'classless' Panthers fans

Dale Earnhardt Jr., girlfriend wear great Christmas sweaters

Brandon Marshall: Raiola mocked my mental illness

Don't mess with Seahawks punter Jon Ryan

Niners OT asked Manti Te'o about his fake girlfriend

Darren Sproles' wife Michel fires back at Eagles critics

Steve Smith expects 'couch quarterback' criticism

WATCH: Tennessee walk-on gets scholarship as bowl gift

Raiders player gives game check to young girl in need

Game of the week: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

Yankees pay for education of slain officer's children

Breaking up the Brooklyn Nets

Brady: Edelman might be Pat's Most Dependable Player

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Brandon Marshall unloads on Raiola

Did Aldon Smith violate probation?

Johnny Manziel ruled out for Week 17

An appreciation for Marshawn Lynch's crotch grab touchdown celebrations

D-Wade: Heat fans should cheer LeBron

Niners OT asked Te'o about fake girlfriend

Sproles' wife fires back at Eagles critics

Game of the week: Lions vs. Packers

'Manny' is the must-watch documentary about Manny Pacquiao

Breaking up the Brooklyn Nets

13 amazing NFL stats from Week 16

JJ Watt's bloody face defines 2014 campaign

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.