Dwight Howard has a chance to rewrite the script.
Howard's arrival is a stark contrast from his first stint in L.A. He entered the 2012-13 campaign as one of the most dominant players in the league, having led the Association in rebounding in four of the previous five seasons and received four consecutive NBA All-Defensive first-team honors.
Now, the 33-year-old returns to Hollywood coming off a nine-game 2018-19 campaign with questions about his health and attitude.
But Howard will have every chance to redeem himself in Los Angeles. He's lost 25 pounds and has seemingly been humbled by his fall from grace.
Yet beyond that, there are other reasons to be optimistic about Howard's second go-around with the Lakers.
While the former first overall pick's play has declined in recent years, his rebounding remains elite. Howard averaged 9.2 rebounds in just 25.6 minutes per game last season and 13 boards per 36 minutes. Those numbers are similar to Howard's rebounding stats on each of the five occasions he topped the league in the category.
|Season||RPG (per 36 minutes)|
(Stats courtesy: Basketball Reference)
In his last full NBA season in 2017-18, Howard ranked third in rebounding in the Association with 12.5 boards per contest for the Charlotte Hornets. He also ranked fourth in defensive rebound percentage (29.5) and fifth in overall rebound percentage (19.9), according to NBA.com. His active presence on the glass led to plenty of second-chance points, where he finished tied for eighth (3.9) in the league.
Howard could also give the Lakers more opportunities to run the pick-and-roll. He thrived in such situations with the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets but has increasingly refused to play the same role in favor of more post opportunities.
However, Howard is a threat when he chooses to engage in the pick-and-roll. He has the athleticism to finish off lobs, can catch pocket passes in stride to the net, and possesses the strength to seal off his man on entry feeds into the post.
Howard's ability to do damage in the pick-and-roll could invite double teams from opposing defenses and thus open up more clean looks for the Lakers' 3-point shooters, including Danny Green, Quinn Cook, and Troy Daniels.
Los Angeles had some success last season using JaVale McGee in the pick-and-roll. The veteran big man scored 1.32 points per possession in such situations and was in the league's 88th percentile as the roll man, according to NBA.com.
Howard won't be returning to his three-time Defensive Player of the Year form anytime soon, but he remains an asset on that end of the floor. The former All-NBA center has a career defensive rating of 99.55, according to Basketball Reference, which leads all active players. Aside from Howard's brief tenure last season with the Washington Wizards, he's been a dependable rim-protector, averaging at least 1.2 blocks per game in every campaign prior to 2018-19.
Opponents are still agitated by his interior presence, even if the end result isn't a rejection. He contested nearly nine shots per game and held his counterparts to 57.6 percent shooting on attempts at the rim during the 2017-18 campaign, according to NBA.com. Pairing Howard alongside another legitimate shot-blocker in Anthony Davis should provide a big boost to a Lakers defense that allowed the ninth-most points in the paint (50.3) last season.
In addition, a deepened center rotation consisting of Howard, Davis, and McGee is better equipped to tackle the talented big men in the Western Conference.