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Signing Dwight Howard Makes Lakers A Better NBA Title Bet

Signing Dwight Howard Makes Lakers A Better NBA Title Bet
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Oddsmakers didn’t move the Lakers’ +425 championship odds up or down in the wake of DeMarcus Cousins’ ACL tear, so it’s not surprising to see those same odds unmoved after the Lakers reportedly agreed to a deal with center Dwight Howard over the weekend.

The Lakers remain at +425 on 888Sport, the second-best odds in the NBA behind the LA Clippers at +325. Howard isn’t the player he once was, but at 33 years old he still has enough left in him that the Lakers felt comfortable taking a flyer on him.

The result of that signing is a low-risk, medium-reward upside that could give the Lakers a better chance of earning their 17th championship in franchise history.

Howard Relevant If Healthy

Howard has dealt with significant back injuries last season, and it cost him all but nine games with the Washington Wizards. But two short years ago Howard was a 16-point, 12-rebound contributor for the Charlotte Hornets. He appeared in 81 games, shot 56% from the field and averaged 1.6 blocks per game.

He’s no longer the eight-time All-Star who won four Defensive Player of the Year awards – an NBA record – but he’s still just 33 years old and reportedly is willing to play whatever role the Lakers want him in. He’s also reportedly lost 25 pounds as part of his willingness to recreate his game moving forward.

More Depth Helps Lakers Across The Board

Howard may not have a significant impact on a nightly basis, but adding another quality center increases the talent on their depth chart. There was already a strong argument that this roster, led by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Kyle Kuzma, was the best in the NBA.

If he sticks, Howard will likely split time in the middle with JaVale McGee, who re-signed with the Lakers on a one-year deal. Neither are more than supporting cast pieces, but if healthy Howard provides a significant upgrade to the depth chart. Prior to the signing, McGee was the only healthy center on the roster. If Howard truly is in shape and remains healthy, the Lakers’ +425 title odds could shorten early in the season.

Howard Could Help Davis’ MVP Chances

The Lakers were always going to sign a second center, if not for depth purposes behind McGee then to keep Davis at power forward, where he feels more comfortable playing and is a far more effective player.

But the fact that they signed a defensive-minded presence – offensive-minded Marreese Speights also worked out for the Lakers – could have a significant effect on Davis. The Lakers won’t be among the better offensive teams in the league, but if Howard can provide much-needed defense in spurts, Davis won’t be relied upon as much on that end of the floor.

RELATED: Are The Lakers In Trouble With Cousins' ACL Injury?

That could have a significant impact on the other end of the floor. Davis is poised for a monster season and will only get better if Howard is able to take some pressure off him. If Howard maximizes his potential, Davis will have the power forward spot to himself where he’s flourished most during his NBA career. Howard’s upside means looking at Davis’ +900 MVP odds are worth considering.

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