Can Dwight Howard Lead the Lakers Post-Kobe Bryant?

With Kobe Bryant turning 34 in August, Los Angeles Lakers fans are staving off an existential crisis by focusing on a very promising "here and now."

What happens next is unclear at best and entirely disconcerting at worst.

No one will replace Kobe entirely. He's the kind of talent that graces the NBA ever-so-rarely, and it's hard to believe a team could twice strike gold in such close sequence–even if that team does seem to get whatever it wants from time to time.

But, could the Lakers remain a Western Conference powerhouse?

Acquiring Dwight Howard wasn't just a short-term fix after all. Though he isn't officially a lock to return to Los Angeles, it's hard to imagine him leaving another team so soon after the debacle he bestowed upon the Orlando Magic.

The real question, then, is whether Howard is the right guy to lead this team to its next dynastic chapter.

The answer to that question isn't so simple.

Howard alone is in no position to make the Lakers any better than he made the Orlando Magic. If not surrounded with the right kind of pieces and superior scoring talent, the 26-year-old instantly becomes an overtaxed star with neither the instincts nor the skills to lead his team to a title.

Anyone expecting something more from Howard is confusing his celebrity for well-roundedness.

Sure, the dominant center will remain a defensive anchor in a league of his own. And, while defense indeed wins championships, it doesn't do so without a sufficient offensive attack in this league.

Howard's numbers are somewhat deceptive on this front. He's averaged over 20 points per contest in four of his last five seasons, and he's done so with great efficiency.

But, he's gotten those numbers as the focal point of a relatively mediocre roster in Orlando. You might not think so when looking at his field-goal attempts alone, but that's beca...

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