Last month, sportsinvasion asked this very same question about Steve Nash when it was announced that the Lakers acquired the former 2-time MVP point guard. Our consensus at the time was that it was a step in the right direction, but that the Lakers would need another piece.  Well enter Dwight Howard, who has had a rocky past 12 months that have included trade offers to seemingly half the league.  Now with a starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard, the Lakers look to be contenders again.

Let’s take a look at the trade first. It involved four teams: The Lakers, Nuggets, 76ers, and Magic. Let’s see who got who.

Lakers: Dwight Howard

Nuggets: Andre Iguodala

76ers: Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson

Magic: Aaron Affalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, and three first round picks.

At first glance, I think everyone wins big in this trade but the Magic. The Lakers get their man in Dwight while keeping another 7 footer in Gasol, the Nuggets trade for an all star by giving up role players, and the 76ers trade one of their many small position players for a much needed big man. Meanwhile, the Magic are looking at an absolutely awful season while they look to rebuild in next year’s draft with their plethora of new picks. If I’m the Magic, I trade one of them for a solid veteran this year, unless you want it to be a complete wash.

But let’s focus on the big story here. D12 is a Laker, and that makes the Lakers contenders. Let’s think about this. Kobe Bryant won his first three titles with a dominating big man: Shaquille O’Neal. At the time of their first title in 1999, Bryant was the 21 year old upstart guard, while O’Neal was the veteran at 27. Now while the ages are a bit higher this time around, the idea is the same. Howard is the young kid at 26, while Bryant is now the veteran at 33.

So the stage is set for Bryant’s career to come full circle. He won his first title as the young gun, mentored by his veteran big man. Now, Kobe is mentoring a young star big man, and he is the one chasing history, looking for that elusive sixth NBA title to match the greatest ever, Michael Jordan. It’s like his career is a Hollywood movie. The young kid who has it all loses in a shocking personal life twist, only to recapture America’s hearts, cementing his status as an all time great. It won’t be easy though.

What did the Miami Heat prove over the last two years? They showed that no matter how talented you are, it takes time for a team to gel together. There was no reason why the Heat shouldn’t have beaten the Mavericks two years ago. They had three of the four best players on the floor, but the Mavericks played better together as a team. This year, I thought the Thunder were the better squad coming into the finals, but the Heat played better together, and they won.

Now, this is a group of solid veterans. Steve Nash will play the floor general, Bryant will patrol the wing, and Dwight will dominate the middle. Sound easy enough right? Here’s the number one thing for me: Howard brings you scoring consistency that Bynum did not have. Far too often last season, a tired Bryant was the one taking all the big shots, and he just doesn’t have the legs to hit them all anymore. With Howard down on the block, Bryant can take a breather here and there at the end, and let his new big man do the work.

I still think that the Oklahoma City Thunder are the favorite in the West. The Lakers simply don’t have the bench to keep up with a young team like the Thunder. However, with Howard in the middle deterring drives from Harden and Westbrook, the Lakers might have a shot in a 7 game series. Here’s what I do know: I can’t wait to see the fireworks!

What do you think of the move? Are the Lakers the favorites now? Let us know in the comments!