If he leaves it will hurt... but I think it will be a short term hurt IMO. The problem with Dwight has never been what he CAN do it's what he can't do that he thinks he CAN do..... In this new era do you tie up your top Max slot for 5 years on a guy that is looks at himself as a lot more than he is? Not diminishing what he is but at the same time I'd also say that the gap between him and a guy like Marc Gasol is getting smaller.... not wider.
i'd like to agree on the first part, but the issue is finding the player that's actually worth the max slot. usually, they're drafted very high (luck is too big a factor there for my taste, too) and retained by their team for at least 7 years before anyone gets a crack at them. i mean, kevin love is the "star" most likely to change teams in FA next, and he'll command max as well. would you rather have him than dwight?
I've always been less of a believer in one player making a huge difference on defense. Defense is a team concept not one player "anchoring" the paint.... that is a fallacy we watched play out right in front of our eyes this year. So I'm not as sold on Dwight as the huge defensive difference maker that the media views him as either. Defense begins at the point of attack and not at the last line of defense. It's a team concept that takes time and willing participants to make a good defense. 4 good defenders can cover for the one who isn't good.... 1 cannot cover for 4 that aren't.
i disagree. i think once howard started to look like himself again, we saw the impact he can have (he won a few games with defensive stands). compare that to what we saw at times last year, when teams simply went right at pau in crunch time. teams tried to get out of the paint against dwight. that's good news. you're right that the problem is that the rest of the team was all so terrible that no amount of individual greatness could cover it up. that could change if dwight stayed.
Losing Dwight (if we do) will mean that we bring the Kobe era to an end barring a miracle of some sort..... and that is unfortunate, but we needed a miracle to get Kobe #6 even with Dwight here as well.
i think it also means a much longer rebuild than you're suggesting. i mean, houston's supposed to be a great FA destination because they have cap space and harden. the lakers could have cap space and howard. cap space and nothing makes you the bobcats.
as far as not going anywhere with him...i don't know. the lakers had the second best record in the west, post all-star break, right? they weren't as bad as they looked in the playoffs; that's just the most recent memory. imo, they could be quite competitive next year with some minor tweaks, and very
competitive the following year, once they'd purged some contractual dead weight.