The Forgotten Man: Dwight Howard
A few weeks ago, I argued that Dwight Howard should be getting more love in the MVP debate given his immense contributions on both sides of the court for the Orlando Magic. He is one of the few great centers the NBA has to offer given his scoring, rebounding and great interior defense. In short, Howard is a huge difference maker.
Although D12’s movements lack fluidity, he is still a mammoth of a man that most players do not dare challenge at the rim; and he is also problematic on offense for just about every team in the league. His numbers speak for themselves:
To be fair, these numbers are impressive but do not tell the whole story. Let’s have a look at how they translate with the rest of the league:
|Points per game||23.2||10|
|Rebounding per game||14.2||2|
|Shots blocked per game||2.4||4|
|Steals per game||1.3||22|
|Field Goal %||.597||2|
Dwight Howard shows up in the top 25 of almost every major NBA statistic. If we disregard steals per game, he is in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage. And yet, there is more information to track Howard’s dominance. If we look at advanced stats, here is what we find:
Howard has the second highest PER in the league as well as the best defensive rating of any player in the NBA (yes, better than Garnett), which allows him to have the fourth highest win shares total in the association. In addition, the Magic center is doing this with the 34th highest usage rate in the NBA. To put that into perspective, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and LeBron James (also known as the guys leading the MVP discussions) are respectively first, second and fourth in usage rate. In other words, Dwight Howard is doing all of this despite having far less possessions end up in his hands than his counterparts.
But why is Howard always the forgotten man?
I was determined to have this question answered when I traveled to Toronto to watch the Orlando Magic take on the Toronto Raptors.
The star center played in typical fashion, scoring on the interior, drawing fouls, dunking the ball, changing shots at the rim for his opponents and defending the paint. His final tally:
31 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block and 11-for-21 field goal shooting.
An impressive line, especially for a big man in this day and age of the NBA. But there was one problem: it never felt like he was having a big game.
Dwight Howard looked like he had a decent game, but the box score clearly indicates that he had a great one despite the rebounding and shot blocking numbers being a little less than expected.
No matter how much I tried to lock in on everything D12 was doing, my eyes always ended up gravitating back to Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkogu, Jerryd Bayless and DeMar DeRozan. No MVP candidate should be overshadowed on a basketball court by the names listed above.
But the truth is that Dwight Howard’s play often goes unnoticed unless he makes a spectacular play like a huge dunk or an amazing swat into the front row. Hook shots from your starting center are great way to get points if mixed in with a variety of other moves; and Howard did just that.
Mind you, he gets so many easy looks at the basket that his teammates create for him; and couple that with all the free throws he attempts and well, it’s easy to lose sight of him even when he’s on the court. Now imagine having to put him in the same conversation with players such as Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant; he gets mentioned but more so in a consolation prize kind of way.
Dwight Howard is a terrific center that has helped the Orlando Magic amass a solid 48-29 record, but the truth is that save for a few spectacular plays per game, it’s easy to lose track of everything he accomplishes in games to help his steam stay afloat. Is it fair? Obviously not.
But as with any award decided by the media, it helps to get noticed. Think about this for a moment: if Blake Griffin changed places with Dwight Howard and the Magic had the exact same 48-29 record, we would be talking about a two-man MVP race as opposed to just Derrick Rose leading the pack by a wide margin.
Just some food for thought.