Dwight Howard is unquestionably the best and most dominant big man in the league. His combination of athleticism as well as his defensive instincts are second to none in the NBA. In addition, he combines his with raw strength and quickness to take advantage of opposing big men down on the block.

Many will cite his lack of an aesthetic post game as a weakness; but do not be fooled, he gets his points and there isn’t much that opponents can do to stop him on this front.  His biggest weaknesses as a basketball player come in his inability to consistently make free throws and to hit open shooters in stride out of double teams.

But as far as the rest of his game is concerned however, he is unstoppable.

And yet, no one takes the Magic center seriously.

Some will point to the amount of times he smiles on the court as well as his goofy interviews as proof that he cannot be the baddest center alive; but those traits of his aren’t that problematic in truth. The real issue more so than anything is that far too often Howard just seems content on the basketball court.

Indeed, it can be frustrating to watch the Orlando Magic play.

Dwight Howard has the uncanny ability to jump out on the ball handler in the screen-and-roll action on defense, and then get back to his man and thwart any attempts after the fact at the rim.  It’s a thing of beauty really. But then after helping his team get multiple stops on defense; Howard might run back on offense and not touch the ball for four straight trips.

There is no reason whatsoever for the best big man in the game to not be involved in every offensive possession of his team when he is on the court. But the center certainly seems fine with it. For his career, Howard is only averaging a mere 11 field goal attempts (last season he attempted a career high 13.4 field goals per game). Read that last line again.

And ultimately, it does lead some to wonder if Howard is just happy playing basketball or whether he actually wants to go out there and dominate opponents on his way to titles.

Even the list of teams that the reigning Defensive Player of the Year submitted as places where he would sign an extension if traded did not seem to signal an appetite for championship parades.

And thus, when it’s time for votes to be sent in for the MVP award, Howard is always in the discussion but never truly in the discussion. He gets some consideration but no one actually sees him winning the Maurice Podoloff trophy.

On that front, rarely is he looked at for what he is; instead we always project and hope he will fulfill his potential and become the meanest and toughest player in the league.

The best illustration of this is Derrick Rose: much like Howard, Rose is far from a finished product; but last season, the Bulls’ superstar made it clear that he could win the MVP trophy and signaled to all that not only did he expect to become a champion; but he expected to win multiple titles. In addition, just recently Rose reiterated the point that he would not recruit players; preferring instead to welcome players with open arms if they joined the Bulls, but otherwise destroying them should they get into his path.

This is the kind of attitude that most expect Howard to exhibit. Mind you, it’s not in his make up, but fans still want to see him devote himself to the complete and utter destruction of his opponents.

Instead we are treated to a player that seems far more enamored with winning the DPOY, displaying his dance skills during All-Star weekend and being the center of attention.

And ultimately, that’s why the Chris Paul trade talks generated far more buzz than Dwight Howard’s. And that in itself is a travesty. CP3 is the best point guard in the league, but the NBA is currently stacked with terrific point guards; have a look at the list:

  • Chauncey Billups
  • Chris Paul
  • Deron Williams
  • Derrick Rose
  • John Wall
  • Stephen Curry
  • Steve Nash
  • Tony Parker
  • Rajon Rondo
  • Russell Westbrook

The above list of point guards have been selected to a combined 26 NBA All-Stars games.

On the other hand, Dwight Howard is the headliner when it comes to the center position. There is literally him, and then it’s the rest of the league; have a look at the list of best centers in the NBA:

  • Al Horford
  • Al Jefferson
  • Andrew Bynum
  • Brook Lopez
  • Chris Kaman
  • Dwight Howard
  • Joakim Noah
  • Marc Gasol
  • Nene
  • Tyson Chandler

Those are the best big men in the league right now. Read the list again. The centers on this list have appeared in eight NBA All-Star games (yes, eight!), with Howard by himself getting selected five times. The remaining three come courtesy of Al Horford (two selections) and Chris Kaman (one selection).

In the case of the guards, an argument could be made that Rose or Williams are better players than Paul, but in the case of Howard, there is no one that can compete with him for the title of best center alive. And yet, when both Paul and Howard were on the block, all of the talks gravitated around the former Demon Deacon’s new potential address.

Dwight Howard is at a crossroads at this point in his career. He needs to decide if he is content with his current set of accomplishments or if he wants to be considered as one of the best big men to have ever played the game.

Until he decides the latter, no one will ever take him seriously.

Not even the Orlando Magic.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at [email protected].

About The Author

J.M. Poulard is the Warriors World editor. He is also a contributor to ESPN TrueHoop sites Forum Blue and Gold (Los Angeles Lakers), Piston Powered (Detroit Pistons) and Raptors Republic (Toronto Raptors). He has a particular fondness for watching Eastern Conference ball games and enjoys the history of the sport. Feel free to reach out to him on Twitter (@ShyneIV).

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2 Responses

  1. Flint

    Bill Russell won more championships than anyone else and he was a defense first guy with interesting, but not overwhelming offensive skills. Dwight has the same problem in Orlando that LeBron had in Cleveland, namely that his team’s owner/GM/Front office have failed to put good enough players around him. Look at D Wade in Miami– after being in the league a couple of years on a bad team, they manage to swing a trade that brings Shaq… and they win an NBA championship. Shaq gets older, moves on, they have a few mediocre seasons and, bam, they manage to get two more big stars to join the team. D Wade, Kobe, Dirk– they’ve had significant players added to put them over the top. Howard never has.

  2. World B. Free

    I’d be willing to suggest that maybe Van Gundy is the reason Dwight doesn’t get that many touches on offense. I mean, it was rumored that he has some conflict with the way he coaches. Idk, just a suggestion…

    But if we’re talking about his value as a center, it’s clearly at the top. He may not be the most aggressive ever or whatever flaws you want to attibute, but he’s better than what’s out there, really. Big men with any talent are at a all-time premium. Shoot, if you can pay Kwame Brown $7M for one year, then Dwight Howard is definitely worth an ever greater hail mary, simply because of the scarcity of bigs.