Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Giving Dwight Howard His Due

As award ballots come in all across the league, one player is conspicuously absent in the MVP balloting: that's the 28-year old center who has been to 8 straight All-Star games and is the best player on one of the best teams in the NBA. This might be news to people, but Dwight Howard is really good at basketball and he's lot more valuable than most of the guys getting MVP votes ahead of him.

It's not rocket science. Last year, the Houston Rockets won 45 games. This year, they won 54. Last year, the LA Lakers won 45 games. This year, they won 26. What was the common denominator for both teams? Of course, the Rockets did other things besides signing Dwight and other things happened to the Lakers besides losing him, but c'mon. It's pretty obvious what happened.

When you have a center who averages 18 points and 12 rebounds a game on 59% shooting AND is one of the best defensive players in the NBA - he really helps your team. Dwight's presence, in and of itself, means a team is going to have a good defense and a good offense. The Rockets had the 13th rated D in the NBA this season - and there aren't a lot of stoppers in front of Dwight. 

Omer Asik is one of the best defensive centers in the NBA, and Dwight was able to not only replace him and improve the team on defense but also add a whole other dimension to their offense. He gets a lot of flack for not being max efficient when playing with his back to the basket, but there isn't a center in the NBA who scores as many points and does it as efficiently as Dwight.

Dwight Howard makes every team he is on better. That's why he hasn't missed the playoffs since the age of 21, despite not playing with a lot of high-level talent around him. He does so many different things on a basketball court that you don't need to have a great supporting cast around him in order to be successful. No one else is bringing a team with Hedo Turkoglu as their 2nd best player to the NBA Finals.

If you want to understand his value, compare Dwight's offense to Kevin Love's defense. Basketball is played on both ends of the floor and there's two players who offer more two-way value than Dwight Howard. I'm sure there are people who would argue Love is more valuable than Dwight, but it's just not possible. Dwight is great at offense AND defense - that's what has been forgotten.

He's lost in the first round the last three seasons, but who was he playing with, exactly? The second leading scorer on Orlando in 2011 was Jason Richardson, at 13 points per game. He was injured in 2012 and Kobe Bryant was injured in 2013. The team in Houston, with James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones, is the most talented team he's ever been on. 

That's why the Rockets are a legitimate threat in the Western Conference, despite not getting nearly the publicity of teams like the Clippers, the Warriors and the Blazers, all of whom apparently have guys more valuable than Dwight Howard on them. Hate him or love him he's the best center in the NBA and he's going to remind everyone of that in this year's playoffs.

No comments:

Post a Comment