His numbers are routinely impressive, but just how good is Dwight Howard? Will he ever vie with Yao Ming to be Shaq's successor? Is he a legitimate monster in the middle, or is he just the latest over-hyped hero with stone hands and clay feet? Or does the young man fit somewhere between these two extremes?
Hey, a double-double!
Hey, big deal.
Dwight Howard can dunk, but can he do anything else offensively? (Fernando Medina / Getty Images)
Three of Howard's baskets resulted from offensive rebounds (one of which bounced straight into his hands). Two came when his defender, Ben Wallace, stepped up to help on ball-penetration, whereupon Howard slipped to the basket, received a lob pass, and showed off his dunking technique.
Not to say that there's anything wrong or shameful about scoring ten garbage points. In fact, a big man who can consistently register double-digits without having the offense aimed at him is an extremely valuable asset to any ball club.
The trouble was that Howard only tallied a single hoop on a legitimate low-post move. On his initial touch, he received the ball on the left box, dribbled once with his right hand into the middle of the lane, then executed a rather slow and mechanical drop-step that turned him toward the baseline, and banked home a point-blank floater.
Howard tried this same move three times more with the following results: Two of his shots were blocked, and he committed a charge.
Every other attempt to score in the paint was a straight power-move that pointed either his left-hand or his right-hand to the basket. Nothing fancy. Nary a spin nor duck-under. No jumpers or jump hooks either. Nada. No shake and certainly no bake.
In other words, Howard's drop-steps represented his only change-of-direction weapons in the pivot. Coupled with his straight-arrow moves, his offensive repertoire was therefore extremely limited and extremely predictable. The effectiveness of this meager arsenal is maximized against finesse-only centers, and against teams that haven't done their homework. And is mostly ineffective against experienced centers who aren't afraid to bang, and against the league's best defensive ball clubs.
Not only that, but Howard fell victim to Wallace's rugged defense even before he got to touch the ball. Time and again, Wallace pushed and/or bumped Howard off of the prime real estate on, or near, each box. Sad to say, Howard offered little resistance and simply allowed himself to be bullied — especially when Big Ben fronted or three-quartered him. Even P.J. Brown managed to ride Howard off his spot.
Worse, when an incoming pass wasn't exactly on the mark, Howard refused to abandon whatever foot-hold he had managed to gain, and never moved to meet the pass. As a result, several slightly-off passes (due in large part to the Bulls' aggressive on-the-ball defense) were deflected, stolen, or sailed beyond Howard's reach.
So, then, Howard doesn't know how to seal his defender, properly secure entry passes, and show any degree of creativity in the low-post. To say nothing of his inability to make accurate passes when he's doubled (a tactic to which the Bulls rarely resorted).
About half of Howard's screens were much too casual, while half accurately nailed the unfortunate screenees. Actually, this is a fairly good percentage of hits for a big man who gets so many touches.
Yes, he's also an outstanding rebounder. But he's definitely not in the same category of a Paul Silas or a Moses Malone, i.e., guys who go after every missed shot like they're paupers and the ball is made of gold. On the contrary, Howard never fought a box-out and only went to the glass when nobody was in his way.
Which is all fine and dandy. And useful, too. But superstars are not made of such stuff.
On offense, Howard is a bulked-up, super-talented version of the likes of Nazr Mohammed, Adonal Foyle, and Francisco Elson. He's strong enough and athletic enough to consistently put up admirable numbers. But he's not anywhere near being the kind of player around which a winning offense can be built.
What about Howard's defense?
Ben Wallace has never been accused of being a good post-up player, but on the one occasion when he settled into the pivot and attacked Howard, here's what happened: Howard made no effort to put his body on Wallace. Instead he resorted to swiping at Wallace's dribble. But this repeated reaching eventually compromised Howard's balance, and Wallace made an awkward spin and scored an awkward layup.
Whenever Wallace was stationed at the high-post, Howard understandably gave Big Ben plenty of room. Late in the first quarter, however, Wallace caught the ball at the right elbow, dribbled aimlessly in place for two beats, then picked the ball up and looked to make a pass. That's when Howard should have closed the gap and pressured Wallace, but he chose to remain two strides away.
As the first quarter was winding down, Wallace had the ball at the high-post once more. This time Wallace faked a handoff to Kirk Hinrich and, when Howard took the bait, Big Ben simply waltzed to the hoop and scored an uncontested layup.
For sure, Howard's two blocked shots prevented easy scores, but for the most part he trailed plays instead of anticipating them. And because he needed to gather himself before taking off, he was a mite slow getting to the top of his jump.
As for his atrocious free-throw shooting. Ugh! There was a different wrist-action every time he shot. Sometimes it was too snappish. Sometimes it was too limp. Sometimes his hand twisted to the right. Sometimes his arm didn't fully extend and the shot was more of a fling.
Like Shaq, Howard would be better off shooting underhand. (Sometimes Rick Barry is right on!) But like Shaq, Howard thinks that only sissies shoot free throws that way. As The Preacher said, "Pride goeth before the fall."
So, then, what to make of Dwight Howard?
He's a young 21-year-old who has all the tools to be a bona fide franchise player, but who has only a minimal understanding of how to utilize his tools. What else does he lack? The all-out intensity of a true champion.
The probability is that some sweet day, Howard will eventually refine and master his awesome talents. Yet the record books are littered with dozens of hugely talented players who never evolved beyond spectacular mediocrity.
Dwight Howard has come a long way since he left Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. And he still has along way to go.
He's a great rebounder, and its obvious he's a great dunker. Post moves i think still need some work, and i think he relies on his freakish athleticism way too much.
But he will develop a much better offensive game, in the next few seasons. From when he first came until now, he has developed quiet a bit. But i think his growth is going a little slow, i think you can blame Brian Hill for this.
Someone like Kareem, would be a great mentor for Dwight. Just like he was to Bynum.
Youth is always a major factor to consistency, and the young howard i think will develop a MUCH MORE consistent game as seasons go on.
If Dwight was more aggressive, i think would also improve his game. As said in the article, he does get push around inside.
As for his defense?
I think he's got a one of the best defensive games in the league. Whether its blocking a shot, switching on screens or playing straight up man to man. I think its all very good, but as always there is room for improvement.
As for now, I think Dwights first priority is his Offensive game. Im talking about, free-throws, low post and a jumpshot.