Don’t believe the hype. Dwight Howard is a loser and a chronic discontent.
Wherever he’s played, Howard has moped and moaned about not being the focus of the team’s offense. He wants the ball on or near the right box and the freedom, nay, the encouragement, to shoot and keep shooting.
Howard wants to be, needs to be, The Man.
The problem with this arrangement is that Howard’s moves down there are still crude and robotic. The best scoring tool he has to drive into the middle and shoot a lefty baby-hook.
Unless, of course, his defender snoozes and lets Howard go baseline for a dunk.
Passing? That’s strictly what his teammates do to get him the ball. When he does decide to pass, it’s usually turnover city. That’s why Howard has slightly more than twice as many lifetime turnovers (2,665) than assists (1,322).
Really, Howard’s game has not improved over the course of his 12 seasons in the league.
Yes, he’s a high-volume rebounder, but most of his grabs are freebies, captured when the opponents are hustling downcourt to defend against fastbreaks, or on missed free throws. Take note of precisely how many rebounds Howard comes down with in heavy traffic.
His defense is likewise overrated. Opponents who can turn-face and either go or shoot, routinely use and abuse Howard.
Moreover, he’s so eager to block shots that good teams can maneuver the ball and the man he’s playing so that Howard can be sucked out of position. Also, give him a convincing ball-fake and Howard’s in what Bill Fitch used to call the popcorn machine.
There’s also Howard’s penchant for committing dumb fouls, a habit that usually has him in perpetual foul trouble.
Speaking of fouls, Howard’s embarrassing performances at the stripe means that the Hawks will have to sit him in too many clutch late-game situations.
Moreover, even though he’s a 6-foot-11, 270-pound specimen, Howard is correctly considered to be soft by most of his opponents.
No wonder the Hawks will be Howard’s fourth team in the last six years.
So, then, how can Atlanta maximize what Howard brings to the table?
— Have him set sturdy picks, then roll hoopwards.
— Don’t let him dribble into a crowd, or make anything but elementary risk-free passes.
— Let him get his points off the offensive glass and on dunks after catching lob passes.
— Convince him there’s more to playing good defense than blocking shots.
— Drill him in how to recognize and perform timely defensive rotations.
— Dump the ball into him on the right block perhaps one time every quarter. Even if he’s four-for-four down there, don’t press your luck.
However, in the highly improbable case that Howard somehow learns how to play winning basketball, he just might be worth the three-year $70.5M contract that he’s about to sign.
The most predictable outcome, though, is that after a few weeks of giving a moderate imitation of being a team player, Howard will—slowly but surely—revert to the pouting, selfish behavior that has characterized his entire career.
GRADE = D+