2009-2010 Player Evaluation: Dwight Howard | Magic Basketball



Jun 11

2009-2010 Player Evaluation: Dwight Howard


Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Synergy-fueled player evaluations, with the help of other metrics, are always fun.

Today, the centers.

2009-2010 regular season Dwight Howard
Games Played 82
Minutes Played 34.7
adj. +/- +24.97
net +/- +10.2
statistical +/- +7.21
PER 24.0
WARP 19.2
Win Shares/48 .223

For Dwight Howard, it’s been an everyday struggle for him to show people that he’s more than a sculpted Greek god that blocks shots, dunks, and rebounds. And it doesn’t matter that Howard was the Defensive Player of the Year, or that he was an All-Star starter, or that he was named All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team, or that he was a candidate for MVP. What matters, more than anything else, is that Howard’s game offensively, which has been in development since his rookie year, is finally reaching the stage of maturation.

Everyone knows what Howard can do on defense, but it seems like there is a continued and absurd misperception on what he is capable of on offense. The fact of the matter is this — ever since Howard entered the league straight out of high school in 2004, his post-up game has improved incrementally every single year. People are quick to criticize Howard for engaging in extracurricular activities last summer after making his first trip to the NBA Finals, but they don’t realize that he took two trainers with him wherever he went. Despite the busy schedule, Howard was working on his game every chance he got during the off-season.

Yes, Howard started the year a little sluggish, culminating in a poor performance against the Portland Trail Blazers in mid-January that seemed to take his frustration over the edge. But after that poor outing, Howard’s game went to another level and in the process of doing so, he began to show everyone his growth on offense. Ultimately, all that hard work offensively was put to the test in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics and specifically, Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace. For years, Perkins and Wallace have been able to slow down or even stop the big fella on offense but this time around, they were helpless as Howard dominated against both of them for a majority of the series. If this was a test to see if Howard had really progressed this year on offense, he passed it with flying colors.

The greatest part, for Magic fans, is that Howard isn’t satisfied. Howard wants more, which is why he’s — right now — in Houston preparing to work with Hakeem Olajuwon on his post game.

Via Synergy Sports Technology:

2009-2010 regular season Time Poss. PPP* Rank Rating
OVERALL OFFENSE 100% 1469 1.02 85% Excellent
Post-Up 60.9% 895 0.91 64% Good
Offensive Rebound (put backs) 14% 206 1.28 84% Excellent
Cut 7.4% 108 1.49 91% Excellent
P&R Roll Man 6.9% 101 1.46 98% Excellent

.630 .612 22.0 8.7 18.7 23.9 113

With Howard’s game on offense, there were a few things he was able to improve on this season. First, Howard improved on his ability to pass out of the post, especially when he was double-teamed and pressured on the low block. The improvement may not totally reflect in the numbers but Howard did, indeed, get better at passing. A lot of times, when Howard posted up, he would get a “hockey assist” after he kicked the basketball out to the perimeter and spur ball movement that eventually landed an open shot for a teammate, sometimes in the corner or at the top of the key. Second, Howard is much more patient in the post. In year’s past, Howard would rush himself when he was engaged on the low block but this year, he’s been able to fix that problem and allow things to slow down for him. It’s something that head coach Stan Van Gundy always seems to mention about Howard … he’s patient and more deliberate with his approach offensively. Some might say he’s predictable and he still is, in a way, but Howard is more methodical in his approach while at the same time going into his moves quicker than before. These are some of the reasons why Howard has been more successful on offense than in the past.

As for pick and rolls, Howard is lethal in them. It’s a shame that the 2/5 pick and roll with Vince Carter didn’t bear more looks for Howard with his cuts to the basket, because that pick and roll tandem was projected to be devastating in their first year together. Sometimes it can’t be understated how much chemistry matters with plays like that. Howard has that chemistry with Jameer Nelson, which is why the 1/5 pick and roll is one of the deadliest plays in the NBA. The best example of the 1/5 pick and roll’s explosiveness occurred during the Eastern Conference Finals, where Nelson and Howard were able to have a field day against the Celtics with the play. More often than not, either Nelson would look for his own shot or he would pass it to Howard for an a dunk.

Needless to say, Howard is already unstoppable in the pick and roll and even though he’s becoming more dominant on the low block, the next step for Howard is to become equally unstoppable with his post game. At the end of the day, Howard and the degree by which he’s dominant offensively is the key to whether or not the Orlando Magic win a championship.

Via Synergy Sports Technology:

2009-2010 regular season Time Poss. PPP* Rank Rating
OVERALL DEFENSE 100% 1100 0.76 94% Excellent
P&R Ball Handler (Big Defender) 39.9% 439 0.78 80% Very Good
Post-Up 19.1% 210 0.71 87% Excellent
Spot-Up 16% 176 0.93 62% Good
Isolation 8.6% 95 1.00 17% Below Average

net def. +/- dMULT opp. PER TRB% STL% BLK%
-3.37 .548 13.4 (vs. C’s) 22.0 1.4 6.0

Howard is the best defender in the league, end of story.

Taking a look at the Four Factors reveals Howard’s impact on defense. The Magic finished the regular season ranked first in opponent effective field goal percentage (47.7 percent), first in defensive rebound percentage (77.4 percent), tied for third in opponent free throws per field goal attempt (.205), and second in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (57.4 percent). Howard is responsible for all these rankings because, aside from leading the NBA in rebounding, he deters opponents from entering the paint, thus forcing them to shoot jumpers from the perimeter, and thus eliminating chances for easy baskets and trips to the free-throw line. Oh, and Howard cleans up the mistakes of his teammates, excels in defending pick and rolls as well as post-ups, and provides great help-side defense. Indeed, this paragraph is edited and updated from Howard’s manifesto. It was relevant then and it’s relevant now.

Closing thoughts
This year, Howard accomplished two feats:

– first ever to lead the NBA in blocked shots and rebounds in the same season twice
– first ever to lead the NBA in blocked shots, rebounds, and field-goal percentage in the same season

What else is there to say?

*points per possession

Grade: A