Debunking Dwight Howard’s crunch-time prowess | Magic Basketball



Apr 08

Debunking Dwight Howard’s crunch-time prowess

Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images


Jason J (NYC): How do you respond to the contention that a player like Dwight, whose inability to shoot free throws limits his effectiveness as scoring option late in close games and throws his whole team offense out of whack, has too big a whole in his skill set to be MVP? I’m not sure I buy that argument, but I’d like your take.

John Hollinger: Two reasons. First, I don’t understand why everyone assumes their team is the one with the ball in these situations. When the other team has it, you’d take Dwight over every other player in the league except possibly Tony Allen.

Second, I don’t think people understand that getting to the line — almost regardless of how bad a foul shooter somebody is — is a hugely positive play. Howard shoots 59; that’s an expected return of 1.18 points even if he never gets an and-one and none of his misses are ever rebounded. Nobody in the league gets 1.18 points per possessions on anything, with the exception of a couple recent Suns teams on 3-pointers.

People focus on the fact that he shoots worse than most other players, and that’s true. But he doesn’t shoot 0; he shoots 59. This is the same argument I’d get into all the time when Shaq was in his prime. Bad foul shooting doesn’t equal a bad outcome unless you’re in Andris Biedrins territory.

Blake (Chicago): I think the issue with Dwight’s foul shooting at the end of games has less to do with points per possession, and more to do with the way it changes his game — he’s scared to get fouled and is therefore less aggressive, resulting in him just passing to a team mate and not getting fouled at all.

John Hollinger: I agree that Howard is less offensively aggressive at the end of games. The funny thing is he’s shot really well in clutch situations this year, both on FGs and FTs; he just hasn’t shot that often. By the way, Howard leads the NBA in rebound rate in late/close, according to

As is the case in general, things like rebounding and defending the basketball get overlooked for scoring. And when it comes to crunch-time scenarios, Dwight Howard‘s numbers don’t compare favorably to players like LeBron James and Derrick Rose.

But let’s consider this — Howard improves his free-throw percentage to 64 percent in the fourth quarter. Granted, that’s not great but it’s an improvement nonetheless from his percentage overall, which hovers around 59 percent.

Likewise, it doesn’t take too long to notice that Rose is second in scoring per 48 minutes of clutch time according to 82games. It takes a minute to scroll down and find Howard on the list. However, per 48 minutes, Rose accumulates 37.0 field goal attempts per game with an effective field goal percentage of 40.7 percent in the clutch. That’s nearly a shot every minute. As for Howard, in the same category, he puts up 10.1 field goal attempts per game with an effective field goal percentage of 70.1 percent. That’s a staggering difference, especially when noting that Howard is off-the-charts efficient. Granted, with more shots, Howard’s percentages would likely drop but he’d still be a much more efficient option than players like Rose because of the type of looks he’d get.

Part of the discrepancy can be explained by Howard’s lack of aggressiveness late in games, but its also worth mentioning that — at times — his teammates fail to get him the basketball and head coach Stan Van Gundy neglects to call plays for him.

A problem that needs to be rectified.


Are you sure he has a "whole" in his skill set, or a hole?


You mention Shaq's FT shooting in his prime, but didn't many teams consider that to their advantage late in games? And as if to drive the point home, during one of their championship seasons, didn't the Bulls run a strategy called 'Hack-a-Shaq', where the goal was to put him at the line as often as possible, knowing that him going 1-and-1, and the Bulls getting the ball back was an advantage for them?

I find it a little weird that you look at the situation almost as a benefit for the Magic, when in reality, in a close game only getting one point in a crucial possession is actually not good. How many close games could have been won by the Magic had Dwight been a better free throw shooter? Not just for those extra points, but also the ability to use him late in games allows the other shooters better opportunities.

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

Your other perspective is off. First of all, it's not just a single point. Averaging it out with Dwight's percentages, as Hollinger showed, it's more like 1.2 points. Which is actually good offense. Did you ever think about the fact that having an opposing team basically relinquish at least one point to you on offense is a major advantage? I mean, the alternative is to run your offense in a crunch-time situation and run the risk of coming away with zero points.

Also, again, ALL OF THIS COMPLETELY IGNORES HIS DEFENSE. No coach would want anyone else playing defense late in games over Dwight. Why can't people understand this?