Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images
For the consensus best player at his position, Dwight Howard sure hears a ton of criticism, not all of it unwarranted. He doesn’t take the game seriously enough. He needlessly blocks shots out-of-bounds instead of tipping them to teammates. He can’t make free throws and is thus a liability to his team in fourth quarters. His lack of back-to-basket moves limits him offensively.
I aim to address that last criticism of Howard’s, which has become a talking point for fans, analysts, and journalists throughout Howard’s eight-year career. Howard is by no means the game’s most polished back-to-basket center, but he’s not the glorified Tyson Chandler some folks make him out to be either.
To call Howard’s post game “clunky” is to be charitable to the six-time All-Star. Though he possesses excellent speed and quickness for a man his size, Howard is nothing if not deliberate on the block as he reads defenses.
A few years ago, Howard only had a jump hook in his arsenal; he’d pound his way to the goal, elevate, and toss the ball near the rim. He could do this move with either hand on either block, but it was his only weapon. A savvy defender could exploit his lack of versatility, as well as his famously top-heavy frame, by lowering his center of gravity to leverage Howard further from the basket, giving help defenders more time to dig down for a steal and making Howard’s eventual shot attempt a lower-percentage proposition.
Howard is still methodical, and even boring, when he operates in the post. What’s changed is the variety of moves at his disposal. Howard’s learned to counter the leveraging maneuver with quick spins to the baseline. He has a drop step that he can use on either block to shed defenders. He’s added a rolling hook, albeit one that’s much more effective going left-to-right with his right hand, as well. Regardless of the move he uses to set up his shots near the rim, he’s able to arc his shot more consistently in the past with fewer line-drive misfires.
Put simply, Dwight Howard is not utterly hopeless in the post as some folks in and around the game might have you believe. He’s neither refined nor spectacular in this part of his game, but he’s effective.
Evan Dunlap is the founder and managing editor of Orlando Pinstriped Post.