Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
There once was a man made of brick-and-mortar,
but his role diminished in the 4th quarter.
He will be remembered as an all-time great,
but you’d never guess it from his usage rate.
Today, I stumbled upon a poem I wrote a while ago (yesterday), and it compelled me to explore Dwight Howard’s usage rate in the 4th quarter with the help of StatsCube.
Orlando’s center boasted the NBA’s 19th highest usage rate (possessions used while on floor) during the 2010-2011 regular season, but his rate plummeted in the final period of the game. Some other key statistics indicate Dwight was at his best in the 4th quarter.
Green indicates at least 10% greater than average. Red indicates at least 10% below average.
However, maybe his stats are just a classic case of a reduced usage rate coinciding with more efficient performance? Let’s explore possible explanations for why the MVP candidate’s usage rate decreased in the final frame.
Dwight struggled at the stripe
Dwight averaged 11.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes in the regular season. In the 4th quarter, his attempts rose to 14.0 per 36 minutes, nearly twice his 1st quarter rate of 7.8.
Why did this happen? Either teams deliberately fouled Dwight late or the Magic went to him more often. Dwight’s relatively low usage rate in the 4th quarter suggests he was fouled more often by design.
The most important part of this debate is his free throw percentage in the 4th quarter. Dwight made 59.6% of his free throws during the season. In the 4th, he made 64% of his freebies, his best rate in any quarter. The big man never broke 60% in quarters 1 through 3.
In fairness, his 4th quarter rate was still a shot below those of his teammates: Hedo Turkoglu (70%), Jameer Nelson (74%), Jason Richardson (78%), and Brandon Bass (80%).