Sunday, July 15, 2012

On Dwight Howard, Leverage, and Oversized Egos

Only a self-serving, undeservedly decorated player would pull something like this...

Quick! Name the 5 biggest superstars in the NBA right now. My guess is most people shouted LeBron, Kobe, Kevin Durant, D-Wade, and one out of Dirk, Carmelo, Tim Duncan, Chris Paul or some other max-contract player. Dwight Howard shouldn't be anywhere near the top. There's nothing game-changing, enigmatic, or incredible about him or his game, to me at least. DH12 aka Superman Bizarro has been deemed the best at a position that has three or four other legitimate candidates, which is absurd! One look at Howard's statistics shows how little he contributes exceptionally other than shot-blocking and rebounding. Peep a comparison of these three big mens' stats:


Big Man A: 26.0 PPG - 13.3 RPG - 2.0 APG - 0.9 SPG - 0.5 BPG - 45% FG - 82% FT - 2.3 TO
Big Man B: 20.6 PPG - 14.5 RPG - 1.9 APG - 1.5 SPG - 2.1 BPG - 57% FG - 49% FT - 3.2 TO 

Big Man C: 18.1 PPG - 11.0 RPG - 1.6 APG - 1.5 SPG - 1.2 BPG - 45% FG - 70% FT - 2.7 TO


Big Man C will surprise you, being DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. Big Man A, with his great PPG average and comparable rebounding is my favorite big man, Kevin Love. Big Man B is the underwhelming Dwight Howard. Age is what makes these stats so shocking. Dwight Howard is 26, having played eight seasons, mostly under the tutelage of Stan van Gundy. Love is 23 with four seasons under his belt. DeMarcus Cousins will start his third season next year, at the ripe age of 21. That the stats of the three are comparable is laughable on Howard's part. For someone who dubbed himself Superman, he shows none of the finesse, skill, or poise that the original, Shaquille O'Neal, possessed at his age. Howard's one NBA Finals appearance, mostly a result of great shooting from Hedo Turkoglu, a sad Cavaliers opponent in the East Finals, and a vacuum at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, showed Howard languishing with 15.4 PPG. Your 'franchise center' shouldn't be the third option on the team in big games, and too many times Howard disappears during crunch time.

The reason I bring up Howard's middling performance is for a discussion on leverage. Howard earned his levergage mostly by winning a Slam Dunk contest, which if it was the barometer for NBA success, would have players like Fred Jones, Demond Mason, Harold Miner, and Nate Robinson earning max contracts. His unnecessarily brash chokehold on the Magic franchise is detestable, mainly because the fact that he can't be moved is his own fault. Howard defied normal, traditional, and pragmatic logic by signing a one-year extension to stay in Orlando, after a year of trade rumors, throwing team members under the bus, and inconsistent play. Had he not signed the extension, he would have been a free agent on July 1st, able to sign with whichever team was dumb enough to drop $100 million on him, most likely the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets. Why he didn't just stay pat and wait is beyond me. If anything, he lost leverage because the extension he signed made him less attractive in terms of trade value. No team wants a player that doesn't want to play for them, and is constantly auditioning for their next contract, much less one that can only rebound, block shots, and dunk.

Now, if rebounding, shot-blocking, and the occasional highlight play are considered leverage to Dwight, then what does that say about him? All I can point to is an oversized ego. Howard has yet to improve his game to the 'superstar' level most people peg him at. With Patrick Ewing on his bench for every year of his career, he hasn't developed as much as an inkling of elite footwork, a jump shot, or consistent post-up game. How is it possible that he didn't pick up anything from one of the most skilled big men of all time? Howard is useless outside of the paint area. Add to that his abysmal free throw percentage, and you have a $20 million per year dud. Not once have I seen Bizarro dominate a game offensively. Never has he demanded the ball in the paint. He is just a physical freak, always surrounded by shooters, allowed to roam the paint mindlessly in search of putback dunks and easy buckets inside ten feet of the bucket. Ego is the reason for it. Howard saunters about the court and sidelines like a player who has mastered his craft, which couldn't be further from the truth. Had he any ounce of modesty or humility, Dwight would be embarrassed with how bad of an offensive player he is in lieu of his physical gifts. 

That he's gotten this amount of leverage with such a limited skill set is a miracle. Yet even with all of the leverage Howard has, he most likely won't end up in Brooklyn because of his debilitating salary and the fact that the Magic aren't dumb enough to trade him for peppercorns. One thing that usually comes standard with an oversized ego is a big mouth, which DH12 is known for. If it's not situations like the above infamous press conference with Stan van Gundy, it's his penchant for changing his mind more than a preteen girl with a walk-in closet. It's as if he's trying to make himself hard to deal with. If I'm an NBA general manager, I'd have to ask myself whether his spotty play and toxic attitude are even worth the 20 points, 15 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks he provides. Don't get me wrong... the guy's got otherworldly athleticism and potential (whatever 'potential' means these days). But for all of the trouble, you could find two or three players that do all that with fewer headaches. For all Dwight brings to the table, haven't his weaknesses, ego, and push for leverage taken that much more off the table? It's like having a delicious steak dinner, but no table, plates or silverware to eat it with. Howard is, quite honestly, the NBA's most flawed player. He needs a serious reality check, and a new nickname to clear his name in my book.

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