If you’ve watched the NBA for the past decade you know that it’s a Guard’s league now. The scoring prowess of players like Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter forever shifted the game of basketball in a new direction. This greatly opposes times of old when players like Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley or Karl Malone used their physical stature to beat you down and really wear you down throughout the game.
Today’s NBA may feature guard play more because of how fast and strong these Guards have become ( just take a look at the build of a guy like Russell Westbrook if you need evidence), but I attribute it more to a lack of talent at the Center position. If you scour around the entire NBA you’d have a tough time naming me three centers that are truly dominant at their position, but you should have no problem naming me one. Since coming into the league out of high school in 2004, Dwight Howard has been the incarnation of the Center position of old; being tough, physical and a giant of a man. In his career he has never averaged below ten rebounds per game for a season, even his rookie campaign, and this season he is averaging a whopping 14.9 RPG.
Although Howard’s stats tell a lot about his impact on the game, his true value is the effect he has just being on the court. Known as the league’s best shot blocker, Howard changes the mindset of his opponents with his style of play, whether it be through a vicious dunk, a huge rebound or even a good hard foul, you always know Dwight is controlling the paint. Because of his size (6-11, 265 Lbs) and incredible fitness D12 is not only stronger than other Centers, but he is much quicker and skilled than the rest of his counterparts. His value is seemingly endless and since the Center position is so drained of talent this only adds to Howard’s value. The disparity between Howard and a mediocre Center is enormous, while the difference between an elite guard like Dwyane Wade and a pretty good guard like Brandon Jennings is not nearly as vast. If Howard ever decided to get truly aggressive on the offensive end, teams better watch out because he’s capable of being a 30-point & 20-rebound type of guy every single night. There is simply nobody in the league today who can stop him.
The knock I have on Howard is his inability to take over offensively (the majority of the time) as well as his willingness to defer to his teammates that are, quite frankly, not as talented as he is (Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson come to mind). These are areas he can improve on by being more selfish.
Since Howard has requested a trade from Orlando I would make him my focus if I were a General Manager of any NBA team. Howard is a generational talent that instantly turns a bad defense into a solid one, and a good defense into a great one. There are few players worth gutting your roster to get, but I believe by the end of his career we may talk about Howard as the most dominant Center of all-time, as his potential is limitless. Rumors have Dwight going to New Jersey, but that trade seems hedged on the fact that Brook Lopez can stay healthy and show that he can contribute (Lopez did look good the last few games until he suffered another injury, this time to his ankle), something that is not so clear-cut right now. Regardless, the Nets should prioritize getting Howard now because if they wait until the off-season, “Dwight Mania” will simply take over and the Nets may not be able to match offers of teams that are just as desperate for a superstar.
What separates Howard from other attractive free agents is his ability to impose his will on a game as well as the toughness that he implements into the team mentality. Even when he struggles to score, he never takes a night off on the glass or on the defensive end of the floor; his effort level is incredible. The only other player that I see in the NBA that even comes close to matching Howard in terms of physicality and defensive strength is Tyson Chandler, and even as a Dallas Mavericks Fan (Thank You Tyson for that Championship), I know that Howard is a far superior player. Also, not to be underrated is Howard’s ability to stay relatively injury free, which adds to his value, and for a man of his size is something to be marveled at, especially when you see potential big man stars like Greg Oden and Brook Lopez struggling just to stay on the court much less be productive players for their teams.
Quite frankly, Dwight Howard is the most important free agent to become available since Shaquille O’Neal (Ironic?) and teams better offer him everything short of team ownership to get him to sign. If you look at the impact Tyson Chandler had on the Mavericks team that won the Championship last season, one can only imagine the effect Howard would have had in the same scenario; it would have been scary. A contender wrapping up Dwight Howard this off-season could result in that team winning multiple Championships in my opinion, considering he’s only 26 years-old ( just beginning to hit his prime), is starting to learn how to be dominant at both ends of the floor and is hungry for a championship(s).
Although the Nets seem to have the edge in adding the big man, don’t be surprised if suitors start showing up out of everywhere because as I said, Howard can win a good team a Championship since he will make that team great defensively, and that’s where Championships are won and lost. Dwight Howard is a special player and in the coming years he will change the scope of the NBA power structure with his new team, whatever team that may be…
Where Do You See Howard Ending Up? Is He The League’s Top Center? Let Me Hear Your Thoughts!