Some big men are versatile, some aren’t. Dwight Howard, even when injured, is one of the better athletes in the NBA and still a menacing defensive presence Despite the lack of post moves or anything resembling a jumper, one of the biggest gambles the Los Angeles Lakers have made is still the best center in the league.
When he’s carrying a shoulder injury and a back injury he probably came back from a bit too early, Howard is still averaging 16.7 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. That is even before we mentioned his problems in a Lakers offense that is about giving the ball to Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Howard is only the third option, and on some games this season, especially during the Lakers’ most recent losing streak, Howard was the last one to touch the ball.
Yes, there are plenty of NBA big men, like Brook Lopez and Al Jefferson, who look much better with the ball than Howard does when he posts up to the basket. Howard has relied all these years on his athleticism and strength to get points off dunks, lobs and put backs, averaging 3.6 offensive rebounds per game, usually ranked in the league’s top 10 when it comes to offensive rebounds percentage, hovering around the 11-12% mark.
Defense is what Howard is extremely good at, winning three consecutive Defensive player of the year awards. Howard’s offensive positioning and timing isn’t the most beautiful thing to watch, but his ability to single handedly change a team’s offensive possession time after time is something few have been able to do in the NBA in recent years. When he’s healthy and he’s getting enough minimal help from the players on the perimeter, he is that good. Howard is averaging 2.5 blocks per game this season as well. He hasn’t been able to turn the Lakers into a defensive juggernaut, but on a team with so many problems, he simply is the easiest player to point the finger at.
Howard will never be Olajuwon or David Robinson or Shaquille O’Neal. Even if he does add more and more to his game each offseason, he’ll never be a smooth big man in the post. He’s a player that offensively will always rely on his physicality and athleticism, as long as they remain superior to others in his position, to get by on offense. On defense, he’s much smarter and intelligent in his choices than usually given credit for. He might not be the kind of future the Los Angeles Lakers are hoping for, but right now, when completely healthy, there’s no other center an NBA team would like to have.