Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
I think there's a temptation, when assessing Dwight Howard's season, to grade him negatively due to the off-court drama he caused. It started with his since-rescinded demand for a trade in training camp and didn't cease until he waived his Early Termination Option on the day of the trading deadline, and even then more drama ensued when coach Stan Van Gundy revealed he knew Howard had asked for him to be fired.
Howard's off-court activity overshadows the work he did on the floor during the lockout-shortened campaign, which is saying something, as Howard once again put together an All-Star season. For the third time in four years, he was the only NBAer to average 20 points, 10 boards, and two blocks per game. By any measure, he was tremendous.
|Points Per Game||Rebounds Per Game||Blocks Per Game|
|Points Per 36||Rebounds Per 36||Blocks Per 36|
|PER||Rebound Rate||Block Rate|
All statistics in this table from Howard's player page at basketball-reference. Career-best statistics highlighted in gold; career-worst statistics highlighted in silver.
But also, by almost any measure, Howard's had better seasons. His 49.1 free-throw percentage is the worst of his career. His block rate slipped from six to 4.4--more than 25 percent. He looked especially out-of-it defensively--imagine his usual slow start with help and rotations every year, only extended throughout its duration--and lost his Defensive Player of the Year crown to a much more deserving Tyson Chandler.
Then again, Howard posted career-bests in assist rate (9.8) and steal rate (2.1) while cutting his turnover rate to 15.1, the second-best such figure of his career. He's more sure-handed, and sure-footed, at that end of the floor, but his atrocious free-throw percentage made him a bit of a liability in the post.
On balance, I think Howard gave Orlando about 85 or 90 percent of what he's capable of. That, coupled with all the drama, might prompt some fans to grade him a C, or worse. But Howard's still an All-Star center who finished sixth in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating and in Estimated Wins Added. Anything less than a
would be unnecessarily severe.