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Reviewing Dwight Howard

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This summer, 3QC will take a look back on each Magic player's 2007-2008 season. The first nine posts will evaluate, on an individual basis and in alphabetical order, the players who played in at least 20% of the team's total minutes; the final post will briefly evaluate the five players who appeared in less than 20% of the team's minutes.

Today, our focus is Dwight Howard.

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard snags a rebound in a playoff game against the Raptors.

File photo by Fernando Medina, NBAE/Getty Images

No. 12
Center
Points Per Game Rebounds Per Game Blocks Per Game
20.7 14.2 2.1
Points Per 36 Rebounds Per 36 Blocks Per 36
19.8 13.5 2.1
PER Rebound Rate Block Rate
22.9 21.7 4.2
FG% 3FG% FT%
.599 .000 .590
eFG% TS%
.599 .619

All statistics in this table from Howard's player page at basketball-reference. Career-high statistics highlighted in gold.

Dwight Howard became the youngest rebounding champion in history; solidified himself as a perennial All-Star, making his second straight appearance and first start; set career-highs in not a few statistical categories; proved he could be the cornerstone of a contending team; and won the Slam Dunk contest in jaw-dropping fashion. What more can the Magic and their fans ask of him?

Plenty, it turns out. Even after four years in the league, Howard still isn't comfortable creating his own shot on the low block. Most of his shots were uncontested dunks, and although he showed improved touch with his left hand, he still tends to fade away on his hook shots rather than jumping straight up. When frustrated or unfocused, he looks positively baffled with the ball, throwing his shots entirely too hard off the glass. And no matter what the situation, he's a horrible free throw shooter. He shows excellent form up until the release, when he snaps his wrist too far to his left or right rather than straight-through.

As for the jump shot that's been in the works since Howard entered the league... it's still not finished. Howard rarely shot outside the immediate basket area, and he'll need to increase his range -- if only to 10 feet -- so he has something he can use when opponents force him away from the basket and he doesn't have an open teammate to whom to pass. It would also help him become a factor late in games; the Magic's only crunch-time options are, in order: Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Jameer Nelson.

On the intangibles scale, he showed no inclination to lead by example, despite his status as the team's captain and best player.

But, at 22 years old, Howard still has plenty of time to refine his offensive skills. And he does most everything else well. He earned All-Defensive Second Team honors, which were well-deserved. Although he has a tendency to goaltend, he's still an excellent one-on-one and help defender. Indeed, the only easy buckets opposing centers get when Howard plays come as a result of Howard leaving them to contest an opponent's shot.

We can harp on his offensive shortcomings and mental lapses all we like, but the fact remains: Howard's the best young center in the game, arguably the best since Tim Duncan circa 1997, and he's the only reason Orlando even joins Boston and Detroit in the discussion of the East's elite teams. He's only going to get better, and he deserves our respect.

Look out, league.

Grade: A