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Evaluating Dwight Howard

This week, 3QC will take a look back on each Magic player's 2008/2009 season. Each day focuses on one position: Monday for point guards, Tuesday for shooting guards, Wednesday for small forwards, Thursday for power forwards, and Friday for centers. I'll evaluate each individual player at that position at regular intervals throughout the day, while Eddy will make a general survey of the position later in the afternoon.

Dwight Howard concludes this year's player evaluations.

Dwight Howard
No. 12 Center
Points Per Game Rebounds Per Game Blocks Per Game
20.6 13.8 2.9
Points Per 36 Rebounds Per 36 Blocks Per 36
20.7 13.9 2.9
PER Rebound Rate Block Rate
25.4 21.8 5.9
FG% 3FG% FT%
57.2% 0.0% 59.4%
eFG% TS%
57.2% 60.0%

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

Another season, another career-best performance for Dwight Howard. The media hype of Howard, that he's a glorified Tyson Chandler who is too nice to ever win anything, is absurd. Focus on his dunking if you like, but also acknowledge that he's refined his post game somewhat--he still has a ways to go--and is without question the best defensive center in basketball. A year ago, his baseline spin move wasn't as polished as it is now. This is a guy making progress. And that people consistently trash him, well, it doesn't make much sense.

It all reached a fever pitch in the playoffs against Boston, when he called out coach Stan Van Gundy for not giving him the ball enough. His public tantrum, coupled with the stifling defense Kendrick Perkins played on him, conspired to make him look ordinary or weak. How quickly people forget.

These are the facts: Howard is 23 years old. In the last two years combined, he's averaged 20.6 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. He's led the league in total rebounding since he was a 20-year-old, a streak that now stands at 4 seasons. Prior to this year, he hadn't missed a game. And now, after the Magic's surprising run to the NBA Finals, he accomplished something the great LeBron James has yet to: he led his team to an NBA Finals victory. Not even Shaquille O'Neal, James' new teammate in Cleveland, did that while he was in Orlando.

So all this talk about how Dwight Howard is overrated? Stop.

I hate to turn a player evaluation into a rant. I really do. But I'm with Van Gundy on this issue: with Dwight, the media and fans tend to accentuate the negative. For whatever reason, that's not the case with the league's megastars. Let's cut him a break every now and again, shall we?

So, this year, Dwight improved his post game, became an elite defender and shot-blocker, and took his team to the Finals. What more would you like him to do? Make free throws? Sure. Get even better offensively? Okay. But it's almost getting to the point that we're picking nits. He's a stellar player who had a stellar season.

Grade: A