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Tracking Dwight Howard’s Offense in the Magic’s 106-94 Victory Over the Timberwolves

My last few posts have focused on tracking different aspects of the Magic that are normally ignored by the box scores we see every day.  Those posts included looks at the Magic's hustle and the Magic's defense.  Box scores generally do a good job of measuring offense, but even in that regard a lot is left out.  We may know how many points a player scored or how many assists he had, but we don't know how he scored those points or assisted others.

With that in mind, I decided to track the offense of one player in particular: Dwight Howard.  Howard's offense has a ways to go before it catches up to his defense, and in the two games over the weekend he really struggled.  I went back through the tape of the game against Minnesota on Saturday with the hopes of finding out why he's struggling. 

I kept track of a number of things.  The first thing I looked at was the shot types Howard attempted from the post:


As you can see, Howard had only two varieties of shot attempts: simple finishes (usually very close to the basket) and hook shots.  I've done this with other post players, and usually a midrange or fadeaway jumper is attempted at some point.  Obviously this is not part of Howard's game at the moment, and it may never be.  Against the Wolves, Howard struggled with his hook shot, missing all four of his attempts.  Usually these came while he was swooping across the lane. 

I also tracked the moves Howard made in the post prior to the result of the play.  Below I list each move Howard used as well as the result of his post attempt:


Here Howard showed more creativity.  He used spins, dropsteps, step-throughs to the middle, face-ups, and simple backdowns.  However, he most frequently did nothing and passed the ball out of the post, usually because of a double-team.  The second most common thing he did was face up the defender.  For that move in particular, I kept track of the direction he drove after facing up:



As you can see, at least on this night, Howard loved driving right.  He would often lead with a jab step to the left and then follow with a hard drive to the right. 

One more thing I kept track of was what Howard did when he didn't have the ball:


The Magic's offense against Minnesota very frequently began with a high pick-and-roll set by Howard.  I tallied 38, but the real number may be even higher because of back-to-back pick-and-rolls and players choosing not to use the screen.  Howard also received the ball 25 times in the post.  In the first half, he actually received the ball in the most more often than he set screens, but in the second half the Magic adjusted and utilized Howard almost exclusively for pick-and-rolls. 

One final thing I kept track of was where Howard posted up his man:


This may seem pointless, but usually with other players there is some sort of mixture here.   Howard set up exclusively on the low post against Minnesota. 

As I mentioned earlier, Howard struggled offensively in this game.  He wasn't extremely aggressive in the post.  When he was aggressive, he was uneven with his shooting.  He also failed to draw contact and get to the line.  Against a team featuring big men with poor defensive reputations, I was expecting more from Howard.  In the future I will revisit the tracking of Howard's offense and see how it compares to this game.