Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has blocked more shots and grabbed more rebounds than he did last season. He's shot a higher percentage from the field and the free throw line. He's committed fewer turnovers and won more playoff games, too.
Yet Dwight Howard has never played better ball than he did in 2010/11. Because Dwight Howard has never scored so brilliantly. And though basketball is a complex game of which scoring is only a part, his improved offense marked an important step in his development.
|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.
Howard added 2.9 points to his per-36-minute scoring average while seeing just a 1.4 percent drop in True Shooting. In so doing, he became the league's most efficient 20-point-per-game scorer. Overall, he ranked 11th in scoring and second in field-goal percentage. Also, he won his third straight Defensive Player of the Year award.
Let us now distill the paragraph above: the Magic got elite offense from the league's top defender. Within three years, if not sooner, some folks will look back on this season and wonder how Howard didn't win the MVP award in a landslide.
Orlando ranked 3rd in the league in defensive efficiency, surrendering 101.8 points per 100 possessions. You'll note that figure represents the slightest of improvements over the 2009 NBA Finalist squad, which led the league with a defensive efficiency of 101.9. In addition to Howard, that team featured above-average defenders Rafer Alston, Mickael Pietrus, and Courtney Lee on the wing, and tremendous efforts from all parties. This Magic team, which won 11 fewer playoff games, and has no defenders of note in its rotation.
He can get better. But as it is, he's well on his way as establishing himself among the game's all-time great centers, with the 2010/11 season serving as his best. For now.