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Posts Tagged ‘Dwight Howard

Was Dwight Howard’s defense always overrated?

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The Dwight.One of the reasons Dwight Howard hasn’t improved the Lakers as much as expected, is a less than significant defensive impact. The team ranks 19th in DRTG, low for a team with a 3x Defensive Player of the Year. There are a lot of factors that can be blamed for this. Mike D’Antoni’s systems have never been known for defense, the Lakers are filled with slow perimeter players and Howard isn’t healthy. That’s fine.

But I’d like to re-examine how we came to the conclusion Howard is an elite defender. For one, he dominated in the flashiest defensive statistics, blocks per game. But what it really came down to is Orlando’s elite defensive teams and the personnel he played with.  The Magic finished 1st, 3rd, and 3rd in DRTG in Dwight’s DPOY years from 09-11, made more impressive when considering he played with anti-defensive players like Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Vince Carter, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson during that time. On the surface it looks like Dwight was carrying otherwise terrible defensive teams to top 5 rankings on his own.

This may be true, but contextual factors may have helped. The Magic’s slow pace and reluctance to send anyone to the offensive glass but Howard, may have helped them prevent any transition baskets, as well as gang rebound on the defensive glass instead of trying to leak out to score any fastbreak points. This may be while in 2009 they finished 1st on the defensive glass and 29th in offensive rebounding, in 2010 they finished 1st in defensive rebounding and 25th in offensive rebounding, while in 2011 they finished 1st in defensive rebounding and 15th in offensive rebounding. Such a wide gap between defensive and offensive rebounding performance is likely related to players making an effort to go for the former and not the latter, something halfcourt defensive coaches often employ. Furthermore in general, while the Magic’s supporting cast wasn’t athletic, what they almost all had in common is a high basketball IQ. If one considers IQ and positional awareness to be as important as physical tools when judging defense (personally I think it’s more important, possibly even 70% position and IQ, 30% physical tools), those Magic perimeter players aren’t as defensively inadequate in talent as one would think.

Judging Dwight defensively by his team results is difficult. He might be responsible for those results, he might not be. The results themselves aren’t necessarily proof. So let me throw out my objective way of judging defense. I believe it’s a combination of physical tools and intelligence/feel. While having the speed to rotate hard on opponents and length to disrupt them is important, rotating correctly positionally is also huge. That’s why Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are still very effective defensive players after their athleticism has slipped and why a players like Luol Deng and a younger Shane Battier didn’t need amazing speed to be great defenders. Where players get particularly devastating defensively to me, is when they have both dominant physical tools and dominant positional intelligence. The younger Garnett and Duncan exemplified this, as well as other historically great big defenders like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Walton, Bill Russell, etc. As for perimeter players, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had both. While in modern day aside from Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, Andre Iguodala and Paul George are two wing defenders I consider to be that complete package defensively of knockout physical tools and feel.

This is the main reason I’m not sold on Dwight Howard defensively. His physical tools and impact for his time were exceptional, no doubt. However his positional IQ and feel is behind the greats. He’s certainly not bad in that category, maybe even above average. But players like Duncan, Garnett, Russell, Robinson, Walton, etc. are geniuses on that end of the floor. Howard positionally is less than flawless. While the defense of his teammates and his health hurts his defense, there have been many plays as a Laker where positionally he found himself in a questionable spot or late. Present Howard is still a level up athletically from present Garnett and Duncan and he’s worse defender than them. Joakim Noah, Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert are playing better defense not because they’re physically more imposing than present Howard, but because they’re smarter players. This is something Howard can’t blame his banged up body on. It’s a flaw and I wonder if it extends back farther than people realize. Putting aside the Magic’s defensive results which may be affected by noise, without believing in Dwight’s IQ or feel as elite, I can’t say he passes the sniff test as a historically great defender during his prime. In fact if my estimate of 70% of defense being related to non-physical tools is true, I’m not sure I love more than like Howard as a defender at all.

Written by jr.

March 1, 2013 at 10:45 am

Posted in Basketball

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Make this trade: Josh Smith (+ Zaza Pachulia, HOU or ATL 1st) for Dwight Howard

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Josh Smith | Atlanta Hawks

Josh Smith | Atlanta Hawks (Photo credit: Basketball Schedule)

The Los Angeles Lakers season is the story that keeps on giving. It’s a reality show, between Kobe’s cerebral bluntness and Howard’s immaturity and inability to stop talking. I don’t believe Howard is the right fit for the Lakers long term. There is too much blood in the water. The heat is too strong and he has proven fragile under it.

But the most likely all-star caliber talent to move this trade deadline is fellow Georgia native and Howard’s former high school teammate Josh Smith. He wants out of Atlanta and they don’t want to give him a maximum contract. Getting assets for him now instead of receiving none when he leaves in unrestricted free agency, is the smart move.

I believe these players should be traded for each other. A trade of Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia and one of Atlanta’s 1st round picks (they have their own and Houston’s) for Dwight Howard fits.

Why should Atlanta do this? Howard if he can be nursed back to health is a superstar who has led a team to the Finals. He’s the type of star franchises need to compete for an NBA title. The Hawks have been kicking their wheels for some time in the 1st and 2nd round of the playoffs and look to continue to do that if they trade Smith for smaller assets than Howard. If they can get Howard to resign in his home state this summer, they have one of the best frontcourts in the league with Al Horford at PF and Howard at C. Jeff Teague and Lou Williams is a good start to the perimeter scoring needed to compliment them. While it’s a risk to give up a 1st round pick and the assets Smith can otherwise return for Howard when it’s unclear whether he’ll resign, geography and the dose of humility Howard has received in Los Angeles is on their side. There also isn’t a terrific situation for Howard to leave Atlanta for. Dallas isn’t scaring anyone as a Howard poacher. The Houston Rockets are lurking, but Howard was uninterested in the team last summer. Worst case scenario if the Hawks lost Howard to unrestricted free agency, they’d have the capspace to sign a player like Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson to compliment the Horford, Teague and Williams core. It wouldn’t be the end of the world. I believe the Hawks trading Smith for Howard would be a risk they have to take, to give themselves the chance at changing the direction of the franchise the rest of this decade. It gives them a pathway to building a team who can contend for a title if things fall into place.

Why should the Lakers do this? Dwight Howard may be a sexier name than Josh Smith, but I believe having Smith has a few advantages. For one, the Lakers would be heavily favored to resign him. After living in the shadows of Atlanta, I see no reason why Smith wouldn’t embrace the bright lights of the Lakers franchise as most stars do. One would presume there’s a greater probability of Smith resigning in Los Angeles, than there is for Howard – so any risk that comes with taking UFA Smith, is there just as much if they keep Howard the rest of the season. But the main reason I like Smith for the Lakers is fit. Going into next season they play Smith at PF with Pau at C. This is a terrific situation for the latter, at the position he now produces much better at – with a small power forward stretching the floor and giving him space, as Lamar Odom used to do during his best Lakers years. Smith is also a great fit for Mike D’Antoni in the Shawn Marion role as a transition scorer and defender. He makes the Lakers faster and more athletic, which is what they need. I like the chances of the Nash, Kobe, Smith, Pau-led Lakers doing very well next year. They’d have dynamic offense with the skill and IQ of their hall of fame backcourt and post scorer, while Smith gives them a needed athletic boost. The 1st I made Atlanta throw in to this deal, would also help their depth if they chose a productive rookie. Pachulia could also resign as a needed backup C.

Josh Smith may not have the long term upside of Dwight Howard, but if the Lakers want to try and win another title with Kobe Bryant, the best move may be dealing Howard. I really like the idea of simply flipping him for Smith.

Written by jr.

February 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm

MVP/Power Rankings Monday: The 10 Closest Things to Takeaways from preseason (2012-2013 NBA)

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Yes, the “It’s just preseason” caveat applies to any conclusions one wants to draw from preseason in the NBA. But oh, it’s so tempting. Here are 10 things that may or may not be indicative to take from preseason

10. The Spurs found another “who?” steal in Nando De Colo – Nando looks like the real deal. He has great height for a PG/SG, with a strong feel for the game and court vision and shooting game. He’ll be a mismatch problem for teams to deal with off the bench.

9. Omer Asik is a monster – The Rockets knew what they were doing giving such a big contract to the Bulls’ backup center. Asik is one of the biggest Cs/players in the league period and looks like a special rebounder and defender so far. Dominant defensive Cs is how you win.

8. Marvin Williams is finally ready for a breakout season – Marvin may not have the talent Atlanta thought when they took him 2nd overall in 2005, but he was likely underused all the same. He has an outstanding feel for the game, his length is a great asset defensively and he’s turned himself into a sharpshooter at the SF position. These 3 tools makes him a huge asset for Utah if he’s used properly.

7. Big Baby Davis could have a Big Year – If you’re looking for a dark-horse statistical breakout candidate, look out for Big Baby. Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson leaving the team opens up a ton of free shots in the frontcourt. Davis came on at the end of last season starting in place of Howard at C. Perhaps that’s the position for him, where he can be an offensive mismatch with his outside shot. Read the rest of this entry »

MVP/Power Rankings Monday – The 10 most likely future NBA MVPs (who haven’t won any yet)

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Kevin Durant waiting for the tip-off in OKC vs...

Kevin Durant is a near cinch for future MVP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The NBA MVP feels the most important of the 4 major sports’. Since the best player in basketball matters more than the rest, so does the all-time rankings of players – and next to championships, MVPs are the most prestigious award they can get. Furthermore the NBA is unique from the other sports in that only the greatest talents even have a shot at the award, while in the NFL, MLB and NHL a very good but not transcendent talent can win an MVP if he breaks out to a spectacular statistical season. The MVP club is a much more exclusive lounge to join in the NBA.

Here are my rankings of who the most likely future MVPs are, among players who haven’t been awarded with one yet

Tier 1 – The frontrunners

1. SF Kevin Durant – A near lock to eventually get an MVP. He’s finished 2nd twice, is the dominant scorer in the league and is a media favorite due to his class and hard work. Most importantly perhaps is that winning an MVP just about requires finishing top 2 in the conference and Durant’s Thunder have the talent to consistently grab 1st and 2nd place finishes in the West for the rest of his prime. It’s much more likely Durant wins 2 or more MVPs than it is he wins 0.

2. PG Chris Paul – With 2nd and 3rd place finishes he’s proven he has the respect of MVP voters due to his transcendent true PG ability. Like Durant on the Clippers with Blake Griffin beside him he has the talent to lead a team strong enough to win an MVP and if the Clippers ever get that high, the narrative of saving that once tortured franchise will play in his favor.

3. C Dwight Howard – Like Durant and Paul he’s a consensus superstar who has 2nd, 4th and 4th MVP finishes. He’s easily the best at his position and the value of dominant two way centers has been recognized. My only concern with him is that after leading 59 W seasons in both 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, he still only was rewarded with 4th place finishes both years. Even in the year he finished 2nd many argued Derrick Rose didn’t have the same value to his team enough to beat him. Is it possible Dwight’s lack of dominant scoring talent and polish hurts his chances of getting MVP respect? Perhaps, but he deserves to be ranked top 3 at worst. Read the rest of this entry »

The alternate timeline Lakers: If Bynum had been dealt for Iguodala

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Andre Iguodala on November 23, 2010

Andre Iguodala on November 23, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I listed my reasons for believing the Lakers’ immediate improvement after the Dwight Howard trade is overstated, here

What’s fascinating to me is that Andre Iguodala, of course a key component of the Howard trade being shipped to Denver, would have been an absolute perfect fit for the Lakers’ needs. If you haven’t read the previous article, my biggest problem with the Lakers roster is that their perimeter speed on defense is flawed and that they may not be able to rotate on help D sharply enough to guard either the Thunder’s athletes or Spurs’ ball movement and shooters. Iguodala of course is an elixir to that, as arguably one of the two best perimeter defenders in the league alongside Lebron James.

Was there a way for the Lakers to both get Howard and Iguodala, by say, shipping Pau Gasol to Denver? Possibly, but Gasol’s contract and age may give him less value than Iguodala to a young team like Denver. What is certain however is that a one to one deal with Philadelphia with Bynum and Iguodala, would have been on the table for the Lakers – since obviously, the Sixers DID trade Iguodala for Bynum.

Let’s say the Sixers would have agreed to a trade of Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and young Moe Harkless to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum, which by my math works under the salary cap. The Lakers would then be looking at approximately this lineup: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

August 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Dwight Howard: Not the only reason the Magic have been a great defensive team

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Washington Wizards v/s Orlando Magic February ...

Image via Wikipedia

It seems no-one can doubt that Dwight Howard is the best defensive player in the NBA. But just how much is Howard responsible for the Magic’s perennially top 5 DRTG rankings?

For many, it’s all Howard. Because it appears nobody other member of the Magic is defensively significant. The Magic won 59 games and made the NBA Finals with Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis in the starting lineup. Nelson is an undersized PG, Lee a rookie at the time, Turkoglu is one of the NBA’s slowest SFs, and Lewis is an out of position SF. Thus the Magic dominating defensively with that team is quite a feat on Howard’s end.

But not so fast. Defense is a tricky subject. Half of good defense can be from the system. The following choices can be made. If a team holds back on offensive rebounding, they can all but guarantee transition defense against the opponent’s counterpunch. If everyone is sent to the defensive glass instead of a player or two leaking out as an outlet, defensive rebounding and the ability to close off space to prevent putback points can improve. Thus a team can take off a few points from an opponent by strategy alone. But it also comes at the cost of those easy points offensively. If a team wants to make it a halfcourt game defensively, they’ll probably be forced to make it one offensively as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Why the Knicks should consider the WTF move: Dumping the Amare Stoudemire era now

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Amare Stoudemire

(Image by Keith Allison via Flickr)

One of my biggest pet peeves recently is the assumption by Knick fans and others that it’s possible for the team to acquire Chris Paul or Dwight Howard next summer as is. It isn’t. For one, the team doesn’t have the capspace next summer with Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony combining for 40 million in salary alone. When this is pointed out, the answer is that the Knicks will force the team to trade for them. With what? The trade assets they don’t have? It’s not like they’re sitting on James Harden and Serge Ibaka to throw at the Hornets for Chris Paul. Their most valuable young player is Landry Fields. That won’t cut it. There’s almost no way for the Knicks to be in the position to get Chris Paul or Dwight Howard without either the capspace or trade assets that other teams have.

Thus what is more likely is this. The Knicks two best players a year from now are still Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. The team is a decent playoff knockout and has little way to improve from that point on without any extra assets or capspace, until Amare’s health inevitably betrays him. Is this something the Knicks fans want? After the “Isiah and Eddy Curry decade” as it will forever be remembered, it’s a slight improvement in entertainment, but the goal should be to win the title eventually. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

November 11, 2011 at 1:00 pm