What's Wrong With Dwight Howard?

by Omar Shaik 26. December 2012 19:42

As the Lakers struggled through the early part of this season, much of the blame has been cast on Pau Gasol's passivity or Steve Nash's absence. The Los Angeles Lakers are at .500 even though Kobe Bryant is in the midst of one of the best 28-game shooting stretches of his career, despite being forced to undertake greater ball-handling responsibilities. How good has Kobe been so far? The last time his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) approached 25, it was 2007; he's never managed .222 WS/48 (Win Shares per 48 min) until this season. In spite of Kobe, the ageless wonder, the Lakers are tied for ninth in the Western Conference and have significantly underachieved through the first 28 games of the season.

Although Dwight Howard has flashed signs of occasional brilliance, he is playing below the All-NBA level expected of him. While Nash was out due to injury, the Lakers needed Dwight to play well to make up for the lost offense. Instead, Howard has completely disappeared on offense. His USG% (percent of offensive possessions he uses during his time on the court) is the lowest it has been in eight years. His rebounding has been way down as well. His DRB% (defensive rebound percent) is 24% this year, after it was 33% last year. Similarly, his TRB% (total rebound percent) is 18.1% so far, after five straight years of 21.7% or better.

According to many all-encompassing metrics, Howard is playing worse than he has in years, at least so far. His PER (20.5) and WS/48 (.148) are his lowest since '05-'06, and his WP/48 (Wins Produced per 48 min = .172) is the lowest it's ever been.

There are a couple ways to rationalize Howard's decreased production. The most obvious theory is that he still isn't fully healthy. There are trends in the data to support this hypothesis, such as the career-low rebounding numbers and the career-high %Blkd (% of Howard's shots that are blocked). 8.9% of Howard's shots have been blocked, which is the 4th highest rate in the NBA among Centers and Power Forwards who play 30 minutes per game. Howard, a former Slam Dunk champion, does not fit the profile of players who typically lead the NBA in Blkd%. Omer Asik and DeMarcus Cousins usually have high %Blkd because they don't have the combination of elite athleticism and low-post skill that Howard does. There are not many players in the NBA who can block a healthy Howard or take rebounds away from him, so the numbers suggest that he isn't completely himself yet. Indeed, Howard blames his health for his shockingly low production.

There is also the possibility that Howard has not learned how to fit in with the Lakers or with Bryant yet. This theory is also supported by the data (and Andrew Bynum), as the Lakers are much better when Bryant plays without Howard (+16.2 per 36 min) than when they play together (+2.3 per 36 min). When LeBron James joined the Miami Heat in 2010, his numbers after the first month were similarly well below his norms. His PER was only 24 after that first month, but he managed to regress to his career averages the next 5 months. A similar regression could be in store for Howard, and the Lakers might need every bit of it.

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18-60, 18-64

by Jeff Fogle 19. April 2011 23:56

No, we're not talking about the Abraham Lincoln presidency. We're talking about the lack of weaponry in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Knicks not named Carmelo Anthony were 18 of 60 from the floor tonight in Boston. Magic not named Dwight Howard were 18 of 64 from the floor vs. Atlanta. Orlando won anyway!

(If you're a historical nitpicker, I know Lincoln was president from 1861 to 1865. Close enough!)

That strikes me as the biggest difference between the brackets here in the first few days of 2011 playoff action. Western Conference teams have a variety of weapons, and do their best to make sure those weapons have a chance to impact the game. Eastern teams spend a lot of time clanking shots!

You already know about 18-60 and 18-64. Also:

*If you throw out Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer, the rest of the Bulls were 15 of 56 Monday vs. Indiana.

*76ers not named Thaddeus Young were 19 of 59 Monday at Miami.

*Magic not named Howard or Jameer Nelson were 8 of 34 Saturday vs. Atlanta

*Four different Eastern teams have shot 39% or worse in a game thus far, and we're in the early stages of the first round where defense hasn't clamped down as hard as it will later on when everything is on the line.

It's not beautiful basketball in the East, but What Anthony and Howard accomplished tonight were things of beauty.

*Anthony scored 42 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as a one-man wrecking crew for the Knicks. Chauncey Billups missed the game with a knee injury. Amare Stoudemire could only play 18 minutes because of back spasms (and he was only 2 of 9 from the field because of the discomfort). We saw some of the worst of Anthony in Game One. Tonight the offensive superstar stepped forward and carried the load in valiant fashion.

*Howard scored 33 points and had 19 rebounds in Orlando's must-win victory over the Hawks. He was 9 of 12 from the field, and 15 of 19 from the free throw line. If he can shoot like that from the free throw line more regularly, the Magic may yet become relevant in the Eastern championship picture.

Let's run a few difference-making boxscore stats...

BOSTON 96, NEW YORK 93
Shooting Pct: New York 36%, Boston 47%
1's and 2's: New York 69, Boston 78
Turnovers: New York 12, Boston 10

I picked out the stats Boston won since they took the game. New York had an amazing rebounding performance, with a 53-37 edge overall...highlighted by 20 offensive rebounds and a 41.6 offensive rebound rate. New York also won made free throws 21-12 thanks to Carmelo's peak performance.

CONSISTENCIES IN THE SERIES

Treys: New York 8/23 and 8/25, Boston 5/13 and 6/11
1's and 2's margin: Boston by 11 and 9

FLUCTUATIONS IN THE SERIES

Rebounding: Boston by 10, New York by 16
Made FT's: Boston by 1, New York by 9

Kinda funny. Often you see treys fluctuate, while stuff like rebounding and FT advantages hold more firm because the power elements are more consistent.

Boston leads the series 2-0. But, it could easily be 2-0 the other way except for a couple of plays here and there.

ORLANDO 88, ATLANTA 82
Free Throws: Atlanta 11/17, Orlando 29/36
Rebounds: Atlanta 39, Orlando 52

You know...Orlando didn't have a lot going for them tonight outside those two stats! Atlanta won shooting percentage (40-35%), treys (7-5), and turnovers (15-16).

Rather than a key stat, the game...and ultimately the series may have swung on a key hustle play by J.J. Redick in the second quarter. With about 8:20 left, Atlanta held a 32-23 lead, and a cloud of doom had settled over the arena. It felt like Saturday all over again. Not much life from the Magic or the crowd. Jameer Nelson had just had a 4-foot shot blocked. JJ Redick stole the ball from Kirk Hinrich with a rolling floor burn flourish...kind of spinning on his torso at the same time to dish to Nelson for a layup.

It's hard to describe. And, if you see a replay it might strike you simply as a nice hustle play rather than rolling through a ring of fire. But, something about the spirit at that moment of time said "HELL NO, WE'RE NOT GOING DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT" in a way that everybody got. The crowd came to life. Credit the NBA-TV announers for noting at the moment that it felt like a tide turning play. Over the next few Orlando possessions:

Howard layup and a fist pump
Howard dunk and a crowd roar
Howard makes two free throws
Howard layup after two team offensive rebounds
Howard makes one free throw after two team offensive rebounds

ENERGY!

32-23 Atlanta was suddenly a 34-all tie. Orlando would end up leading at the half 48-42...making it 25-10 from the moment Redick dove on the floor. The second half was a 40-40 tie. That surge was the ballgame.

The series is now tied 1-1.

Joe tweeted that he probably won't be able to have the expanded boxscores up until morning. I'm aiming to be back around midnight with stats and notes from Portland/Dallas... 

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