Houston Rockets: Is Dwight Howard Overrated or Underrated?


Dwight Howard is one of, if not the most criticized player in the NBA. His frequent smiling and lack of consistent post moves have frustrated league executives, coaches, and analysts for several years. However, Howard has had enormous success throughout his career, which is often forgotten by his critics. Howard now comes into the 2015-2016 season in an interesting position: at this point in his career, is Howard overrated or underrated?

Let’s begin analyzing this question by looking at Dwight Howard’s recent statistics and see if they support or refute the various claims made about Howard and his game.

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Howard is a negative on offense

Many analysts of the NBA now view Howard as a negative on offense when he does anything but catch lobs and put back rebounds. Many analysts (especially Shaq) have criticized Howard numerous times for his lack of post moves. Interestingly enough, Howard has almost always been a negative on offense throughout his career, when looking at advanced statistics. For his career, Howard has posted a -0.1 Offensive box-plus minus (OBPM), which estimates the offensive points per 100 possessions a player contributes above a league average player. Therefore, Howard’s OBPM shows that for his career, he has been negative on offense.

This is interesting because although Howard has never really had consistent post moves, the criticism that Howard is a negative on offense has only really become popular over the past year or so. I believe this has happened because as Howard gets older and continues to struggle with injuries, his offensive abilities (or lack thereof) have been highlighted even more.

Howard has never been a consistent force in the post offensively. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Howard demands post touches often during a game, and he is still doing so as his OBPM continues to decrease (it was a career worst -2.4 last season) and his turnover percentage has increased over the past two seasons. Howard’s lack of post moves has frustrated fans and analysts as he still continues to demand post touches, rather than focusing on the pick-and-roll and rolling to the rim to catch lobs.

Howard is not as good on defense anymore

Howard is most known for his defense, including his three straight defensive player of the year awards from 2009-2011. He is known for his impressive athleticism and monstrous blocks that continue to make highlight reels. However, as Howard has aged and dealt with injuries, Howard’s athleticism has declined, which has had a very profound effect on his defense.

Although Howard is still considered to be a huge defensive presence (and he still is when healthy- as evident in the playoffs), his defense has definitely dropped over the past couple of seasons. Howard’s DBPM (defensive version of OBPM) has dropped every season since the 2010-2011 season. Last season, Howard posted the lowest DBPM of his career (1.2), which is alarming.

Yes Howard has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons, (limiting him to only 41 games last season) but Howard’s block numbers have decreased every season since 2012, to a career low 1.3 bpg (blocks per game) last season. The hope is that a healthy Howard (which is far from a guarantee at this point) will return closer to his years of defensive prowess. It may be possible, but it is also a very optimistic wish at this point.

Howard is too soft to dominate

The final critique that I will analyze is the hardest one to support or refute. Many players around the league have began disrespecting Howard during games because Howard has earned the criticism that he is too soft because he often smiles and laughs too much during games. Just last season, Howard had in game alterations with Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Garnett. These altercations have come up because many players are annoyed and frustrated by Howard’s seemingly lack of focus and seriousness on the court.

However, I for one do not buy this idea that Howard is “soft”. Yes, he smiles a lot on the court and I can understand how that may frustrate other NBA players, but I see it as Howard enjoying himself on the court, playing the sport he loves. No one can legitimately claim that Howard doesn’t care about winning based off the fact that he smiles a lot on court. I have never doubted Howard’s desire to win, and never will.

In conclusion, Howard’s advanced statistics support several criticisms about him, including his lack of effectiveness on offense and decreasing defensive prowess. However, I do not support the claim that Howard is “soft” and doesn’t truly care about winning. Coming into the 2015-2016 season, some analysts are expecting a better year from Howard, while others are expecting a decrease or more of the same as last season’s injury-plagued season.

It is important to note that Howard does have an impact in key moments that aren’t measured in a box score. For example, Howard’s presence in the paint still scares players driving to the rim, and when healthy, Howard can still be an elite rim protector and rebounder, as seen in the playoffs as he led the league in rebounds per game during the playoffs, with 14 per game (Howard was also fourth in bpg in the playoffs).

For those reasons, I still consider Howard to be underrated coming in to the 2015-2016 season. Yes, several of his advanced statistics prove that he is not effective on offense and is getting less effective on defense, but his defensive prowess isn’t always measured in the box score. His presence alone on the court can still change a game, and if Howard focuses on the pick-and-roll and rolling to the rim more often, he will be even more effective on offense. In my opinion, a healthy Dwight Howard is still one of the top 3 centers in the NBA.

What do you think? Is Dwight Howard overrated or underrated? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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