Now that the Lakers are entering the offseason following their worst playoff performance in recent memory, the talking heads of general manager Mitch Kupchak and head coach Mike D’Antoni have already begun littering sports television with their takes on the Dwight Howard saga. The multi-million dollar question: will Howard return to lead the Lakers next season?
It seems intuitive that the Lakers would want Howard back. The width of his shoulders alone makes him an intimidating force on the court. But is he actually what everyone is making him out to be – an MVP-caliber, team-leading centerpiece of one of the most historic organizations in all of sports?
Let’s break it down:
Pro #1: Rebounding
Dwight is a monster on the glass. He led the league in rebounding this year, snagging a respectable total of 12.4 boards per game (yet still well under his career high of 14.5/gm). Clearly he’s one of the best – if not the best – rebounders in the game. That’s always a valuable asset on any team.
Pro #2: Defense
Averaging 2.2 blocks/gm for your career is phenomenal, as Howard has. He dropped slightly from his career high of 2.9/gm in 2009 to 2.4 last year, but he’s clearly a shot blocking force. Howard’s scary presence in the paint has earned him three Defensive Player of the Year nods. No one drives on Howard without having a rush of fright fill their veins at the thought of being swatted like the younger brother in a driveway one-on-one.
Con #1: Leadership
As I’ve said before, Dwight is the biggest child in the NBA. Off the court, he whines like a middle schooler: “I deserve to relax and be happy.” You deserve to relax and be happy when you work a 40-hour a week job making $8.10 an hour. If you want to make $19+ million a year and be the best player of your generation, you deserve to suck it up and play like it – just like your absolute beast of a captain, Kobe Bryant, does every day without complaint.
Howard can’t lead a team more than former Rutgers head coach Mike Rice could be an anger management counselor. It’s truly fitting that Howard was ejected for a pair of technicals in the Lakers final game. He’s a child off the court and on the court. I don’t see how any GM, let alone Kupchak, can think he could be the leader of a team.
Con #2: Hack-a-Dwight
How long will it be until the Lakers get a talented center that will actually work on his free throws? It’s not enough to be insanely talented; you have to practice too.
Go shoot 300-500 free throws every day after practice. It’s not rocket science: all you have to do is work at it. Stop practicing your low-post moves (you’re great at them) and just shoot free throws. You’re a 57% career free throw shooter – which is god-awful – and you’ve shot under 50% for the last two seasons! Teams understand this, and they use it against you. Start working on it, or work your way out of town.
The Bottom Line
Dwight’s not worth it.
The one thing I didn’t mention above was his scoring ability, which is above-average. He can score if he’s within five feet; any more than that and it’s a miracle if the ball hits the rim. (I’ll call his scoring neutral – neither a pro nor con.)
Do the Lakers really want to deal with this head case for even one more season? If he signs, it’ll be a long-term deal, which in my eyes would be a disaster unless they can find the perfect pieces to go with his (should be clinically diagnosed) whining disorder.
I can’t see how anyone would want this child leading their team. Sure, he’s a capable rebounder and defender. But guess what – so are Larry Sanders and Serge Ibaka. You’re not a cornerstone of a franchise if that’s all you can do. You need intangibles – again, like Kobe Bryant’s – to lead a team.
At best, Howard’s a great #2 star on a team. I know that’s a bold statement, but it’s the truth. If it wasn’t, the Lakers would be in the second round right now proving me wrong.