Even though most members of the media have chalked Derrick Rose up as the MVP of the NBA this season Dwight Howard’s head coach and teammates beg to differ.
And, if you’re going to be open to having a discussion on the topic, it’s not hard to see their argument.
Howard currently ranks in the top 10 in rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage. If he finishes in the top 10 in scoring (he’s currently tied for tenth) he would become just the tenth player in NBA history to finish in the top 10 in each of those categories. Pretty heady company since only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Bob McAdoo, David Robinson, Bob Lanier, Artis Gilmore, Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon have accomplished this feat.
Not only that, but he’s the anchor to the team’s defense that currently ranks fifth in the NBA. If you took Howard out of the mix it’s safe to say a team featuring a pint-sized point guard in Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu in their starting five wouldn’t be doing nearly as well.
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“He pretty much eliminates everything close to the basket so you better be able to make some jump shots and be able to find ways to get him extended out on the floor,” Jay Triano conceded before the game against Orlando.
Triano then admitted that Howard is the best defensive player in the entire NBA.
“He changes the game dramatically,” Triano told the media. “If you look at what the best points per possession shot is it is either points in the paint or the three-point shot. Well, he eliminates one of them for sure. Because he’s there, they can afford to get out and pressure guys on the three-point line and take that away. So now just because he’s there you have eliminated the top two ways that teams have of scoring and you force teams into taking contests two’s which is the least valuable point per possession.”
This season teams have run 500 plays against Howard in the post and 171 of those plays (33%) have come through postups. However, teams are only averaging 0.78 points per possession and teams are only shooting 40% in those situations.
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“I don’t think there’s anyone who comes as close to effecting as many possessions in a game that Dwight (Howard) does,” Stan Van Gundy bragged to the media before a game against Toronto. “I think it is largely because of him that we are one of the top five or six defensive teams in the league. I think his presence at the defensive end is huge; not only blocking shots but in the post he’s also an outstanding pick-and-roll defender for a big guy. He is in my mind the best defensive player in the league.”
Even though Howard has been the anchor of Orlando’s defense for the past few seasons, this year he has also stepped up his game on the offensive end.
“He rolls to the basket and if he attracts even one more defender then this team spreads the floor and they swing-swing and find that three-point shot,” Triano told the media. “You get into that dilemma because if you’re going to guard him and Jameer Nelson then you’ve got to do it with two guys and make those guys have big, big nights.”
Howard has attempted 151 more field goals than last season yet he’s still shooting a sizzling 59.8% from the field. What’s really impressive is that instead of feasting just on putbacks or dunk attempts this summer he worked on adding a jump shot to his elbow that’s really opened up the looks he’s gotten on the offensive end.
“It’s just amazing how dominant he has been on both sides of the floor,” Richardson bragged to HOOPSADDICT.com.
Those sentiments were echoed and expanded upon by Ryan Anderson.
“Dwight (Howard) is our backbone,” Anderson admitted to HOOPSADDICT.com. “He’s just a consistent, dominant force on both ends of the court. You can’t drive the lane and go to the rim and not think about Dwight Howard blocking your shot.”
To his coach and teammates it would be an easy choice to give him the MVP trophy, but they clearly have a bias.
It will be interesting to see how members of the media vote later this month and if Howard is able to gather enough steam to steal the award from Rose.