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Praise, and an appraisal, for Dwight Howard

Feb 26, 2010, 12:14 PM EDT

Dwight Howard.jpgLet me start by saying that despite what Mike Bianchi’s headlines would have you believe, Dwight Howard is not as great, as valuable, or as dominant as LeBron James. No one is.

But that doesn’t mean that Dwight isn’t great, valuable, or dominant in his own right.

Dwight Howard is, without a doubt, the most dominant defender in the NBA today. He alters the game in ways both direct and indirect on a play-by-play basis, and he has such defensive presence that teams simply must account for him at all times. One of the calling cards of efficient offenses is scoring in the paint, but when a giant with rocket boots that can bench press a school bus and has an almost ideal level of athletic coordination is standing in your way? Well, that task is a bit more difficult.

The scariest thing of all, though, is that Dwight hasn’t maxed out on his defensive potential. He can still improve his footwork, his perimeter skills, his judgment. He’s sniffing greatness as a defensive monster, and he’s only getting started. That’s frightening.

While Dwight may still live in LeBron’s shadow (who doesn’t?), he’s also the victim of a bit of an artificial hierarchy. Since the day LeBron James walked into the league, he was dubbed “the second coming.” His rise to greatness seemed preordained, and while no one could have truly anticipated the beast that LeBron has become, the narrative structure was already in place for James to rule the world by the tender age of 25. That’s where he is now, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.

As a consumer of the NBA product and the ever-growing hype machine, I have no qualms in saying that the predictions bordering on prophecy that have accompanied James’ career have made his story that much more interesting. The things he does on the court have seriously altered what we thought was possible, and though that may qualify as more revolutionary than myth-affirming, it doesn’t change the fact that LeBron is just about everything we’d hoped he be from a basketball standpoint.

But by the very nature of those predictions, LeBron must come first and all others must come second. It’s the side effect of feeding into LeBron-mania; all the other great players who happen to play at the same time as James may be good, but they’re not LeBron. When considering everything that James has done in his stay in the NBA thus far, is that standard even fair?

Hardly. But it’s the reality that great players — yes, great players — like Dwight Howard have to live with.

I’m not convinced that LeBron’s impact on the court is so far and above Dwight’s that they aren’t even in the same league. Far from it. James is the indisputable ’09-’10 MVP in my eyes, but that doesn’t mean Howard isn’t important, or great, or dominant. It just means that at this stage, LeBron is better. What’s important for Dwight is not that he’s the best player in basketball today, but simply that he’s making the best of his own unique talents. That’s what’s going to win games (and playoff series’) for the Magic, and that’s what, when all is said and done, will finally earn Dwight the praise he deserves.

  1. Magicfan76 - Feb 26, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    So when the Magic displace the Cavs again in the playoffs then will Dwight move ahead and start being talked about on the same level as Lebron?
    I mean if you look at it Lebron has the advantage in that he get’s the ball when he wants and can do whatever he pleases. Dwight has to rely on being force fed the ball or getting his own rebounds to score. By nature his offensive production will never match the “King”.
    At some point if Lebron can’t get to and win the big games (Meaning Finals victories) I think we can take him off that pedestal that has him in the same breath as MJ. MJ basically won without a legit threat at center and at this point he really is the only one to do it. Even Shaq still demands attention so Lebron really has no more excuses.
    I’m not saying Dwight is better than Lebron but I am saying he is just as valuable despite what the media may seem to imply.

  2. lee - Feb 26, 2010 at 6:52 PM

    i’ll say it. d-wow is more valuable than lebron.
    lebron’s assist stats are better because he starts most every possession with the ball in his hands–but dwight “assists” his teammates without needing to touch the ball. lebron shoots more three-pointers, but there is serious debate as to whether this is a “valuable” part of his game.
    defensively, not even close. lebron will beat entire teams one-on-five, but if d-wow is in the lane, he usually settles for the jump shot. i repeat: dwight howard poses more of a threat to lebron’s offensive game than any FIVE other players combined.
    plus, the magic have better coaches, dwight is more coachable (don’t argue this point), and thus he’s been better coached. he’s a more valuable player.

  3. Adam - Feb 27, 2010 at 12:12 AM

    What? Write a headline about giving Dwight praise and half of it is about Dwight living in Lebron’s shadow? Did you go to Lebron’s high school or something? Did you watch last year’s playoffs? I guess you didn’t have to since you’re a self proclaimed consumer of the NBA product and ever growing hype machine.
    Listen, your article makes it sound like players are in awe of each other by the media’s predictions. Who cares? The only thing Lebron and Dwight care about is championships, and in this regard, Dwight is ahead as he won the eastern conference last year. So, whatever this mindless, ever growing hype article was about, the only people who want to read it are the media hype lemmings who don’t seek insight or knowledge about the actual game being played on the court.
    This is the same old stuff I read last year before the Magic knocked off the Cavs in 6. I guess the only thing that matters to you is regular season stats though. Write something insightful or I’ll stop reading.

  4. MP - Feb 27, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    Dwight’s a great player, one of the greatest ever maybe. BUT… he’s not one of those guys, we all KNOW those guys, who can impose his will on a game and find a way to win it no matter what; the guys who get to the arena and say, “this game, tonight… I am NOT letting us lose it,” and then are able to make it come true. There are fewer big-man examples of those guys… but Tim Duncan is one, and Olajuwon was a great one, and Kareem in his prime was definitely one, and Walton was one, and Russell was the best one ever. Dwight Howard is not in that class… he’s David Robinson, or Moses Malone, or Wilt Chamberlain, or Kevin Garnett, or late-career Kareem: great players, great stats, some of the best careers ever… but could only win a title if they got to play with one of THOSE guys. LeBron… well, he’s not officially in until he wins a title, but he’s pretty obviously one of those guys. Maybe Dwight doesn’t get enough credit for being great and especially for being an all-time great defensive player… but he can’t create his own shot at ALL, he can’t adjust when the defense is denying him the ball, and he disappears when the game’s on the line, whether that’s at the end of the game or at any other time. He may someday win an MVP… but he’s never going to have the kind of intangible, we-are-not-losing-this-game value to his team of LBJ, Kobe, Duncan, (probably)Kevin Durant, and others that will develop.

  5. medicare supplement - Feb 28, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    I wish getting over a broken heart can be so easy as following a few steps.. but its not… 😦

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