Apr 5, 2011, 8:40 PM EDT
Dwight Howard’s game has evolved.
There was a time when it was fair to criticize him for having nothing but power moves. Those days are gone. Now Howard has a bag of tricks to reach into and it shows as he uses a team high 27.1 percent of the possessions but still has a high 61.8 true shooting percentage (which accounts for his free throws, too). Or, just realize 23.2 points per game (10th in the league) on just 13.6 shots per game.
As Evan Dunlap points out at Orlando Pinstriped Post, Howard has a jump shot now.
Howard has made strides in several areas, but among the most notable and prevalent is in his jump shooting. Prior to this season, he had shot 30.6 percent on two-point jumpers. This season, that figure has moved to 39.1 percent.
Specifically, Howard has improved his facility in taking jumpers from the wings after receiving the ball with his back to the basket. In prior years, if a defender managed to leverage him a few steps out from where he’d like to catch, Howard didn’t have many options; he could turn, face, and fire an iffy jumper or try to drive a longer to the basket, opening himself up to strips from help defenders. Now? He can turn, face, and fire a markedly more reliable jumper, in addition to driving the lane.
In 74 games, Howard has shot 38-of-92 (41.3 percent) on such attempts.
Understand, you’d still rather have Howard face up and shoot the jumper rather than catch the ball on the block, but now you have to respect it. And it opens up other things in the offense.
Howard has had his best season as a pro this year. But the team around him lets him down, and seems likely to do it again once the playoffs start.