Dwight Howard has had a storied NBA career.
Since being drafted 1st overall in the 2014 NBA draft by the Orlando Magic, Howard has played for an additional 6 franchises.
During his prime, he was an absolute force.
A 20 PPG scorer who consistently led the league in rebounding while being a devastating force on the defensive end.
Dwight was the unquestioned star of the Orlando Magic teams that made 6 consecutive trips to the playoffs between 2006 through 2012.
During that stretch, Howard was the anchor of defenses that finished in the top-10 for defensive rating 5 times.
Leaving the Magic in 2012 kicked off a tumultuous couple of years for ‘Superman’.
Can’t let a Steve Nash and Dwight Howard be on the same floor and not bring this up pic.twitter.com/RxNoNbMwNM
— Joe: Ben Simmons Stan (@J_Stone215) January 8, 2021
Followed by a rocky relationship with James Harden in Houston for 3 seasons.
Howard somewhat faded into obscurity after that stretch.
His reputation around the league took a hit as he refused to accept a bench role even though his dominance was waning.
But last season with the Lakers put Howard back on the map.
He settled into a role as the backup center on the championship Lakers, providing valuable minutes off the bench.
Howard won that elusive first ring he had been chasing the first 15 years of his career.
The stretch of years since leaving the Magic made people forget just how good Howard once was.
Howard should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer as soon as he is eligible.
Howard Was a Generational Defender
People seem to forget just how good Howard was on defense.
During his 8 years with the Magic, he averaged 2.2 BPG, which included two seasons in which he was the league leader.
He also averaged 13 RPG and 1 SPG, leading the league in rebounding 4 times while hitting 14 RPG 3 times.
Howard only had a defensive rating above 100 twice, with both of those times coming during his first two seasons in the league.
The numbers speak for themselves (72.5 Career Defensive Win Shares, 2,136 Career Blocks, 13,759 Career Rebounds) but his impact on the defensive end was truly immeasurable.
Howard paired freakish athleticism with incredible timing and defensive instincts.
He altered drives by simply existing in the lane and essentially eliminated any second-chance opportunities by cleaning the glass.
This incredible defensive impact helped Howard win three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Awards – the only player to ever do so.
In case you forgot what the future Hall of Famer did from 2007-2014
◾️ 8 x All-NBA
◾️ 8 x All-Star
◾️ 5 x Rebound Leader
◾️ 3 x DPOY
◾️ 2 x Blocks leader
He also has 8 30/20 games, 4 25/25 games & 1 30/30 game! pic.twitter.com/2Ou476bU2m
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) December 8, 2019
He was also voted to 8 All-NBA Teams and 5 All-Defensive Teams while finishing top-5 in MVP voting four times.
Howard is nowhere near the level of defender he once was.
But at his peak, he was one of the most disruptive defenders of all time.
The Catalyst of the 2008 Title Team
Another tidbit people seem to forget about Howard is his 2020 Title with the Lakers came in his second Finals appearance.
His first came during the 2008-2009 season with the Magic.
That season saw Howard average 20.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG, and 2.9 BPG while winning DPOY and finishing 4th in MVP voting.
Dwight led Orlando in all three of the statistical categories listed above as well as defensive rating, defensive win shares, and defensive box plus/minus.
Howard’s dominance in the post on offense helped free up Orlando’s shooters as they had the 10th best offense in the NBA.
They had 5 players shoot greater than 37% from 3 as they were 2nd in the league in made-3s.
They paired that offense with a top-10 defense – a staple during the Dwight era.
Once in the playoffs as the #1 seed, Orlando cruised through the first round against the Sixers.
In the second round, they dispatched Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics in 7 games.
And finally bested LeBron James and the Cavaliers in 6 games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Dwight Howard in game 6 of the 2009 ECF vs the Cavs:
◽️outscored peak Lebron by 15
◽️Lead the Magic to first finals appearance since 1995 pic.twitter.com/QChYQoYxXF
— 𝘽𝙚𝙣𝙟𝙖𝙢𝙞𝙣 𝙏. 𝘽𝙪𝙡𝙡 (@CasualBullsFan) October 11, 2020
While they would go on to lose in the Finals, it came against a Kobe Bryand-led Lakers team that just won 65 games.
Howard didn’t play up to his regular-season standards but still averaged 15 PPG, 15 RPB, and 4 BPG.
So to recap, Howard was the best player on a 59-win Magic team that beat two 60-win teams in the playoffs before falling to another 60-win Laker team.
Hall of Fame Lock
Howard got somewhat of a bad rep during the middle part of his career.
He was known as the guy who was too fun-loving and would never be able to win a title.
Dwight has since put that to rest, but critics blasted him for years over it.
All the negative press surrounding Howard made people forget how truly dominant he was in his prime.
Prime Howard was the closest thing the league has seen since Shaq absolutely destroyed opposing bigs.
He was a freak of nature who blended the physical dominance of the generation before him with the athleticism of today’s centers.
Dwight will be looked back on as one of the greatest paint defenders in NBA history.
‘Superman’ should be a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection whenever his time comes.