Around the NBA: 11/08/10
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Hypothetical's are for Cubs fans and philosophy majors, but stick with me on this one. Say you were hired as a general manager of an expansion NBA Franchise. Now to further stretch the limits of feasibility, YOU, the devout reader of bucks.com (and part masochist for reading this far) had no prior knowledge about anyone in the league's basketball ability. The past few years of your life were spent as a Sherpa. You could select any one player in the league to lead your franchise, but can only base your pick on physical appearance alone. Who are you taking?
Good money and the astute American ability to judge a book by its cover says you take Dwight Howard.
The Orlando Magic's seven-year veteran center is a parking structure of height (6'11) and muscle mass (240 lbs.) who makes scouts swoon like teenage girls with Bieber Fever. Baby, Baby, Baby, oh is his physical appearance a foreboding presence for other teams trying to score the basket.
Howard's game backs up his dominating presence on defense. He led the league in total rebounds five times, defensive rebounds three times, and blocks twice. This compilation of numbers earned him two Defensive Play or the Year Awards and three selections to the All-NBA First Team. That's quite the body of work for someone who cannot legally rent a car.
But really, who are we but Sammy Davis Jr. if we're only capable of looking at one side of the picture? Howard's defensive play is only hindered by an offensive repertoire labeled "unreliable."
Put-backs, tip-ins, and alley-oops were the foundation to what Howard did best on offense. Teams dare to let Howard beat them by forcing him to face the basket and double-teaming him when he caught the ball in the low post. Should Superman get fouled and go to the free throw line, his career as a 60 percent free throw shooter reared its ugly head.
Howard was still a dominant offensive player, but too many things (low post feed, single coverage, catching the ball with his momentum carrying him towards the basket) had to go right for him to take over a game as a scorer.
To compensate for such misgivings Howard spent the summer with Hakeem Olajuwon. The "Dream" is the most fluid, graceful, acrobatic center that I've ever watched and he spent the summer working with Howard to improve his post moves. Howard's desire to improve his game (some think it's posturing, but I do believe Howard wants to get better offensively. Does anyone go to that great of lengths to mask their indifference? I doubt it.) can do nothing but help the Magic. As age becomes more of a factor he won't be able to rely solely on NBA Jam type post moves.
In the limited action of this year, Howard has shown more confidence in his shot, even hitting some baskets falling away from the goal. He has also displayed some old-man type post moves, using sneak attacks and guile to score, not entirely relying on a power game.
Yet even for this new-found skill set learned under the tutelage of Olajuwon, Howard didn't possess the fluidity and footwork that accompanies a player with those particular types of post moves. He was Superman in the midst of a stupor, trying to get a shot off but tangling his feet in the process.
Whether Howard improves upon these moves or goes back to his bread and butter remains to be seen. The Magic are a ready-made offensive juggernaut with an array of outside shooters for Howard to pass the ball to. If he can somehow command more respect as an offensive weapon and force defenders to help on him, he buys his shooters that extra second to get an open shot. No one is asking Howard to be great on offense, just consistent enough to command respect from the opposition.
With the respect comes the ungodly chore of watching Howard shoot free throws. If he doesn't make timely decisions with the ball he's going straight to the line where 70 percent would be quite alright.
So Howard goes, so goes the rest of the conference. It won't matter how many golden oldies Boston throws at him. Miami has no answer for such a player. Joakim Noah has been Raggedy Anne against Howard, pushed around like a little sibling.
If these post moves hold true, Orlando jumps Boston in the NBA Eastern Conference hierarchy. The team is deep enough and the number of outside shooters on the Magic is enough for them to actually win the Conference Title. Howard's offensive growth with finesse moves is one major determinant in a conference immersed in a power struggle.
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.