The numbers only tell so much of the story when it comes to new Wizards center Dwight Howard. Man, it still feels strange to type that.
The reason why statistics are limited in their scope with Howard is because much of the criticism of him by others has been about intangibles. The price the Wizards are paying to acquire him, the taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.3 million, defies his numbers. This deal was only made possible because of behavioral issues at his previous stops.
Though some of the gripes about him have involved chasing stats, the numbers remain impressive, especially considering he is 32 years old. There are reasons to think he hasn't slowed down much at all. Other numbers tell a different story.
Let's break down the numbers to evaluate the complicated case that is Dwight Howard...
**The numbers Howard put up in Charlotte in the 2017-18 season were remarkably close to his career averages. He had a stat-line of 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. His career marks are 17.4 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per contest. His offensive rating was 108, just a few ticks away from his career average of 110. And his defensive rating, though not as good as his 99 career average, was solid at 104. No Wizards player had a defensive rating below 107 last season.
**What makes Howard's numbers in 2017-18 even more impressive is that he accrued them while averaging just 30.4 minutes per game, over four minutes less than his career mark. That allows for some fun extrapulating those stats over per-36 projections. Howard's per-36 numbers in 2017-18 look like this: 19.7 ppg, 14.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg. That's quite good.
**Howard ranked highly in the NBA in several categories where the Wizards could use some help. He was third in rebounds per game, fifth in offensive rebounds, fourth in defensive rebounds and fourth in total rebounding percentage. His defensive rebounding percentage was a career-high. He was also third in blocks and 10th in block percentage. The Wizards were 21st in rebounding and 22nd in blocks last season.
**For as much criticism as Howard receives for being a locker room cancer and not conducive to winning, he has won a lot at the NBA level. This past season in Charlotte was the first time since he was 21 years old that he didn't make the playoffs. Two years ago, when Howard faced the Wizards in the postseason, he was one of the best players on the fourth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. Four years ago, he was one of the best players on a Rockets team that made the conference finals.
**Now, some of the advanced stats suggest Howard has fallen off with age. His 6.8 win shares in 2017-18 were nowhere near the 13.6 win shares per season Howard averaged from 2008 through 2011, when he was tearing up the league for the Orlando Magic. Still, Howard would have ranked third on the Wizards behind Otto Porter, Jr. (8.1) and Bradley Beal (6.9). Howard's 3.9 defensive win shares were better than anyone on Washington, as Porter led the team with 3.1.
**Howard is very much the same player he's always been with a key weakness that has to be mentioned anytime his value is analyzed and that is free throw shooting. Howard remains a liablity at the line and Wizards fans will be reminded of that over and over this season. He shot just 57.4 percent on free throws and took 7.2 per game. Get used to opponents sending him to the line on purpose.
**Howard has also become less efficient over the years. His 55.5 field goal percentage was his lowest since the 2005-06 season, when he was just 20 years old. He turns the ball over and doesn't score efficiently and the Wizards will have to live with that.
In summary: Howard is not the player he was in his heyday, but he's not all that far off from his peak powers. The window of his prime as an above average center appears to still be open and, though he has his drawbacks, it's hard to ignore the value he brings in certain aspects of the game like rebounding and blocking shots. The Wizards will just need to understand and overcome his shortcomings.
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