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By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?

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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Swaggy Picasso's Sole Talk had the Wizards taking notice opening night

Swaggy Picasso's Sole Talk had the Wizards taking notice opening night

The connection between athletes and their fans is a powerful thing in sports. The NBA is one of the trendiest, fashion-forward leagues in the world. From shoe design to overall wardrobe to eccentric personalities...the Association has it all on display for fans across the globe to consume. 

Lloyd Ferguson, a fan himself and native of Silver Spring, Md., is bursting onto the customized sneakers scene as an up-and-coming artist. 

His Instagram (@SwaggyPicasso) serves as his personal laboratory and a platform to share his creations. 

Prior to the start of Thursday night's Wizards-Heat game, NBC Sports Washington invited Ferguson to Capital One Arena for what would become a memorable night for the 23-year-old. 

Chris Miller and Drew Gooden featured Swaggy Picasso on the pregame show for an interview and sneaker showcase.

"The inside of my body was jiggling and moving. I was like 'I gotta keep composed and stay cool. You're on national televison, Lloyd.'" 

You would have never known it. 

Ferguson, who was a basketball player himself locally, grew up a Wizards and D.C. sports fan all around. 

Little did he know several Wizards would take notice of his artwork. 

Kelly Oubre, Devin Robinson and John Wall - each known for their wardrobes and respective styles - stopped by to take a peek at Ferguson's kicks. 

"Their reactions to my art was all I needed, honestly. They see the potential and growth. It's very overwhelming." 

It was a groundbreaking night for a young talent with lofty dreams and aspirations. 

Swaggy Picasso has no plans of stopping anytime soon. 

"I've been busting out these shoes day and night. I don't sleep. My desire to paint shoes is ridiculous." 

 

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Wizards vs. Raptors: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Wizards vs. Raptors: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Wizards take to the court Saturday night looking for their first win of the season against the Toronto Raptors. 

In their first game of the season the Wizards laid an egg after the Miami Heat were missing three rotation players on the second end of a back-to-back. Similar problems emerged even with new offseason additions Jeff Green and Austin Rivers having stellar debuts. Dwight Howard did not play in the contest, still dealing with a butt injury. 

Now, the Wizards will go up against one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, the Raptors. They also acquired a former All-Star in Kwahi Leonard this offseason, trading away DeMar DeRozan. Besides the switch, this is pretty much the same squad that knocked the Wizards out of the First Round of the playoffs last season.

On Saturday the Raptors will be coming off a back-to-back after hosting the Boston Celtics on Friday night. Once again, another big opportunity for the Wizards against an Eastern Conference foe early in the season.

The Wizards-Raptors will take place on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7:00 p.m. at Capital One Arena and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Toronto Raptors, 2018 NBA regular season Game 2
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Raptors will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Raptors on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the new MyTeams App.
Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS TV SCHEDULE
6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)
7:00 PM: Toronto Raptors @ Wizards (LIVE)
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
10:30 PM: Redskins GameDay: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard (questionable)
Raptors: Delon Wright (day-to-day), OG Anunoby (probable)

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS PLAYERS TO WATCH

John Wall, Wizards: After speculation on if Wall would return to his peak form, he showed out on Thursday night. With 26 points, nine assists, and four blocks, the point guard was all around the court for the Wizards. 

Otto Porter Jr./ Jeff Green, Wizards: Covering Leonard is going to be a tall task. It is anticipated that the taller Otto Porter Jr. and Jeff Green to be the duo that will be covering the lengthy guard.  Neither guy are going to light-up the stat sheet on the offensive end, but after a nice showing by Green on Thursday look for them to split time defensively. 

Khawi Leonard: Leonard had 24 points and 12 rebounds in his debut with the Raptors, picking up right where he left off before his injury. Will a back-to-back affect the star that hasn't played consistently since 2016? 

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 95 games
Regular Season Record: Raptors lead 48-37
Postseason Record: Wizards lead 6-4
Last Meeting: Raptors won 102-92
Last 10: Raptors lead 6-4

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