Dwight Howard’s arrival in Houston signals the arrival of one of the most dominant players in basketball, along with one of the most polarizing personalities in sports. Here at Red94, we are embracing the drama of Superman’s first season as a Rocket with a weekly column: “DwightLife.” This is the 13th installment.
Dwight Howard hit a three-point shot against the Bucks last week, which means he’s now shooting an insane 40 percent on threes this season…on five attempts, two of which were full-court heaves.
Both of his makes came with the shot clock winding down and no one else open, so it’s not as if McHale is drawing these plays up. But maybe he should. I’m halfway playing devil’s advocate and halfway being serious here. Come along for the ride.
The biggest thing standing in the way of Dwight taking threes is the question of whether he can hit them (duh). There is some indication that he can. As Matt Bullard (former stretch 5 and current Rockets TV analyst) pointed out during the broadcast, Howard is “really good” at hitting that shot when messing around before games. At the beginning of the season, I recall Coach McHale being asked a joking question about whether Howard would be allowed to shoot threes, and he answered seriously that the big man would have to start hitting something like 70 percent of them in practice to start shooting them in games. Obviously, Howard isn’t there, but it’s interesting that McHale has an objective criteria for shooting that allows him to change the playbook as players develop their games.
Most would say Howard’s free throw shooting would seem to indicate that no matter how hard Howard works on his three, he’ll never be able to use his shooting as a weapon. I disagree, and here comes my crazy theory for the day: Dwight might be better at shooting threes than free throws.
To be clear, I don’t mean he will hit a better raw percentage of threes than free throws because of the added distance of the shot and the ingrained rules of probability that a longer distance narrows the margin for error. I mean he could be better when measured against the league average. Why? Because Dwight Howard’s upper body is so unbelievably huge that a three pointer is the only shot he actually looks comfortable taking.
When Dwight Howard takes the ball into his hands and prepares to take a free throw, it feels like the ball is being loaded into one of the orc catapults during the assault on Minas Tirith. Every jumper and hook shot that Howard takes within 15 feet of the basket looks like a slugger checking his swing–he doesn’t follow through because he’s afraid of overshooting the basket. However, when you back Superman up behind the arc, the massive levers that are his arms suddenly seem perfectly calibrated for launching the ball 22-25 feet.
The strategic benefits of Howard being able to hit a corner three are immense. With a power forward in Terrence Jones who is already one of the best ball-handling 4’s in the league, a drive-and-kick lineup with Lin, Harden, Parsons, Jones and a jump-shooting Howard would be terrifying.
A three-point shooting Dwight Howard is like something we would create as kids by playing with the sliders on NBA Live ’98. It seems so outlandish that you don’t even want to think about it. Still, it’s hard not to think about it when it happens…