Dwight Howard’s career in one chart (and what it means for the Rockets’ fortunes)

Dwight career game score through 2013
The chart shows a 10-game moving average of Game Score, which is a statistic available from Basketball-Reference that aggregates all box-score statistics into a single performance metric.

It cannot be understated how significant it would for the Rockets’ future if Dwight Howard were to return to pre-back-surgery form. I wholeheartedly believe that, if it happened, the Rockets would leap from the fifth or sixth best team in the West to the title favorite.

Dwight’s recent spurt of production had our own Michael Pina and Rahat Huq wondering aloud last week whether Dwight is a top-5 player again. They came up with only three players they would rather have than Dwight over the next three years: LeBron, Durant, and Anthony Davis.

{Pause to digest.}

Is it really happening? Is Dwight really BACK? Or at least well on his way?

You can draw your own conclusions from the chart, but it seems pretty clear to me that the answer is no. While it’s true that Dwight has been great over the past few weeks, he has not been stratospherically great like pre-back-surgery Dwight and like LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul today.

On the positive side, the chart shows that Dwight has improved considerably since last season, and maybe he will keep improving. Maybe by the end of the season we will be able to confidently say that Dwight Howard is fully healthy and playing at the level of LeBron and Durant. (I’m sorry to say that I seriously doubt it.)

Despite my doubts, I’m optimistic that the Rockets will significantly improve over the next year or two regardless of whether Dwight returns to pre-back-surgery form. There are a number of other things that could go right for the Rockets. For example:

  • James Harden could reach the stratospheric level that Dwight Howard once played at. (Remember: he’s still very young.)
  • Terrence Jones, Chandler Parsons, and/or Jeremy Lin could develop into legitimate all-stars. (Remember: they’re still very young.)
  • Perhaps most plausibly, Daryl Morey could acquire another all-star or maybe even a stratospheric-level star through trades or free agency. (Remember: Daryl Morey is awesome.)

The bottom line is that while I have serious doubts about Dwight’s back, I have even bigger doubts that the Rockets won’t soon become much better than the fifth or sixth best team in the West.

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Total comments: 12
  • thejohnnygold says 7 months ago

    I didn't want to start a new thread for this so I will apply it to this thread's topic. I read an interesting article regarding fantasy basketball that concocted a variation on fg% that factors in volume of shots, high shooting %, and three pointers. The idea was to try and glean a better understanding of a player's actual impact since a high eFG% looks good until you see that player only shoots 3 times a game which means little true impact.

    For those who are statistically inclined it's fun to see the calculations they made and who moved up and down the lists. Here is the LINK.

    The Rockets placed two players in the top 10: Parsons (5th) and Howard (10th). It's an interesting notion for sure. For me, it reinforces the idea that feeding Howard is beneficial for the team and that he is still a solid offensive weapon in this league.

  • rocketrick says 7 months ago

    i think the greatest likelihood is morey acquiring another all-star

    I concur. The Rockets definitely still need one more difference maker on the floor. Still, there are times this season where the Rockets have looked great and assuming better health going forward and the more experience this team gets, the better andmore consistent they should become.

  • HazeWinkle says 7 months ago

    This is not up to Red94 standards. I presume everyone is reading the same threads and posts I am and so I also presume that the recent remarks I have highlighted as not up to standard have been noted by everyone. Remarks like this are never ok. This goes for everybody. Can we all stop telling people they are high or idiots? If anyone wants to hurl unsupported opinions and insults at people there are places on the internet for that--this is not one of them.

    As for Dwight's free throws, he is still sporting a .595 TS% (this includes free throws) which is pretty good and the highest it's been since the 2010-11 season.

    According to ESPN, Dwight's FT% has gone up from .550 in Nov. to .568 in Dec. In wins he shoots .593 and in losses .496. So, it seems 60% is the standard for winning consistently and he is edging closer to that as an average. Maybe suggesting that we can't win a playoff series because of Dwight's free throw shooting is turning a blind eye to a lot of other aspects of a basketball game.

    Dwight shoots 8-9 free throws a game so we can presume we lose 4-5 points per game (assuming 100% shooting--which doesn't exist--more likely we could say it is 2-3 points lost per game if someone else shot them). Now, would we rather not have Dwight and his free throw problem or do we believe we would be better off without him? For 2-3 points...I'll take my chances with Dwight.

    Also, if memory serves there were some bad free throw shooters who won some titles...Shaquille O'Neal comes to mind. Tim Duncan in his 4 championship years shot 63%, 67%, 69%, and 71%...slightly better but nothing to brag about.

    my bad i didnt mean to insult anybody. shaq and tim duncan are hof's and im not going to compare them to dwight all i know is come playoff time they will be hacking dwight and he will be shooting a ton free throws but this team has so many bad habaits i hope mchale can right the wrong if not i hope JVG is the next coach

  • thejohnnygold says 7 months ago

    that was also in a very very weak eastern confrence but look at what happened to the spurs in the finals make a few free throws the spurs are the champs and if you think dwight making about 50% of his free throws in the daunting western confrence playoffs and expect to get out of the 1st round or go to the finals you are high on drugs. Its crazy rocket fans are know accepting this cancer thats in his game

    This is not up to Red94 standards. I presume everyone is reading the same threads and posts I am and so I also presume that the recent remarks I have highlighted as not up to standard have been noted by everyone. Remarks like this are never ok. This goes for everybody. Can we all stop telling people they are high or idiots? If anyone wants to hurl unsupported opinions and insults at people there are places on the internet for that--this is not one of them.

    As for Dwight's free throws, he is still sporting a .595 TS% (this includes free throws) which is pretty good and the highest it's been since the 2010-11 season.

    According to ESPN, Dwight's FT% has gone up from .550 in Nov. to .568 in Dec. In wins he shoots .593 and in losses .496. So, it seems 60% is the standard for winning consistently and he is edging closer to that as an average. Maybe suggesting that we can't win a playoff series because of Dwight's free throw shooting is turning a blind eye to a lot of other aspects of a basketball game.

    Dwight shoots 8-9 free throws a game so we can presume we lose 4-5 points per game (assuming 100% shooting--which doesn't exist--more likely we could say it is 2-3 points lost per game if someone else shot them). Now, would we rather not have Dwight and his free throw problem or do we believe we would be better off without him? For 2-3 points...I'll take my chances with Dwight.

    Also, if memory serves there were some bad free throw shooters who won some titles...Shaquille O'Neal comes to mind. Tim Duncan in his 4 championship years shot 63%, 67%, 69%, and 71%...slightly better but nothing to brag about.

  • thenit says 7 months ago In terms of FTs American big men tend to be worse than non American big men. They work on their shooting touch from young age hence better fundamentals and strokes. American youngsters who are big lives on their size and athletic ability therefore they never really develop a good shooting touch and poor FT shooting.
  • 2016Champions says 7 months ago

    I have been very happy with Howard. He's more hungry than anyone else staying long after practice, making sure hotel rooms remove bad foods so everyone has no choice but to eat healthy, he's the last person anyone should blame

  • HazeWinkle says 7 months ago

    If my memory is still alright, I do recall him taking a bunch of scrubs to the finals with <70% ff, and our whole team sucks at free throws so stop blaming Dwight for little things because if you noticed oppents haven't done hack-a-Howard in a while.

    that was also in a very very weak eastern confrence but look at what happened to the spurs in the finals make a few free throws the spurs are the champs and if you think dwight making about 50% of his free throws in the daunting western confrence playoffs and expect to get out of the 1st round or go to the finals you are high on drugs. Its crazy rocket fans are know accepting this cancer thats in his game

  • TeamBall says 7 months ago

    I noticed that Howard and Hardens' pace slow down a bit in the past couple of games, blame it on holidays' partying.

    Moving forward, Harden's performance can be more efficient if his minutes are more managed.

    As for Howard, come on coach, focus your practice sessions on Lin/Howard. They have not synced up as yet, when they do, Howard's stats should go up.

  • Buckko says 7 months ago

    Howard isnt taking this team NOWHERE in the playoffs if he cant make at least 70% of his free throws all the close games we lost hell we would have won if he would have made his free throws. hell i would rather harden play no defense at all then howard missing free throws

    If my memory is still alright, I do recall him taking a bunch of scrubs to the finals with <70% ff, and our whole team sucks at free throws so stop blaming Dwight for little things because if you noticed oppents haven't done hack-a-Howard in a while.
  • Rahat Huq says 7 months ago

    i think the greatest likelihood is morey acquiring another all-star

  • rm90025 says 7 months ago

    Dwight Howard has had some very good nights and some average ones. There are players like Kendrick Perkins and DeMarcus Cousins that he clearlyfinds difficult to match up with. Others have the ability to out-perform him in crunch time because of the free throw shooting issue.But what I don't know is whether his valleys are a result of a game plan that is not optimizing his skills or whether he is more limited. Offensively, he seems better than before. Defensively, he isn't quite as dominant.Morey may have to change the coaching staff or force the McHale team to implement a different philosophy to see how effective he can be. The team is very Harden-centric and is essentially a volume 3pt shooting team. A switch to a more inside out focus with pick and roll and post-up might help this team get to the next level.

  • HazeWinkle says 7 months ago

    Howard isnt taking this team NOWHERE in the playoffs if he cant make at least 70% of his free throws all the close games we lost hell we would have won if he would have made his free throws. hell i would rather harden play no defense at all then howard missing free throws