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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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