More on Donatas Motiejunas and Dwight Howard


I previously wrote about the differences between Donatas Motiejunas and Dwight Howard. Defensively, they are comparable. Offensively, DMo is much more capable. I dug up some additional data that supports the latter conclusion.

In the first piece I wrote, I mentioned that DMo’s FG% increases by almost three percentage points when he dribbles, whereas Howard’s decreases by almost six percentage points. This suggests that DMo is much better at putting the ball on the floor, such as posting up or driving, than Howard is. It also means that Howard should concentrate on catching and finishing, rather than manufacturing offense himself. Amazingly, despite these differences, Howard still dribbles and holds the ball more than DMo and almost every other center.

According to SportsVU and, Howard has attempted 327 shots this season and has dribbled 290 times before those shots. His FG% when he takes 0 dribbles is 72%. When he takes JUST ONE DRIBBLE, his FG% is 44%.  When he takes two dribbles, he’s down to 38%. His average number of dribbles per shot (0.887), is seventh in the league among all centers, and that’s only if you consider Boris Diaw a center.

DMo, on the other hand, has taken 482 shots and dribbled 378 times during those shots, for 0.784 dribbles per shot. When he dribbles once, he shoots 46%. When he dribbles twice, he shoots 60%.

Also worth noting is how long Dwight holds the ball when he touches it. On average, he holds it for 2.377 seconds each touch. That’s 8th in the league among centers. Holding the ball increases the risk of turnovers (you’re all nodding) and the chances that he’s going to dribble, which we’ve already established is a bad idea. DMo holds the ball for 1.872 seconds per touch, 24th in the league.

Just to offer some comparison, take Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan,who have defined what it means to be a defense, rebounding, and dive to the basket center. Pretty much everyone who writes for this blog thinks that the team would be better served with Dwight playing more like these two because he would actually be better at doing what these two do. Chandler has shot 303 times this year, and dribbled 35 times on those shots. Jordan has shot 333 times and dribbled 58 times on those shots. They hold the ball 0.886 seconds and 0.761 seconds per touch, respectively. This catastrophe can be summed up in the following table.

Player Shots Dribbles on shots Shot/dribble ratio Average time per touch
Howard 327 290 0.887 2.377
Chandler 303 35 0.116 0.886
Jordan 333 58 0.174 0.761


If you’re going to use possessions in the manner that Howard does, you better produce results. We already know that he doesn’t. Here’s data to prove it. Unbeknownst to me, Synergy data is now available through Ready for Dwight’s post up data? Avert your eyes! Hide the women and children!

Player Post up freq. % PPP FG% TO frequency % Score frequency %
Howard 50.7 0.72 41.60 17.3 39.6
Motiejunas 28.1 1.03 56.8 11.7 52.2

(That score frequency stat is the % of post ups that result in the team scoring at least one point)

Look at that! It’s just so bad. And now I’m going to make it worse. Here are their league rankings in these stats among the 48 players with at least 100 post ups.

Player Post up freq % PPP FG% TO frequency % Score frequency %
Howard 3 46 37 44 44
Motiejunas 18 1 1 26 1


Uhh. UHH. UHH. (Throws papers into air). Someone’s going to stop this madness… right?



About the author: Richard Li is an independent researcher and consultant. He likes numbers and pictures.

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