≡ Menu

DwightLife – Chapter 5: It’s A Process

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.”

Part of the great sea change brought about by the advanced stats movement was the shift of evaluating players more through process rather than results. We no longer called a player a “winner” just because he always ended up on winning teams (raise your hand, Derek Fisher), but because throughout the course of the game we could measure how many things he did to contribute to winning. Kobe Bryant (count the rings) and LeBron James (count the Win Shares) were the poster boys for the old guard and the new.

Now that LeBron has his rings, no player embodies the cognitive dissonance between what we know and what we see than Dwight Howard. This week’s loss to Dallas distilled the conflict in a single game.

To be blunt, all anyone will remember about that game is that Houston lost, and that Dwight Howard did this:

He tosses the ball at a heckling fan, earning a technical just as Dallas was mounting a comeback in the fourth quarter. If we’re being “process” oriented, clearly this play does not contribute to the process of winning.

Now here’s the irony: when we go back and evaluate Dwight Howard at the end of this season, this game will weigh heavily in his favor.

He started this game by making 11 shots in a row. He finished the game with 33 points on 16 shots. He went a respectable 9-13 from the line.  Dallas tried to single-cover him with Samuel Dalembert, and he ate Sammy’s lunch while only turning the ball over once. Most importantly, he had a plus-minus of +1. Despite his bone-headed ball toss, Houston still won the minutes that we was on the floor.

Also, if you want to look at big-picture reasons why Houston lost the game, it’s hard to pin it on Howard. Houston outscored Dallas in the paint by 20 (!) points. But there’s not a lot Howard could do to stop the Mavs from shooting 50 percent from behind the arc.

At the start of last week, Howard’s field goal percentage was around 53 percent–shy of the 55 percent that typically marks a great post player. Now it stands at 56 percent, and that change rests mainly on his performance in Dallas. His PER just crept above 20. His true shooting percentage is the highest it’s been since ’10-’11 (although just barely). If Howard is in the MVP conversation in 6 months, his production from the Dallas game will have significantly contributed to his consideration. The stupid technical will contribute to his disqualification.

That’s just another day in the life of Dwight Howard. The bad never outweighs the good, but it always outshines it.

View this discussion from the forum.

About the author: John Eby got on the Rockets bandwagon in 1994 and never got off. He is a public relations guy and recovering TV journalist living in South Carolina.

in columns
Read previous post:
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets on 11/23/2013