The NBA is going through a changing of the guard. No, not like they do outside of Buckingham Palace, but there is a new group of stars wreaking havoc on the NBA. This new crop of stars is making waves as the previous group of elite players are coming to the end of their collective primes. But not all players from the older generation are having trouble remaining effective. Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard is one of those players that is still productive.
After being drafted first overall in the 2004 draft, Dwight Howard was one of the most exciting players in the NBA. He was built like Hercules and put on amazing shows with the Orlando Magic. Howard was the face of the franchise and the biggest name to play basketball in Orlando since Tracy McGrady. The similarities between Howard and former Magic star Shaquille O’Neal were uncanny.
Both were very tall, exciting franchise players who ultimately left Orlando to chase a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard’s career eventually started to take a different path than O’Neal’s because his stay in Los Angeles was short. The star once known as “Superman” went from hero to villain after his departure from Orlando. His villain status grew even more when he failed to gel with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles.
Although his role in the NBA changed, Howard still has value to a playoff team. No matter where Howard was playing he had success in two major categories, rebounding and scoring. Number 12 has averaged a double-double in every season of his career. This season is no different. In his 11th season in the league, if Howard continues this trend he will be on a list with some Hall of Fame company.
According to a tweet by Basketball Reference, Dwight is closing in on Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell for most seasons averaging a double-double in NBA history. Chamberlain and Russell have 14 and 13 seasons respectively. It is very possible that Howard will break this record because he is only 31 years old, having joined the NBA straight from high school.
It may seem like Superman has been in the league forever, but he still has a lot of basketball left in the tank. So far this season, Howard and the Charlotte Hornets are in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference. Even though Dwight Howard is still averaging a double-double, the team is not playing with Superman as their focal point. Granted, Howard may not be the same player he once was. The scoring numbers are down from his heyday with the Orlando Magic and his block numbers are essentially cut in half. The Hornets big man is averaging 1.3 blocks a game. In his best season in Orlando, Howard averaged 2.9 blocks a game per Basketball Reference. That is a huge difference in the defensive mindset of a team.
Howard once put up very lofty scoring numbers. In his best scoring season, Dwight averaged 22.9 points a game. Now he is only averaging 14.6. This current average is a point per game higher than his last two seasons, but it is clear Howard is not the offensive star he once was. For the Charlotte Hornets to succeed, they will need to add more pieces to build around the veteran big man. Howard will continue to be a double-double machine for the foreseeable future, but cannot be relied upon to the guy. That job will have to go to someone like Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum or even rookie Malik Monk.
Overall, Dwight Howard still has a lot of great basketball left in him. The highlight reel plays may be a thing of the past, but Charlotte Hornets fans can always count on number 12 to get rebounds and score at a consistent rate. This recipe is excellent to have in a center.
If Howard can turn back the clock to get the same shot blocking skills he had when he was younger, he can be a defensive force in Charlotte. If not he will still be one of the better centers in the league until he starts significantly declining. It will be fun to see if Howard can keep up his numbers to overtake Chamberlain and Russell for the double-double record.