Dwight Howard is a force
(Sports Network) - Twenty-one-year-old Dwight Howard is playing in just his third year in the NBA, and has already developed into one of the top big men in the league.
Originally selected out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy by Orlando with the first overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, Howard, who has not missed a game during his career, is dominant on the boards and when he gets the ball around the hoop. He still needs to work on developing his jump shot, which would complete his game.
Howard's numbers have improved from season-to-season. He had a solid rookie campaign, as he averaged 12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and shot 52 percent from the field. In his sophomore season, Howard posted 15.8 points and 12.5 boards per contest while shooting over 53 percent from the floor.
After 36 games this season, Howard leads the Magic in scoring (17.4 ppg), rebounding (12.8 rpg) and blocks (1.9 bpg). He is also shooting an impressive 57.1 percent from the field and has led Orlando to the top of the Southeast Division.
He has collected 27 double-doubles and has logged 30 or more minutes in 33 contests. Howard has become the leader of the Magic and his phenomenal play has made his teammates better players.
Orlando's opponents have to double-team Howard when he touches the ball around the basket, which allows for better looks and more space for the other Magic players. Head coach Brian Hill's offense goes through Howard and is very efficient when the star forward gets the rock in the low post.
Point guard Jameer Nelson, veteran forward Grant Hill and swingman Hedo Turkoglu are Howard's main supporting cast. Trevor Ariza, Carlos Arroyo, Tony Battie, Keyon Dooling and Darko Milicic are contributors and have been solid role players.
Nelson, who was drafted by Denver with the 20th overall selection in the 2004 draft and was then traded to Orlando on draft night, is expected to help Howard make the Magic into perennial playoff contenders for many years to come. The 24-year-old Nelson is a pure point guard and is one of the key ingredients to the Magic's formula for success.
The strong play of Howard and the success of the Magic, should definitely get Howard a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. If selected to the squad as a starter or reserve, it would be his first appearance in the mid- season event for the rising star.
Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Jermaine O'Neal, Amare Stoudemire and Yao Ming are some of the top big men in the game today. Howard belongs right there with them. He is not as smooth as Duncan, or as polished as Garnett and O'Neal. He can't drain threes like Nowitzki, score like Yao, and when Stoudemire is 100 percent healthy there may not be anyone better.
However, Howard can defend anyone in the low post and is not afraid to do the dirty work that helps teams win the big games. He is a hard-working forward whose best days are still ahead.
At just 21, Howard keeps getting better and is very hungry on the court, which is evident by the way he plays the game. Howard is a rising star, and a spot on the Eastern Conference roster for the All-Star Game along with a berth in the postseason for Orlando will give him more credibility when being compared to the elite big men in the NBA today.