How Much Of An Adjustment Does Dwight Howard Have To Make?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76ersBreaking down Kobe, Shaq, Bynum, and Howard’s numbers

Dwight Howard’s offensive game is nowhere near as equipped or powerful as Shaq’s was, but now let’s look at Andrew Bynum’s career-season last year. Bynum moved into the being the second option for the Lakers last season and averaged 13.3 attempts per game.

Now, Bynum’s offensive game is also more polished than Howard’s and the Lakers were running a more low-post offensive set last season, but Howard’s efficiency–with regards to field goal percentage–is higher than Bynum’s (Bynum averaged a field goal percentage of 55.8 last season compared with Howard’s 57.9). Therefore, I see no reason why Howard can’t get the exact amount of offensive attempts that he averaged last season.

One valid argument against this is the free throw disparity, where Bynum only averaged 5.6 attempts and Howard currently averages 10.4; which would prove that Howard is getting more touches–or at least an equal amount–compared with Bynum. Some of that, however, can be attributed to the Hack-A-Dwight strategy many teams have implemented when facing the Lakers. For the record, Shaq only averaged less than 10 free throw attempts once during his tenure with the Lakers (9.4 in the 1996-1997 season).

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Perhaps a more accurate statistic would be each player’s Usage Rating. Bynum had a Usage Rating of 23.75 last season, while Dwight Howard has a Usage Rating of 23.35 this season; Howard’s rating last season in Orlando was 26.11 and 27.22 in the season prior to that.

For those wondering what Kobe’s Usage Rating is, it’s currently at 32.13–his lowest clip since the 2007-2008 season. In that regard, Bryant isn’t exactly being selfish with the ball and in fact he’s actually averaging a league-high 29.5 points per game on 20.6 field goal attempts–which is 2.4 less shots per game than he averaged last season; a season in which he averaged more than two fewer points per game. Additionally, Bryant is averaging 5.0 assists per game, which is his highest clip from the 2007-2008 season as well.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles LakersWhat adjustment needs to be made?

Essentially, Bryant is playing an extremely efficient overall offensive game; averaging career highs in field goal percentage (47.8) and three-point percentage (38.0), while also dropping more dimes than usual. Perpetual critics of Bryant can eat their words on those numbers.

At the same time, regardless of Howard’s numbers not being too far off what they were in Orlando (with regards to shot attempts) and Bryant’s lowered usage and increased efficiency, when I watch the games I see Howard often  uninvolved on the offensive end of the court. However, it has improved some, and the game has been noticeably easier for the rest of the guys when the team plays inside-out. A perfect example of this was Sunday’s game against Philadelphia where Howard put up 13 field goal attempts, but also read the double-teams thrown at him and dished out five assists.

In my opinion, this is how the Lakers should play from here on out in order to be most effective as a team. Bryant still put up big numbers (34 points on 12-21 shooting along with six assists and four rebounds), but five other players (including Howard) were in double-digits as well.

No, Dwight Howard is no Steve Nash or even Pau Gasol when it comes to facilitating, but the threat of him down on the low-block to other teams is something the Lakers have to fully utilize instead of just using him to set up screens for Bryant. Those screens are definitely helping Bryant tremendously, but if the Lakers can utilize all methods of attack, why not? That inside-out game did allow Orlando to make it to the 2009 NBA Finals after all, and it will continue to open up outside shooting for everyone else.

The Lakers appear to be moving in the right direction, though. Andrew Bynum may have been correct when he said that Dwight Howard will have to adjust to Kobe Bryant’s game and get used to not always touching the ball. However, it appears as though Bryant has already made his adjustment (although it may seem like he still shoots too much to many people), and perhaps Howard’s adjustment won’t be as dramatic as initially thought. Howard, who is the hopeful to be the Lakers’ next franchise player, must feel comfortable offensively, but I don’t see it as too much of an issue as a couple more touches for him in the post–ones that will surely come once Steve Nash returns–should be able to keep him adequately involved offensively.

With a talented team such as this one, everyone will have to make sacrifices in some form or fashion. Steve Nash will likely look to mainly facilitate and only worry about his own offense as an afterthought, and Pau Gasol has seemingly already sacrificed a lot offensively. However, as long as each player is willing to do so in the name of winning championship, and in turn, puts more effort into maximizing the touches each one gets, the Lakers will be perfectly fine.

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