When the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard over the summer, the first thought through everyone’s head was: championship or bust. Howard was supposed to be the last piece to a championship team that featured Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, but those hopes turned into disappointment. Offseason back surgery hampered Howard for most of the regular season, and the Lakers quick exit from the postseason leaves several questions for the summer.
Regular Season Grade: C
To most everyone’s surprise, Howard was ready for the Opening Night against the Dallas Mavericks, but it was evident that he wasn’t at 100 percent. Like most of the Lakers, Howard struggled in the Princeton offense and when head coach Mike D’Antoni was hired, he didn’t fit-in well with his system either.
While he averaged 16.3 points and 11.8 rebounds for the first half of the season, Howard developed a torn labrum in his right shoulder, causing him to sit out two three-game stretches. However, as the season wore on, Howard’s back got stronger and stronger as he put together 22 straight games of 10+ rebounds.
Howard shot 49.2 percent from the free throw line and found himself in foul trouble almost every single night, which frustrated many in Lakerland. While he didn’t start the season well, Howard averaged 20.9 points and 10.5 rebounds in April as he looked more like his old self.
Playoff Grade: D
In the four playoff games, Howard averaged 17 points and 10.8 rebounds, but most will be disappointed with his ejection in Game 4 against the Spurs.
Without Kobe, Nash, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, Howard assumed the position as the number one option, but wasn’t able to lead the Lakers past the Spurs.
Overall Grade: C-
Howard goes into the offseason as the center of the Lakers plans, whether or not he re-signs or opts to go somewhere else. Seen by many as the next face of the franchise, Howard let many down with his play and inability to commit to the Lakers longterm.
Much has been made about his relationship with Kobe, but the most concerning part is his inability to thrive in D’Antoni’s offense. Howard has been open about his admiration for former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, and many believe D’Antoni being the Lakers coach might hurt their chances in retaining the All-Star center.
While the season was a complete disaster, Howard did look more like himself down the stretch as he affected the game on the defensive end and helped lead the Lakers into the playoffs. In the two games against the Spurs and Rockets to end the season, Dwight averaged 21 points and 17.5 rebounds.
Laker fans were definitely frustrated with Howard’s play this season, but most would agree that he needs to be re-signed. As Kobe comes off a serious injury and with the uncertainty surrounding Pau, Howard will featured player going forward for the Lakers.
Howard would be wise to re-sign with the Lakers as it’s the best fit and gives him the best opportunity to win a championship. While Howard looked like a shell of himself earlier in the season, his strong play in the last month is an encouraging sign going into an uncertain summer.