The Demise of the ‘Big Man’ in the NBA

As for Dwight Howard, I was a big fan of his for the first couple years of his career, but now I’ve all but given up hope that he’ll develop into a legendary NBA center. He has the size and body, but he lacks the skill and patience to be a great player. In fact I’ll go so far as to say he’s one of the most overrated players in the game. Take away his size and jumping ability, and what does he have? Nothing.

May 28, 2010 - Boston, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - epa02177986 Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen (R) has his shot blocked by Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (L) during the first quarter of their Eastern Conference final round playoff game at the TD Bank Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, USA 28 May 2010. The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 and the winner will advance to play either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.

Some might blame the demise of the big man on Michael Jordan. Because of Michael Jordan, every player growing up nowadays wants to be a guard, and few of them develop the big man skills necessary to be an effective center in the NBA. Often times they become so dependent on being taller, faster, bigger, and stronger than opposing players throughout their high school and collegiate careers that they never work on their low-post game or learn proper footwork.

Many players have good success following this prototype (eg: Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard, and many other players such as Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, Tyrus Thomas, Darrell Arthur, etc.), but they don’t take that next step which catapults them into GOAT status.

Some people might argue that Dwight Howard is young (25 years old)and will gradually learn how to play with his back to the basket more effectively, but don’t forget that during Shaq’s rookie year, when he was only 20 years old, he averaged 23 ppg, 14 rpg, and 3.5 bpg—a better season than Dwight will probably ever have in his career.

Despite Dwight Howard’s monster stats and defensive intimidation, he has very little skill on the offensive end and his game is far from polished. Instead of thinking of Dwight as a Shaq-clone, I’d consider him more like a shorter Mutombo (because of his defensive specialty), with more explosiveness and athleticism, yet with worse defensive fundamentals (Mutombo was much better at anticipating shots and reacting to the defense than Dwight).

Amar’e’s problem stems from his unwillingness to develop much of a back-to-the-basket game or play any defense. The list goes on and on, and the bottom line is that no center today plays a game reminiscent of any of the pivot men who dominated the paint throughout NBA history.

Next: The Last Big Man Left?

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