When the Houston Rockets tried to persuade Dwight Howard to pick Houston as his next destination they used a bunch of means. The comparison with the franchise’s former dominant and superstar big men was inevitable. In fact, Hakeem Olajuwon contributed in recruiting D-12 and the presences of Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo and Moses Malone showed Howard that he can now continue this tradition.
However, things have now changed in the NBA since Olajuwon’s era. The rules have change, the style of the game teams play has also changed and Howard has to adjust to it. Whilst he worked out on his post moves with Hakeem the truth is that it’s rather difficult for him to be the type of back-to-the basket big man as Olajuwon was.
Of course, as Superman stated, he still tries to play with his back to the basket and use his post moves to score. We see it every night the Rockets play a game. Howard wants to be that player. He wants to play in the post and he tries to do so. In fact, the Rockets are using him more in the post rather than in pick-and-roll situations.
The surging big man found himself in the post 172 times, trying to isolate and score. On the other hand, he played the pick-and-roll with a teammate just 30 times. Now watch the difference. Out of his 172 times he played with his back to the basket, only 38 percent resulted in a basket. On the contrary, he scored in 73 percent of his shot attempts when he rolled to the basket. In addition, 23 percent of the times he posted up resulted in a turnover. That number goes down to just seven percent during pick and rolls. Is it now obvious why Howard has difficulties becoming that dominant post player for Houston?
The truth is that nowadays we don’t see many centers playing effectively in the post. Even heavy big men, with great post moves are forced to play out of the paint, sometimes cooperating with their teammates in pick-and-roll situations. We no longer see players like Shaquille O’Neal or Hakeem because simply the way basketball is played has changed.
The rules in the NBA have changed and that affected big men in the post. It’s much easier now for a second defender to offer help to Howard’s defender in the paint, avoiding a basket than it was almost a decade ago. The allowance of a form of zone defense has changed, in a way, the style big men have to play.
Despite all those changes, Dwight Howard stays optimistic that he can be effective in the paint, with his back against the hoop. He wants his teammates to trust him and he is going to continue to take shot attempts and use his post moves. After all, if opponents are forced to double Dwight Howard in the post, that will only help the Houston Rockets score eventually.