Despite the lockout during the offseason and the minimal amount of preparation for the season, Howard is on his way to having one of his most productive years in his career, if not the best.
Sixteen games into the shortened 66-game season, Howard is averaging 20.1 points, 16.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 blocks per game.
This past Friday, Howard put together a convincing performance against the Los Angeles Lakers and Andrew Bynum. He scored 21 points and had 23 rebounds in a 92-80 win.
That performance gave Howard his NBA-best fifth 20 point/20 rebound game.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, that gave Howard his 37th career 20-20 game, which is nine more than the next three players on that list combined since his rookie season in 2004-05. It also made him the first player since Kevin Willis in Nov. 1991 to have two consecutive games with at least 21 points and 23 rebounds.
On Monday, Howard posted his fourth consecutive double-double against the Celtics with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
And while trade talks never cease with Howard, he keeps on going.
This season Howard has dominated even more than before, it seems. His offensive game has vastly improved as he continues to develop his short-range shooting. Slowly, but surely, Howard is implementing a Hakeem Olajuwon offensive repertoire along with his physical, banging-type post play.
The Orlando Magic continue to be one of the best defensive teams in the nation despite having below-average defenders. All of the credit goes to Howard with his 36 blocks so far this season.
Howard has also improved in his assists. While that's not an area many people associate with a big man, Howard's assists are particularly important to the Magic's success since the team is full of three-point shooters. The fact that he is increasing his assists has been crucial to the Magic's 11-5 record.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of the 2011-12 season being the best yet of Howard's career is his desire to be the best. When Shaquille O'Neal called out Howard as being the second-best big man in the NBA, Howard didn't back down. In fact, he fired back at O'Neal telling him that "he needs to sit down and get on with his life."
Howard is displaying an urge to be the best that I haven't seen in him in a while. He's always had the physical ability and skill to be the best player in the NBA, but now it seems as if the intangibles have risen as well.
If Howard keeps this up, don't be surprised to see his name as an MVP favorite by season's end.