Dwight Howard: Superman for NBA MVP?

Christopher WhalenCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2009

One of the handful of players worthy of being the 2009 NBA MVP also happens to smile more than any other player on the court.

He is the lone player who has earned the right to call himself "Superman." He won the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest wearing a cape and a Superman emblem on his chest.

The man I speak of is, of course, Dwight Howard. You will not find a player who is a more intimidating force in the National Basketball Association.  

Sorry, Shaquille O'Neal.  You are no longer the player most feared in the paint.

Even if SI and its players' poll named him the most intimidating player in the association, "The Big Cactus" does not have the same prick to him that he once had.

Howard is garnering attention for the most coveted of postseason awards, and should continue to do so throughout the season.

His statistics really belie the overall impact he has on games and the league.  They are impressive, still: 20 PPG and 14 RPG. He also posts almost one steal per game (.98) to go along with his super-shot blocking of nearly three per contest (2.92).

Funny thing is, two of his Orlando Magic teammates have taken more than 70 more shots than No. 12 this season, and he still manages to dominate.

But Dwight has intangibles in addition to stats.


Dwight Howard Controls the Paint

Shots flying toward the rim is a regular occurrence in league play. What is not the norm is one player sending so many shots back, flying in the opposite direction.

Many teams are forced to settle for jump shots outside the painted area due to the presence of Howard. When you block as often as a young child with Legos, you will have that sort of impression on an opponent's tendencies.


More Than Just a Space-Eater

Howard does take up room in the lane, but like the comic book hero Superman, he has more than just strength. His long wing-span makes for adjusted shots (and sometimes nothing more than desperate attempts at the rim).

He gathers rebounds as if he were a magnet gathering metal. Imagine if his only duty was to focus on rebounding, à la Dennis Rodman for so many years. Might we say that 30 boards on a nightly basis would be possible?


Consistently Playing Valuably

Shooting 50 percent from the field in one NBA game is respectable for one night. Play around 40 minutes that same day and you get a little more respect for the day.

Now apply those averages game-in and game-out. That's almost Dwight Howard-good. He's making shots at a clip of 56 percent to this point.


But Superman Does Have His Kryptonite

There is a weakness in Dwight Howard's game: free throws.

He does shoot an average of 58 percent from the line. He also gets to the stripe pretty frequently.

But in doing so he takes on many defenders' personal fouls. That makes his weakness a team strength as well.

The pervasive turnover bug bites Howard too. His 2.8 per game give the other team more chances to score. 

But, just for comparison, the other MVP candidates aren't doing any better: Kobe Bryant averages 2.68 turnovers per game, while King James turns the ball over at a peasant-like 3.0 per game, and New Orleans superstar Chris Paul gives the ball up at a 3.1 clip.

Even though turnovers are a large part of wins and losses in the NBA, one can't weight that too heavily when deciding the MVP. You will not hear any expert or pundit say that LeBron shouldn't win the award because he coughs up about three extra possessions for the other team each game.

Even Tim "The Wise Veteran" Duncan has a high turnover margin: 2.23 per game. Think of this stat as more food for thought.


Image Is Everything

As far as a spokesman for the NBA, Howard could be no more perfect for the role. Coming in as a rookie four years ago, Dwight vowed to spread Christianity.

The difference now is that he is less naive but just as adamant about spreading his faith. Couple his good values with the humble, balanced nature that he possesses, and every writer who casts a vote could be in his corner.

There are many tall buildings to leap and many speeding bullets to be faster than in the NBA season. But if Howard continues to act like a "Superman" and gets the Magic to the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, he should scoop up the MVP hardware.

What if he falls short of that feat, without Jameer Nelson, and still leads his team to 50 or more wins?

Simply cast your vote for Dwight Howard if his impact is the greatest.