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Ranking Every NBA Team's Top Option for Stopping Dwight Howard

Stephen FenechCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2012

Ranking Every NBA Team's Top Option for Stopping Dwight Howard

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    The reason that Dwight Howard was able to garner so much media attention is directly connected to his excellent play. At points during his trade saga, all of his superb performances seemed to be forgotten as he was viewed as nothing more than a drama creating NBA player. 

    If you need any proof, just take a look at the record of the Orlando Magic next April. They will more than likely be among the worst teams in the league without Howard carrying the load. 

    The Los Angeles Lakers have the potential to be better than both the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder in large part due to the play of Howard. 

    Howard is the best defender in the league and has improved his offensive repertoire in each season. 

    While Howard isn't praised enough for his offensive production, opposing defense will also need to guard three other stars when they play the Lakers.

    As the second or third option, Howard will be a nightmare to guard. 

    Please leave comments and let me know how you think about who is the most capable of stopping Dwight Howard.  

29- Meyers Leonard (Portland Trail Blazers)

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    Meyers Leonard was taken by the Portland Trail Blazers with the eleventh pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and likely will get the starting nod on opening night at the center position. 

    The Trail Blazers have the pieces to develop into a good NBA team, but there will be some growing pains this season. 

    Leonard is 7-feet tall and a dominant defensive presence at times playing at Illinois. The problem is that the level of play in the NBA is a bit higher than that of the Big Ten. 

    It is safe to assume that when Leonard is tasked with guarding Dwight Howard, he will certainly struggle. When that inevitably happens, all Trail Blazers fans can do is hope that he learns from his mistakes.  

28- Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors)

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    Jonas Valanciunas is set to make his NBA debut for the Toronto Raptors this season, and his performance could determine whether or not the Raptors make a run at a playoff berth.

    There is a lot of hype surrounding the arrival of Valanciunas because of the belief he would have been the second pick in the 2012 NBA Draft had he not entered the draft in 2011. 

    Valanciunas is 7-feet tall but runs the floor more gracefully than a prototypical big man. As he gets older and spends more time in the weight room, Valanciunas will get stronger and will become more dominant defensively. 

    No one knows how Valanciunas will perform in the NBA, but he has the potential to be a very good NBA player.

27- Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

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    Andre Drummond was perhaps the most talked about player in the 2012 NBA draft due to his immense potential and his inability to focus and be consistent during his freshman season at Connecticut.  

    When he fell to the Detroit Pistons with the ninth pick, they couldn't pass up the chance to pair him with budding star Greg Monroe in the front court. 

    Although it remains to be seen if Drummond will start the season at center for the Pistons, if they are thinking logically they will start him. 

    Detroit isn't ready to contend for the playoffs, so they might as well let Drummond gain invaluable experience to aid in his transition to the NBA. 

    The jury is still out on Drummond, but I wouldn't bet against that type of talent. In a couple of years, he might be considered one of the best centers in the league. 

    If that turns out to be the case, maybe someone will make a list of players that could potentially stop Andre Drummond. 

26- Glen Davis (Orlando Magic)

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    The idea that the Orlando Magic are actually going to need to guard Dwight Howard is something that still is puzzling Magic fans.

    When Howard does play his old team for the first time, he likely will be guarded than Glen "Big Baby" Davis. 

    No offense to "Big Baby", but Howard is going to have his way with him in the post. Although Davis did perform very well at starting center while Howard was out last season, he didn't have to guard anyone of Howard's caliber.

    Due to the fact that Davis is giving up at least two inches to Howard and isn't the most sound defender anyway, he is the worst ranked non-rookie.  

25- Brook Lopez (Brooklyn Nets)

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    Brook Lopez is known for his strong offensive post game and he averaged 20.4 points per game during the 2010-11 season. He also is known for his poor rebounding and defense.

    Lopez and Dwight Howard always will be linked because many thought that they would both be involved in a trade that would have sent Howard to Brooklyn. As it turned out, Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and Lopez agreed to a max deal with the Nets.

    There isn't much to say about the defense that Lopez plays other than that it is an area that could use a lot of improvement.

    Howard is a tough matchup for any opposing center. However, the way in which Howard would dominate Lopez ensures that very few Magic fans wanted their team to acquire Lopez in any trade.  

24- Chris Kaman (Dallas Mavericks)

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    Chris Kaman is a solid post defender, but his inability to block shots will make it tough for him to slow down Dwight Howard when the Dallas Mavericks play the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Injuries have derailed portions of Kaman's career, and it wouldn't shock anyone if he went down with an injury early on this season. I hope that isn't the case, because the Dallas Mavericks will be one of the more interesting teams to watch once the season gets going.

    If Kaman is focused and healthy, then he will skyrocket up this list because he has the ability to jostle with Howard in the lane due to his powerful base and size.

    Although the Los Angeles Lakers figure to be a much better team than the Mavericks, nothing is certain until the two teams play.

    The Mavericks appear to have lost their chance to land Howard, but that doesn't mean that Kaman won't get his opportunity to shut Howard down.  

23- Marcin Gortat (Phoenix Suns)

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    Marcin Gortat was Dwight Howard's backup in Orlando from 2007-10, and they definitely missed him after he was traded to the Phoenix Suns.

    Howard and Gortat have faced off twice since the trade, with Howard absolutely dominating Gortat on both occasions. 

    In the two contests, Howard compiled 54 points, 31 rebounds while converting on 20 of his 33 field goal attempts. On the other hand, Gortat contributed just 16 points and 13 rebounds as the Suns lost both games handedly.  

    When next season tips off, Gortat will be without Steve Nash, who will be found throwing alley-oops to Howard.

    I fully expect to see a few clips of Howard slamming home a Nash feed over Gortat as the Lakers annihilate the Suns.  

22- Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Bobcats)

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    Bismack Biyombo can run the floor, block shots and rebound. While he still a bit raw, Biyombo has the potential to help the Charlotte Bobcats out of the NBA cellar.  

    Considering the fact that Biyombo is just 20-years old, he can be forgiven for still working out the hitches in his game. 

    HIs athleticism and energy gives him the chance to make big plays on the defensive end of the court every night, something that is often said when describing Dwight Howard. 

    Biyombo performed well in his first start against Dwight Howard, holding him to just 15 points while adding 11 points himself. 

    As he enters his second season, Biyombo must be relieved that Howard is no longer in the Southeast division.

21- Anderson Varejao (Cleveland Cavaliers)

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    Anderson Varejao is a scrappy post defender who is best know for his ability to draw charges. Or put another way, make it look as if he took a charge. 

    Varejao is coming off an injury, and while he did play well at the Olympics, that doesn't guarantee that he will be ready for the rigors of an NBA season. 

    Before Varejao and Dwight Howard got injured during the 2012 season, the two faced off once with Howard outplaying Varejao.

    Varejao and Howard have battled each other in multiple playoff series when Howard was in Orlando, but will play each other less often now that they are in different conferences. 

20- Samuel Dalembert (Milwaukee Bucks)

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    Samuel Dalembert was one of the casualties of the Houston Rockets roster upheaval and found himself part of a trade to the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Luckily for Dalembert, he found a way out of the Western Conference before Howard arrived.

    Also, the Western Conference is deeper than the East at the center position, so Dalembert should find himself in more manageable match ups on a nightly basis.

    Dalembert has earned his living in the NBA due to his fluid movement and shot blocking, both of which will benefit the Bucks this season.

    In terms of a matchup with Howard, Dalembert would find himself in a few situations in which he would be forced to foul Howard in order to stop him from scoring.

    Howard would have Dalembert in foul trouble more often than not, and he wouldn't be able to slow Howard down while sitting on the bench.  

19- Emeka Okafor (Washington Wizards)

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    Emeka Okafor will always be linked to Dwight Howard because they were the first two players taken in the 2004 NBA Draft. 

    While Okafor hasn't had the career that Howard has, he has been a serviceable center and he makes the Washington Wizards better in the short run. 

    Okafor is a bit undersized to play center, but his strength and ability to defend the rim negates that for the most part. 

    In their only meeting in the lockout shortened season, Howard dominated Okafor, as he scored 28 of his teams' 67 points. 

    In the offseason, both players flipped conferences, so they won't see each other very often this season. Okafor and the Wizards should be thrilled that Howard is no longer in Orlando, because he made things much harder for Washington in the Southeast division.  

18-DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)

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    DeAndre Jordan has the potential to be one of the best defensive centers in the NBA, but he has problems remaining focused over the course of a full game.

    While Jordan is used to sharing the media attention in Los Angeles with another talented center, the pressure got ratcheted up when Dwight Howard came to town.

    The Los Angeles Clippers have a very long way to go if they hope to overcome the Lakers as the team to beat in LA.

    Howard is as consistent as they come on a nightly basis. The Lakers will be sure to utilize him to his full extent against the Clips until Jordan proves that he can slow Howard down.   

17- Omer Asik (Houston Rockets)

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    Omer Asik signed a three-year $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets based on his interior defense. 

    As a member of the Chicago Bulls, Asik carved out a niche as Joakim Noah's back up and defensive specialist. 

    While the Houston Rockets will surely struggle against the Los Angeles Lakers this season, Asik should be able to keep Dwight Howard in check enough to ensure that either Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash dominates the game. 

    Asik will have to get used to playing a lot more minutes this season, but he should be able to help the Rockets on the defensive end of the court. 

16- Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)

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    Chris Bosh is the center on the Miami Heat because Erik Spoelstra has intelligently decided that the Heat are better when they are getting up and down the court quickly. 

    With Bosh at center, the Heat will be very difficult to scheme for defensively because they will be quick and versatile on that end of the court.

    The problem for the Heat about Bosh being their starting center will center around how he will perform defensively in half-court sets.

    Dwight Howard is far stronger than Bosh and would likely draw fouls at a rapid rate inside.  

    If the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers wind up representing their respective conferences in the NBA Finals, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Lakers will make it a point to get Howard his fair share of touches down low. 

15- Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs)

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    Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard may very well lead their teams into a playoff series against each other this season. 

    If that turns out to be the case, Duncan will have to outsmart Howard, because he isn't as young or athletic as his new foe.

    There wasn't a clear winner in Howard-Duncan duel when the two met on the 14th of March earlier this year.

    Duncan will try to pull Howard toward the perimeter when the Spurs have the ball, while trying to deny Howard dominate position when the Lakers have possession.

    Duncan is as technically sound as anyone in history. His dedication to his craft will allow him to go blow-for-blow with Howard in the big moments next season.  

14- Nikola Pekovic (Minnesota Timberwolves)

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    Nikola Pekovic had a breakout season in 2012 and his presence gives the Minnesota Timberwolves a very good front court. 

    In Pekovic's sole meeting with Dwight Howard during the lockout-shortened season, he outscored the newest Lakers by five and took Howard out of the game with his defense. 

    Howard will be facing off against more talented centers in the Western Conference, so it will be interesting to see how he handles that. 

    Not many people think of Pekovic as a lockdown defender, but that could change with another strong season. The Wolves will be counting on him to slow down Howard when the teams face off this season.  

13- DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)

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    One of the questions that has always surrounded DeMarcus Cousins is his level of maturity. He has all the talent in the world, and he should become one of the best centers in the NBA.

    At this point, the player that Cousins' turns out to be is up in the air.

    While he isn't praised for his defense often, that is exactly what is happening here.

    When Dwight Howard and Cousins faced during the 2012 season, the latter emerged as the clear winner.

    Howard was in foul trouble the entire game and finished with only five points in 20 minutes of action.

    If Cousins is able to contain Howard like that on a consistent basis, then the Sacramento Kings will have a chance to win a couple games against the Los Angeles Lakers this season.  

12- Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers)

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    Roy Hibbert is fortunate that Dwight Howard wasn't able to participate in the first round of the playoffs. If Howard had stayed healthy, the Orlando Magic would have given the Indiana Pacers a run for their money. 

    That being said, he has a better chance of slowing Howard down than most of the league.

    At 7'2", Hibbert has a height advantage on Howard but isn't nearly as strong or as dominant on the glass.

    His wingspan allows him to foul Howard while stopping him from extending the play. Putting Dwight on the line is a solid strategy, but you have to make sure that he isn't still getting decent looks while he is getting fouled.

    The Indiana Pacers still have a bright future, and Hibbert must have been excited to see Howard leave the Eastern Conference.  

11- Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks)

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    Al Horford should be playing power forward but has been forced to play center due to the presence of Josh Smith.

    Horford should be give a lot of credit for developing into such a solid center, but we won't be able to see him reach his potential until he is able to slide out to the four.

    Horford's athleticism allows him to keep pace with Howard, but he doesn't have the size to bang with him in the post for rebounds. 

    In terms of defending Howard, Horford is perfectly capable provided that Howard doesn't have dominating position. 

10- Al Jefferson (Utah Jazz)

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    Al Jefferson is a solid post-defender, and he has slowed Dwight Howard down in the past. 

    While some say that his rotation defense is suspect, he is usually able to keep his matchup from having great games.

    Jefferson and Howard will be facing off more often now because they are in the same conference. We will know soon enough how Jefferson handles Howard once the two become more familiar with each other.

    If Howard is able to dominate Jefferson in the post, then the Utah Jazz will be in big trouble when they face off against the Los Angeles Lakers this season. 

9- Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets)

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    You may be surprised to see Anthony Davis so high, but you shouldn't be. 

    I fully believe that Davis will live up to the considerable hype that is surrounding him. In fact, Davis will easily win the Rookie of the Year award and his transition to the NBA won't be all that painful. 

    Davis has plenty of room to progress, even on defense. The idea of Davis becoming even more dominant defensively is an idea that should scare offenses across the NBA.  

    As Davis continues to hit the weight room in order to gain mass, his presence in the post will 

    While at Kentucky, Davis had the best PER in all of college basketball and shut down opposing offenses almost single-handedly. Davis has the foot speed to stay in front of guards and the wingspan to make stand out plays in the paint. 

    The Hornets hit the jackpot when they won the lottery and the right to draft Davis.

    Davis will give Dwight Howard problems when the two face off this season, and he will be a threat to Howard's title of best center in the NBA in a few seasons.  

8- Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)

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    Marc Gasol and Dwight Howard didn't play each other last season due to Howard's injury that caused him to miss the last month and a half of the season. That being said, they did face off twice during the 2011 season with Howard outplaying Gasol on both occasions.

    While Gasol isn't the player that Howard is, when the two meet their production tends to cancel each other out. For example, Howard averaged just over 21 points in their two 2011 match ups, while Gasol averaged 16.5 points.

    As Gasol gets used to facing off against Howard more often,—something that should happen quick now that they are in the same conference— that gap should only continue to close. 

7- JaVale McGee (Denver Nuggets)

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    JaVale McGee may be unrivaled in terms of athleticism and upside, and the Denver Nuggets are going to reap the reward as he continues to develop.

    McGee's athleticism makes him one of the league's most threatening shot blockers, but that isn't why he is so high on this list.

    Javale comes in at the seven spot because of his size and potential. In the Nuggets opening round playoff loss to the Lakers at the end of the 2012 season, McGee proved that he was a world class center when he outplayed Andrew Bynum in multiple games before being dismissed by the Los Angeles Lakers in a tough seven game series.

    While Howard got his way with McGee prior to their respective trades, I expect McGee to give Howard a run for his money when the Lakers and Nuggets face off in the upcoming season. 

6- Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics)

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    Kevin Garnett is set to begin the 18th season of his NBA career, but that hasn't stopped him from maintaining his status as of one of the most intense defenders in the league. 

    In Garnett's two match ups against Dwight Howard last season, Garnett held Howard below his scoring average. 

    He did this by making sure that he kept Howard from getting good position on most possessions. 

    Garnett's smothering defense caused Howard to go a combined 10-of-29 from the field, which was significantly lower than his season season average from the field.

    Granted, the Boston Celtics defense as a whole deserves a lot of credit for slowing down Howard, because it usually takes a team effort to shut him down. That being said, Garnett's ability to slow down Dwight is nothing short of remarkable due to the age difference. 

5- Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors)

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    Andrew Bogut is an amazing defender, it's as simple as that. He changes shots, blocks shots and is an all-around menace in the paint. 

    His ability to keep himself level on defense is the reason that he appears so high on this list. 

    Bogut isn't the type of player that makes things easy on his opponents', and won't be giving Dwight Howard any easy looks when the two face off this season. 

    When the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors do face off, all eyes will be on the Bogut-Howard battle in the post.

    While Bogut shouldn't be expected to outplay Howard on most nights, he should be able to contain the league's best center better than the vasty majority of other big men.

    It remains to be seen just how well Bogut will fit in with the Warriors, but he will certainly add a defensive edge to the team.  

4- Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)

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    Joakim Noah is one of the most intense players in the NBA. That alone makes him one of the best interior defenders in the league, and one of the players that has the best chance in slowing Howard down.

    The problem with Noah on the defensive end is that sometimes he helps his team mates too much, and finds himself out of position.

    Since Dwight Howard is now out of the Eastern Conference, Noah will see him less. While the Los Angeles Lakers should be very good offensively next season, the Chicago Bulls will be among the best defensive teams in the league, even without Derrick Rose.

    When Howard and Noah face off this season, it will be interesting to see if Noah is willing to focus mainly on shutting down Dwight.

    If he decides to focus primarily on Howard, then Noah will be able to slow him down in the half-court.  

3- Kendrick Perkins (Oklahoma City Thunder)

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    The presence of Kendrick Perkins was invaluable for the Boston Celtics when they met the Orlando Magic in the playoffs at the end of the last decade. 

    Now that Dwight Howard has been dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers, Perkins becomes an invaluable member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Prior to the Howard trade, the thought of the Thunder amnestying Perkins because he wasn't playing up to his level of play. The arrival of Howard in the Western Conference has a gone a long way in quelling that thought.  

    Perkins has been more effective than anyone else in guarding Howard, something that will need to continue for the Thunder to overcome the Lakers when the teams meet next season.

    At this point, it is viewed as a safe assumption that the the Lakers and Thunder will face off in the Western Conference Finals. 

    If that conclusion comes to fruition, the series may be decided on how well Perkins is able to defend Howard. If he is able to do so as well as he did in the past, then the Lakers will have to depend on Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash a bit more in that series. 

2- Andrew Bynum (Philadelphia 76ers)

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    It is often argued that Andrew Bynum is better than Dwight Howard on the offensive end of the floor, but isn't in the same class defensively. I believe that Howard is superior to Bynum in every category besides free throw shooting, but a strong argument could be made for Bynum being a bigger scoring threat.  

    Bynum is 7-feet tall and is a dominating presence inside when he wants to be. As has been stated time and time again, we never know when Bynum is going to mail it in and take a few possessions off.

    That isn't a quality that a team wants their franchise cornerstone to have, but the Philadelphia 76ers are gambling that he will develop into a more mature player. 

    Bynum has the size and strength to jostle with Howard in the paint, and when the two face off this season, it will be a must-wach matchup. 

1- Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks)

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    Tyson Chandler is the second best defensive center in the NBA, behind only Dwight Howard. 

    The two faced off three times during the 2012 season, with Chandler shutting down Howard on all three occasions.  In fact, Howard scored only eight points in two of the games, which was good for two of his worst performances of the season.

    In the third, Howard only scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. Both of which were well below his season averages.   

    Chandler is one of the few centers in the NBA that can handle Howard's physicality. This allows Chandler to keep Howard from getting the dominant position that he is used to getting on most nights. 

    Howard is currently the best rim protector in the league, but Chandler isn't far off and that makes him very deserving of the top spot. 

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