Why Steve Nash Will Improve Dwight Howard's Offensive Efficiency

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2012

EL SEGUNDO, CA - AUGUST 10:  Dwight Howard poses with his new Los Angeles Lakers jersey after being introduced to the media as the newest member of the Lakers during a news conference at the Toyota Sports Center on August 10, 2012 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers aquired Howard from Orlando Magic in a four-team trade. In addition Lakers wil receive Chris Duhon and Earl Clark from the Magic.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

You really can't describe 57 percent shooting as inefficient while keeping a straight face. After all, it led the league in 2011-12.

But for Dwight Howard, it was actually a step back—the second time in as many seasons his average declined from his 2009-10 career high of 61 percent. Now let's be clear. Between then and now, Howard has remained the league's most efficient scorer, and the difference between his highs and lows is relatively marginal.

It's a difference nonetheless, though. Over the course of a season, making a few extra baskets can pay dividends for greats teams having to win series against other great teams.

It's also a difference you might be willing to overlook as an outlier were it not for the fact that Howard played fewer minutes and took less shots. Marcin Gortat was beginning to emerge as a solid backup, and this was his last full season with the Magic prior to being traded to the Phoenix Suns.

Howard's 34.7 minutes and 10.2 field-goal attempts were (and are) the lowest since his rookie season, and his 18.3 points per game rank as the lowest in a five-year stretch from 2007-08 to 2011-12.

The lesson seems to be that less is more with Howard, or that it's a little bit more anyway.

In that 2009-10 season, Howard averaged fewer shots than Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson. By 2011-12, Howard led the Magic in field-goal attempts, taking 13.6 a game.

You're better off asking Howard to get his points in pick-and-roll situations and the fast break than you are throwing him the ball and asking him to back down in the post.

As he's become more comfortable with his post game, we've been seeing more of it, but that's likely to change in Los Angeles, and not just because pounding the rock in the paint kills the Princeton offense's prized ball movement.

It's also likely to change because Steve Nash is as good as it gets at facilitating those pick-and-rolls and fast breaks in which D12's most at home.

The results aren't especially complicated. Howard's explosiveness around the rim is his bread and butter, so he'd rather be facing the basket in a position to exploit, with defenders out of position if at all possible. That's far preferable than working for a spin move in the post or otherwise putting up a jump hook.

And as a general rule, Howard will be able to do most of his damage without the ball in his hands. That's what happens when you can trust the game's most proven facilitator with putting the ball in those hands at just the right time.

It doesn't hurt that Nash is so adept at creating angles to make those passes in the first place. Howard can fight for position all day long, but rewarding the big man for doing so is crucial to him developing a rhythm and taking the best shots.

Howard obviously won't make 70 percent of his field goals this season, but it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him back up over 60 percent as he transitions back into a slightly more complementary role with the help of a legendary floor general.

Nash probably won't mind lending a helping hand, either, and Howard will make him look pretty good, too.