Breaking Down Dwight Howard's Most Effective Low-Post Moves
Long before the NBA world at large had turned against Dwight Howard for his embarrassment of a trade saga, the basketball public drilled it into their minds that Howard was to be ridiculed for his lack of a low-post game. An ability to score from the low block is the most revered of skills among big men, and with Howard characterized as one of the last bastions of hope for the traditional center archetype, he faced constant pressure to hone his ability to make the moves that made the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale into NBA legends.
Lost in that criticism was one inconvenient truth: Howard is actually fairly efficient—if a bit robotic—in the post. The game has evolved in ways that makes it more difficult for post players to go about their work without facing additional defensive pressure, but Howard nonetheless has scored at an efficient clip by way of practiced moves and superior physical gifts. It isn't all dunks with Howard; the league's preeminent big man actually has a pretty dependable post repertoire, even if it isn't all that diverse.
Howard's go-to post move keeps it simple. There's nothing flashy or all that remarkable about a baby hook from a few feet away from the rim, but Howard generally does a good job of working himself into position and making terms with the unspectacular. For every highlight slam to Howard's name is a bucket in this vein, largely created by backing down smaller players and attacking them in the most basic fashion. This very move is the foundation of a more complex post game, and though Howard doesn't have a fully developed arsenal of counters as of yet, the fact that his hook is so reliable is important nonetheless.
As a result of Howard's consistency going right, he's able to freeze his defender and reverse into a lefty scoop shot. This is Howard's most refined post counter at present, and it works far more often than it should.
Theoretically, the scoop shot is one of the most easily blockable attempts in the game. Yet due to Howard's physical advantage and the slight misdirection of his shimmy, he's able to weasel his way under his defender's outstretched arms. This also builds on the possibility of Howard going left into a more conventional hook shot, and though he also makes that shot reliably, he more consistently looks to go underhand.
This is where the attacks on Howard's touch around the basket seem particularly unfounded. He may not seem like Hakeem reincarnated, but Howard's soft flip toward the rim requires careful precision. This isn't a move that can be executed by just any big man, and yet Howard gets no credit whatsoever for his ability to pull it off consistently.
Howard's best work in the post is often done facing the basket. As cherished as the notion of back-to-the-basket play is in today's NBA, Howard would be remiss not to use his superior quickness on a frequent basis. The general rule of thumb for post players is to back an opponent down when one has the size advantage and to face up when one has a speed advantage, yet in the case of a player like Howard who often has both attributes tilting in his favor, the choice is far more open.
As such, Howard opts to face up plenty—a key reason why many don't consider him to be a very good traditional post player. It's not the sky hook, but squaring up from the block is just as valid and often just as efficient, and Howard has done a stellar job of incorporating jabs and spins into his miniature driving game to maximize his effectiveness.
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