Dwight Howard: Great, But Not Superman Yet

Ryan CardarellaCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2009

So Dwight Howard fancies himself as Superman, huh? Well, I suppose he already has the cape and game to match.

At this early stage in his career, Howard has dazzled fans with his rare blend of size, athleticism, and raw power, putting on a spectacle in two consecutive slam dunk competitions while dominating the low-post as Orlando has risen to join the conference elite.

He even showcased his superpowers for the league's resident Superman Shaquille O'Neal recently, prompting him to cower and flop in a manner that made Vlade Divac's trashy Eurobeard tremble with laughter and admiration somewhere.

Yet Shaq remains unconvinced and unimpressed with the "New Superman's" ascent. Color me unconvinced as well.

In terms of ability and explosiveness for a man his size, Howard has no peer in the league. Amare Stoudemire possesses much of Howard's raw athleticism, but is a liability defensively, while Howard can dominate with his shot-blocking ability.

In fact, his blend of power and quickness as a low-post player has not been matched since Shaq was filming such American movie classics as Steel and Kazaam.

He has the ability and look of a young Karl Malone, but to this point has failed to show the willingness or ability to absolutely take over a game offensively on a consistent basis like a Malone. He has also yet to master the Diamond Cutter.

With his athleticism, there is no reason why he can't become a more explosive scorer for the Magic. It may appear to be nit-picking to criticize a guy scoring 21 points per game, but there is no one in the league who can man up on Howard.

A guy who shoots nearly 60 percent from the field needs to shoot more than 13 times a game. Guys like LeBron and Kobe shoot around 20 times a game, for comparison's sake.

No doubt, Coach Stan Van Gundy and his point guards need to work on getting him the ball more, and in better spots as well. But the great ones demand the ball and take charge when their team needs it, and Howard has yet to consistently display this quality.

Howard is still a young player who has steadily improved each year in the league. He is already the best center in the league, and has been the driving force behind Orlando, joining Cleveland and Boston at the top of the conference.

But until he can bear the burden of being the go-to guy in the clutch, and a guy who can put up 40 and 20 when his team needs it, he can't be compared to guys like "the Diesel."

His 20 and 15 is spectacular, but for Orlando to overcome teams like the Cavs and Celts, Howard has to be the beast that he has shown glimpses of being.

That 20 and 15 won't be enough with LeBron putting up 40, 10, and eight, and it probably won't be able to overcome the combined efforts of Allen, Garnett, and the Truth either. It might not be enough even if he does play like Superman.

But his lack of elite scoring punch at this point in his career will prevent him from earning the title of league's most dominant force. And it will likely prevent Orlando from winning a title, period.