Dwight Howard: Star Center Has No Excuse for Horrific Free-Throw Percentage

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 05:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up prior to a game against the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena on December 5, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA, the league's most disruptive defensive force and a juggernaut on the block when he's in a groove.

So why in the world can't he hit a free throw?

Now, I'm not expecting the big man to shoot 85 percent from the field. He's a center, his range is obviously limited and he's allowed to have a weakness or two in his game. Even the greats have some shortcomings.

But Howard is shooting 48.8 percent from the charity stripe. 48.8 percent! He's missing every other shot he takes from the free throw line, and it's absolutely absurd.

Let me put it to you another way—Howard is 118-of-242 on his free throws this year, meaning he's left 124 free points on the board. He's played in 22 games, meaning he's costing the Lakers 5.6 easy points per game.

If you don't think that matters, consider that the Lakers have lost five games by six points or less this season. Those points are vitally important.

And we've seen them cost the Lakers individual games. 

Against the Orlando Magic, Howard missed 12 free throws, including seven in the fourth quarter. The Lakers lost by 10.

One game later, he missed eight free throws and the Lakers lost by two to the Houston Rockets. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers he missed nine, and the Lakers lost by six.

And these games are just this month.

In November, he missed nine free throws and the Lakers lost by two to the Indiana Pacers. The first game of the season, he missed 11 and the Lakers lost to the Dallas Mavericks by eight. Should I go on?

Obviously, Howard's free-throw shooting is far from the only thing holding L.A. back right now, but it's certainly not helping, and it's certainly something he can work on. Honestly, the easiest skill to improve in the NBA is free-throw shooting.

Bring in a coach, go over your technique and spend an extra hour or two in the gym each day shooting from the line. I'm not saying Howard will suddenly morph into Ray Allen, but he should at least be able to get his percentage around 60 percent.

Honestly, is that really asking all that much?

Of course not. For his career, Howard shoots 58.4 percent from the stripe. Hardly a good number, sure, but it's better than what he's shooting this year. In fact, Howard is on pace to shoot his lowest percentage from the line in his career, currently below the previous low he set last year at 49.1 percent.

Why has Howard suddenly regressed from the line? Are back issues to blame?

If I knew the answer to that, I would be a shooting instructor. But this much I do know—Howard needs to get better from the line. Even simply improving to the standard he has shot at for much of his career would help.

Because right now he's hurting the Lakers. And honestly, the Lakers don't need something as simple as free throws to worry about. 

They've got bigger fish to fry.


Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets shoot 95 percent from the line, because nobody is perfect.

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