With the Los Angeles Lakers stuck in a nightmarish season, the only hope they might have of bouncing back may rely on Dwight Howard’s willingness to embrace the role that Tyson Chandler plays for the New York Knicks.
Howard has occasionally voiced his displeasure with his lack of touches and also played with varying degrees of effort on the court, but this must become a thing of the past.
Indeed, one night he might give it his all and play with a rare sense of urgency; and then in the ensuing game he may simply refuse to box out or drive hard to the basket in the pick-and-roll, as was observed in the Lakers’ humbling defeat against the Los Angeles Clippers one night prior to the All-Star break.
In other words, the Purple and Gold have trouble figuring out which version of D12 will jump at center from one game to the next.
And that’s obviously problematic for the franchise.
Mind you, as recently as last season, Mike D’Antoni coached a player that Dwight should probably be trying to emulate for the remainder of the 2012-13 season: Tyson Chandler.
Howard is unquestionably more talented than the Knicks starting center, but his skills do not seem to mesh with that of his teammates, whereas Chandler has figured out how to fit his talents with his New York team.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year makes simple and at times subtle impact plays every time he is on the court, and it goes a long way toward helping the Knicks accumulate wins.
Chandler is a great screen setter both on and off the ball, and his pick-and-roll game is lethal given that he drives quickly and hard to the front of the rim for easy catch and scores. According to Synergy Sports, the former NBA champion converts 72.7 percent of his field goals in the screen-and-roll action.
Furthermore, even when the former Bobcat rolls to the rim but fails to receive a pass, he still forces defenders to account for him, which typically results in his teammates getting open looks from three-point range.
The big man tends to get noticed in the pick-and-roll, but he brings more to the table for the Knickerbockers. For instance, if the offense gets stale and he isn’t part of the action, he will go out of his way to set screens away from the ball for his teammates, or simply go find the ball-handler to free him up once more with a ball screen.
And in the event that one of his teammates gets the ball and prepares to shoot, he will immediately try to fight for offensive rebounding position in an attempt to give his team a second-chance opportunity in the event of a missed shot.
These details explain why the New York Knicks score a league-leading 111.8 points per 100 possessions when Chandler is on the floor but drop to a league average 102.3 points per 100 possessions when he hits the bench, according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
Whether Howard likes it or not, it may very well be in his best interests to take a page out of the Tyson Chandler playbook if he expects to make a substantial impact on games and also help out the Lakers for the remainder of the season.
It’s worth noting that both the Lakers and Knicks run some similar sets offensively.
The former league MVP is considerably better at scanning the floor and finding cutters, but Howard tends to remain stationary on the opposite side of the court whenever Bryant has the ball, especially if he sets a ball screen but wasn’t the recipient of a pass.
In a nutshell, this explains why the Lakers offense is in fact better with Howard on the bench. Indeed, NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that the Purple and Gold score 106.4 points per 100 possessions with their starting center on the bench, and 104 points per 100 possessions when he is on the hardwood.
On the other side of the ball, it wouldn’t be fair to ask of Howard that he play like his counterpart in the Big Apple given that his mobility prevents him from doing as such.
However, the seven-time All-Star can still play with more urgency and smarts on defense. Boxing out, fighting for post position and helping out a teammate that was beat off the dribble are all areas where he can continuously make positive contributions despite his current physical limitations.
The Lakers center still deserves some credit for playing despite the injuries he is facing this season, but the man that once earned the moniker of Superman can, in fact, do more to help out his team this year.
Perhaps this would take some humility on his part, but Dwight Howard could certainly be of greater benefit to the Los Angeles Lakers by accepting to play the role that Tyson Chandler occupies on the New York Knicks.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.