Can it be true? Dwight Howard hits 7-of-9 from the charity stripe, including knocking down two crucial free throws down the stretch in overtime?
In Games Three and Four of the Eastern Conference Finals against the supposedly invincible Cleveland Cavaliers, Superman averaged 74 percent and 78 percent from the free-throw line.
Now, those may seem like pedestrian numbers to many. But for a player who has averaged roughly 60 percent from the free-throw line for his career, those numbers are remarkable.
I believe the basketball world is starting to witness Dwight Howard’s transition process from superior athlete and rock solid presence to a dominating force the NBA has not seen since Shaq in his prime. Not only is he knocking down free throws in key situations, but he’s demonstrating a passion and fire that seemed nonexistent before.
He’s demanding the ball more in the post. He’s picking up technicals after dunking on an inferior defender who mercilessly tried to be physical with him (see Anderson Varajeo). During timeouts, he appears to be more focused in team huddles.
Hey, he’s even called out his coach for not getting him the ball enough down the stretch in a game.
Even with all these positive signs, there are still significant areas of improvement if Dwight Howard wants to be mentioned along with the likes of Shaq, Hakeem, Wilt, and Kareem.
First, he must continue to improve his free-throw shooting. With his size and strength, he is virtually unstoppable in the paint.
Hence, he will be fouled frequently.
Teams are not afraid to foul him in crunch time because he is historically a poor free-throw shooter. If he gets that percentage up to at least 75 percent, look out NBA.
Secondly, he must develop a mid-range jumper. Howard loves to catch the ball in the post and face up the defender. He then proceeds to do a drop step spin move and either go with the hook shot or the fan favorite, backboard-rattling dunk.
However, that move is not always there. Sometimes he’s going to have to hit the 15-footer when the paint is clogged. He should study Yao Ming, an excellent shooter for a big man.
If Dwight Howard works on these key development areas in the offseason, the Eastern Conference, better yet, the entire NBA needs to be scared on how dominating Superman can be.
Oh yeah, he’s only 23.