Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Dwight Howard is currently the best center in the NBA. Nobody disputes that fact.
But seven years into his professional career, fans are still waiting for him to fulfill his potential as an offensive threat and a leader.
Yes, his team played in the 2009 Finals. But that run was more about Hedo Turkoglu than Howard on Orlando's side.
Since then, the Magic have failed to return to the Finals, their failures highlighted by an embarrassing first-round exit this year.
Howard has always been a goofy, fun-loving and mostly carefree guy. And, there is nothing wrong with that. But when you see championship leaders of the recent past (Kobe, Jordan, Duncan, etc.) all of them have similar mentalities.
Kobe and Jordan were Jason Bourne-like assassins on the court. They wanted to win more than everybody else in the stadium and it showed in their play. Duncan was always laser-focused, serious and determined. Nothing could distract him from his goal.
All three approaches to winning differ greatly from what we’ve seen from Howard thus far. He is not an alpha male and doesn’t appear to want to be.
While his offensive game visibly improved this past season, Howard is still not a consistently great option at that end. He lacks a go-to move and disappears for stretches of games.
Howard’s usage rate during crunch time is among the league's lowest as he continually defers to his teammates late in games.
There is no doubt that Howard is a very, very good center. But is he great?
Compare the offensive stats of his first seven years to that of Shaq, Hakeem Olajuwon or Patrick Ewing. He doesn’t come close to matching their production at this stage. (PPG through first seven seasons: Shaq—27, Olajuwon—22.9, Ewing—23.3, Howard—18.2).
I think Howard would fit better as a second option behind a true team leader on a championship team. That is why I believe the Lakers should do everything in their power to obtain the big man.
Playing in Kobe’s shadow will take pressure off of Howard, allow him to prosper as a fantastic second offensive option and also teach him a great deal about how to lead.