Two of the best big men today include Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard. There is much debate between the two: Would you rather have Amare's offensive awesomeness or Howard's defensive dominance? After thinking it through, I'd probably have to go with Dwight Howard.
Let's compare their stat line so far into the 08-09 season:
Stoudemire: 22.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 56.5 percent field goal, 82 percent free throw
Howard: 21.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 4.1 blocks, 58.1 percent field goal, 57.3 percent free throw
This isn't as lopsided as it looks. Although Stoudemire isn't even averaging one more point than Howard, he has shown in the past that he is able to completely dominate games by scoring. He is a much better shooter, and is almost impossible to stop when he's clicking offensively. He scores in a variety of ways.
Of course, he gets power dunks, but he is just as likely to beat you by sinking a 15 footer, taking it to the rim or getting to the free throw line. He has the complete offensive package (save passing, though Howard can't do it either).
Howard, on the other hand, isn't as skilled as Stoudemire. His points come right around the basket, either by dunking or making a jump hook five feet away from the rim. He does not punish teams for fouling him, as his free throw percentage is a miserable 57 percent. He does not have very much range on his jumper either. However, Howard is still a capable scorer and can easily get 20 a game.
Defense, though, is the big difference maker. I've feel that as a big guy, your first and foremost responsibility is to protect the rim. Guards and forwards can't do it. They can score, but they're not going to rebound and block shots. Though he has shown the potential to be a dominant force under the basket, Stoudemire is not nearly a good enough rebounder for his size. Howard, however, is a force that cannot be stopped.
As stated above, Amare Stoudemire cannot rebound the ball on a consistent basis. He does not put enough effort into it, and that's what stops him from being truly great. 8 rebounds for a center is just not going to cut it.
He is a capable shot blocker, though too often he tries to block the shot and will instead foul. In terms of man to man defense, Stoudemire has improved and is improving, though he is only average. He does get a steal per game, but he needs to defend to really up his game.
Howard, however, is the best defensive force in the game today. He is able to change the course of a game simply by rebounding and defending, something Stoudemire lacks. He is an absolute beast, grabbing nearly 15 boards and blocking over 4 shots a game. He is the player who will guard the Tim Duncans, Yao Mings and Amare Stoudemires of the league. He is a non stop hustle player, and in my opinion, is currently a lock for winning the defensive player of the year award. Howard is just amazing here, and clearly is the better defender and rebounder between himself and Stoudemire.
There is also the leadership factor, something which is big in my opinion. Stoudmire has done nothing but complain this year about how he wants to be "the man" in Phoenix. He needs to realize that to be "the man", you have to act like "the man." That's why the Suns are still Steve Nash's team.
Howard, on the other hand, has done a great job leading the Magic for the past few years. His teammates have a great deal of respect for him, and are following Howard's example this year. With him in charge, the Magic have become one of the best teams in the entire NBA.
I love Amare Stoudemire, and think he is a great player. However, he will never be truly great until he rebounds, defends, and leads. Howard is raw offensively, but is dictating the game by doing the things Stoudmire doesn't. Think of it as a kind of Chamberlain vs. Russell type deal: Chamberlain got the points, Russell got the championships. It will be the same with Stoudemire and Howard.