Let’s start off by acknowledging the fact that Dwight Howard will be named Defensive Player of the Year for the 2008-2009 season by the NBA. If this doesn’t happen, well, let’s not go there, I don’t need ANOTHER restraining order in my life.
Every time someone starts talking about DPOY, two names are brought up, outside of Dwight. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have ratcheted up the defensive intensity this year, to mixed results. James leads his team and sets the tone defensively in one of the leagues better defensive teams (only Orlando and Boston are more stanch), while Wade seems to be holding his team together on sheer will alone. I have read numerous articles about all sorts of stats making a case for either one of these players over Dwight, and while they are both impressive in their own regards, I have yet to see someone make one specific, telling point about the defense Dwight brings to the table.
Yes, Wade and Lebron have made some timely blocks (James with his chase down blocks, Wade with his end of game defensive stands like the game @ Detroit) and come up big defensively, but Dwight significantly changes the game in an even more impressive manner. Thanks to some of the information you can find at 82games.com, you can rank players in the league by points scored on inside shots. Of the top ten players, only two are not ‘big men’. Those two players, also happen to be LeBron James and Dwayne Wade (not really surprising), each of whom average roughly 10 points per game on inside shots (James at 10.3, Wade at 9.9).
We all know Dwight patrols the paint, and is the biggest reason that Orlando has one of the top three defenses in the NBA this season. If you watch a lot of Orlando basketball (and we hope you do), you see time and time again just how effective Dwight is at helping to protect the rim and keep those pesky perimeter players shooting jumpers instead of dunks and layups. So, lets look at what happens when Orlando faces two of the best in the league at getting to the rim.
Orlando has played Cleveland three times this season. Two blow out wins in Orlando and a nail biting loss in Cleveland. In the two games in Orlando, James was held to just 6 points on inside shots. That’s total, not per game. Even in Cleveland, he was held to 8 points, 2 below his season average of 10. For those of you that are mathematically challenged, that’s an average of 4.67 points per game scored on inside shots. Less than half his season average.
Orlando has squared off against Miami four times this season, so lets see how D. Wade fared against the Magic and Dwigth Howard. In two home games for Miami, Wade has a total of 14 points, 6 and 8, and a total of 6 in Orlando, with all 6 coming in one game and 0 in another (that’s impressive enough). A home average of 7, away average of 3, and a total season average of 5, again, well below his normal season average of 9.9.
If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.