The big change in Dwight Howard’s offensive game has not been his newly developed jumper, but his patience in the post.
Dwight Howard’s offensive improvement has been extremely noticeable on the floor. The Orlando Sentinel had that nifty chart showing all the spots Howard has taken shots and it is pretty easy to notice the jump in shot attempts Howard has taken. I mean, the chart linked above is about a week old and six jumpers is a lot more than he took last year. He is feeling very confident with that part of his game.
It is not just his new jumper though. If you watch Howard this season, you see something much more.
“People are talking a lot about him shooting more jump shots and adding things to his game and he has done that,” Stan Van Gundy said before Friday’s game. “The biggest improvement in his game is that he is playing with a lot more patience in the low post. He’s not forcing the issue when people come down. He’s staying under control when throwing the ball out. I just see a maturity in his game more than any additional move or anything else.”
Adjusting to this new offensively oriented Howard could be one reason for Orlando’s slow start. Just like last year when some players had to adjust to bringing Vince Carter into the offense, some players are adjusting to seeing Howard get more shots. Through the first 13 games, Howard is taking 12.9 shots per game, up from the 10.2 per game he took last year. In fact, his numbers are similar to the 12.4 he averaged in 2009, when everyone started to see Howard become an offensive player.
Unlike that year, Howard has a little more in the offensive arsenal and is displaying that patience Van Gundy was talking about. But to get a better sense, Howard is making a full shot better per game than he did in 2009 and is shooting 59.5 percent from the floor. Taking free throws aside, Howard is doing a lot more with his possessions than he was last year for sure and possibly from 2009 (still early in the season).
As for doing anything different offensively? It is not having much effect.
“We don’t do anything a lot different. He’s playing the game a little bit differently,” Van Gundy said. “He is looking to attack a little bit more and things like that. It doesn’t change what we do.”
And Jameer Nelson’s effort last night was a re-affirmation that there is a lot going right for the Magic and their strategy. Jameer Nelson’s career-high 14 assists came following an 11-assist effort against San Antonio.
Nelson is often criticized for his inability to distribute. But really that may be an indictment of his aggression from game to game. Nelson is really very good at getting into the paint and from there is where he creates havoc on his opponents. He is an underrated passer and, like Howard, has shown a lot more patience and a better ability to read defenses.
Nelson is averaging 7.1 assists per game. If he keeps that pace up, he will blow away his previous career high of 5.6 in 2008. He is posting a 43.8 assist percentage.
“I just need to be aggressive,” Nelson said. “If I’m aggressive getting into the paint, I will make the right play a lot of times. It’s not about me making a play all the time. When I’m on the attack and other players are on the attack, we are pretty good.”
In Wednesday’s game, it was more the ability to make Miami move and play defense that led to Howard getting better looks — he ended up scoring and rebounding more than he did in that first game. It was a subtle change and it helped as Orlando’s focus on moving the ball made the Magic’s offensive attack much more effective.
“I thought our energy and ball movement were great tonight,” Van Gundy said. “We made a conscious effort to get more movement in what we were doing and to try and keep them running around a little bit. They are so damn good defensively that if you don’t have them moving around a little bit they just locked in on everything we do.”