Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Watching Dwight Howard play informs you of one solid fact, he is bigger, stronger and more athletic than anyone on the court. Additionally he doesn't really show many skilled post moves, more like turn -> bull rush -> layup. Anybody else in recent memory who dominated basically because they were simply too big and too strong for anyone to handle? Oh yeah, Shaquille O'Neal, the former Magic "Superman". And of course to further the parallel they have both now helped the Magic reach an NBA finals before their 21st birthday so why not do a little comparison of their career trends.
Let's first ignore Howard's first year, when he was 19*, and focus on the years when Shaq and Dwight entered the season at the same age. The trends are pretty much what you expect. Despite being just a year older than Howard in his rookie year, Shaq enjoyed three years of seasoning in College which helped him come into the NBA guns a blazing. Due to this Shaq's numbers over his rookie and sophomore campaign overshadow Howard's numbers at the same age in every category, including blocks which you might have assumed would have fallen Dwight's way. After a few years in the league the numbers continue to fall in the way you would expect, Shaq is a much more polished and dominant offensive player. His points, assists, and even turnovers per game are much better than Howard's. What did happen in Howard's favor is that he's progressively become an even better rebounder and has morphed into the premier NBA defender. Shaq's rebounding numbers, perhaps thanks to some weight gain, began to decline to the 11.5 range following his first two seasons. Additionally, he never was considered the best defender in the league, more so an immovable object and terrible road block in the paint.
What about their career performances during the playoffs?
Both made three playoff appearances before their 25th birthday. Shaq made it to the finals as a 23 year old while Howard is currently 24. Again the differences are expected. Shaq was more dominating on the offensive end both in scoring and passing and Dwight Howard is emerging as one of the greatest rebounders of all time.
Overall the two players have their similarities but are still vastly different. Howard is a rebounding God while Shaq was simply an elite rebounder. Shaq was the GoTo scorer for the Magic in their run to the finals, while Howard is truly the Magic's 3rd option behind Hedo and Lewis. In the end though they both are truly elite players who were gifted with the incredible combination of size, strength, and athleticism.
~Shaq is born in March, Howard in December. So Howard is roughly 4 months older than Shaq for every given point noted.