Trade rumors have been circulating recently around Dwight Howard and the Miami Heat. If a deal gets worked out between the two, the package being sent to Houston would include Hassan Whiteside, a premier defender, and outstanding shot blocker.
As expected, Heat fans would not be too embracing if Howard comes to South Beach. Seemingly always the villain, Howard has butted heads with organizations since his late days in Orlando. Labeled as a primadonna with the Lakers, Howard didn’t get along with Kobe Bryant or the organization, and went off to Houston.
Working with Kevin McHale, Howard had a stellar individual season with the Rockets in 2013-14 — averaging 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds. Unfortunately, injuries have plagued Howard over the last few seasons and he hasn’t been able to produce at a high level consistently. Furthermore, he seems to struggle on the Rockets since their offense is Harden-centric.
Dwight Howard’s best seasons were in Orlando from 2007-08 up until 2010-11. During those seasons, the Magic emerged as a top team in the Eastern Conference, behind superstar Dwight Howard and head coach Stan Van Gundy. In those four seasons, D12 averaged 20.6 points, 13.8 rebounds & 2.6 blocks per game, making him the only center in the league with those numbers. He gets hurt in 2011-12 and leaves the Magic to pair up with Kobe in LA.
In 2011-12, Phil Jackson was no longer coach of the Lakers, and great owner Jerry Buss wasn’t contributing much to the operations of the franchise. Ultimately, the lack of leadership outside of Kobe Bryant wasn’t helping Howard, who already had loads of pressure to bring a championship to LA. The Lakers went through three coaches that season, and Howard departed after one season, only furthering his reputation as a cry baby who couldn’t handle the bright lights.
Okay, so why does Dwight Howard need Pat Riley & the Heat? Because Pat Riley is the ultimate disciplinarian and the Miami Heat have a system where Howard would flourish.
In those four years where Howard was at his best, SVG stressed defense, which is where Howard excels. From 2007-2011, the Magic’s DRtg was never lower than sixth in the league, and D12 led the league in DRtg three times in those years. Dwight Howard is a game changer on defense and his year with LA, and his years in Houston, he’s been on teams that just don’t stress defense.
Under Mike D’Antoni in LA, the Lakers were fifth in pace, and 20th in DRtg. Being his most efficient in the low post, an up-tempo play style doesn’t suit Howard that well and that’s not how the Magic played back in the late 2000s. It’s the same case in Houston, a run-and-gun style of play with a superstar who shoots 20-25 shots every night with not adequate stress placed on defense.
Pat Riley, on the other hand, runs a no nonsense organization. He was the coach of the Showtime Lakers back in the 80s, the Patrick Ewing-led Knicks in the 90s, and both a coach & executive of the Heat during their three championship seasons. There is a ton of emphasis placed on defense and toughness under Riley’s teams; evidenced by the Knicks & Heat teams of the late 90s
Not only that, Stan Van Gundy, the man who coached Howard during his best seasons as a pro, was an assistant under Riley and took over the HC spot when Riley stepped down, before moving to Orlando.
Erik Spoelstra, another protege of Pat Riley, would place Howard in the same spot he was under SVG: a hard-nosed defensive team that moves the ball in the halfcourt offense. There are more than enough floor spacers in Miami, and Howard would have space to work in the low post.
Dwight Howard would become the superstar of the team and have all the same attributes as Hassan Whiteside, all while being a lot more efficient on offense.
*All data courtesy of Basketball-Reference*
*Photo Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer / USA TODAY Sports*