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Sunday September 17, 2006 1:47 am

Dropping Dimes Draft Blog: Round 3, Pick 5

Dwight HowardRound 3, Pick 5: Dwight Howard, PF/C, Orlando Magic

By the time the season starts, all you have to know is this - Dwight David Howard will not legally be able to drink alcohol.  Why is this important?  Well it’s important not so much for fantasy basketball owners, but all of those that try to guard or box out Howard.  “Big men of the NBA, after a game of banging and bruising with Dwight Howard, you deserve a drink.”  And since Howard can’t imbibe alcohol, his defenders can have his because they’ll need it to numb the pain!

Entering the league at only 18 years of age had to be a tough challenge, in so many ways for Howard.  However, you can count on one hand the number of “straight from high school” players that have become stars or stars-on-the-cusp after only two seasons and Howard is a finger on that hand.  In fact, make Howard the middle finger because of his length (he’s got wingspan for days), height (6’11”), and the fact that he may just be the next great big man in the middle.

Let’s check the numbers.

In his rookie year, Howard shot 52.0% from the field, which was good for tenth overall in the league.  He finished fourth in offensive rebounds (287), seventh in defensive rebounds (536), fifth in total rebounds (823), and eighth in rebounds per game (10.0).  And that was in only 32.6 minutes per game!

So, what did Howard do for an encore?

In his sophomore campaign, Howard shot 53.1% from the floor, finishing sixth overall.  He finished second in offensive boards (288), second in defensive boards (734), first in total rebounds (1022), and second in boards per contest (12.5).  Umm, not bad, right?  OF COURSE it isn’t bad!  If Howard was a man-child his rookie season, he became a man last season.  And if he improves again this upcoming season, you’ll be looking at Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and the Wolf Man all rolled into one.

Yes, folks, Howard will be a monster.

So, we know that Howard will contribute in a big way to your field goal percentage and rebounding numbers, but how about everything else?  Just like I did with Ben Wallace, let me get the most negative thing out of the way.  Last season’s 59.5% from the line is ugly.  Not as ugly as Big Ben’s 41.6%, but ugly nonetheless.  However, two things to consider.  First, during his rookie season, Howard actually shot 67.1% from the charity stripe, which in today’s game is quite good for a big man.  Second, last season Howard finished tenth in free throw attempts (598), which means there is potential for more points… as long as Howard doesn’t shoot like Wallace.  Considering his percentage from his first season, I think it’s safe to think Howard won’t.  Let’s hope.

Speaking of points, Howard averaged 12.0 ppg, upping it to 15.8 ppg his second season.  Again, because Howard gets fouled so much down in the box, he’ll get a lot of shots for free points from the line.  To me, this shows that Howard is getting better in the post game because you don’t draw that many fouls by just going straight to the basket.  Playing with the U.S. World Championships team this summer can only help Howard grow as a player and become even more comfortable down in the post.  Hopefully he learned some tricks from Elton Brand.

Defensively, Howard accumulates his fair share of rejections, like he’s the geeky Dungeons and Dragons playing nerd asking every girl out in high school.  He took a dip last season, only averaging 1.4 bpg, as opposed to the 1.7 bpg his rookie season.  Have no fear, however, as Howard will still get his blocks.  His long wingspan, athletic ability, and a seemingly natural instinct as a low post player wouldn’t accept anything else.  Considering his position, Howard isn’t all that bad in the steals department, either where he averaged 0.9 swipes per game his first year and 0.8 steals his second.  So, about a steal per game is a good guess for this upcoming season. 

Naturally, you can’t expect much in the way of dimes dropped.  So, let’s not even consider it.  However, Howard does turn the ball over a lot, turning it over at a rate of 2.6 per contest last season.  It’s a bad thing, but a good sign that Howard is getting the ball down in the block and he’ll just need to make better judgements.  But, he’ll only be entering his third season and he’s a young buck.  Mistakes are bound to happen.  Still no reason to pass over Howard in this particular round at this particular spot.

Obviously, I didn’t think so.

How He Fits On This Fantasy Basketball Team

Howard will add a ton to this team’s rebounding stats, as well as bring up my two guards’ field goal percentages by putting the ball in the basket from down in the blocks.  Luckily, the aforementioned guards will cushion the blow from Howard’s stinky free throw shooting.  Howard will also give this team a shotblocking presence, which was sorely needed.  And, of course, in a two center start league, Howard gives me an excellent option at the position.

Other Team Members:

1.5. Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
2.8. Jason Kidd, PG, New Jersey Nets

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