A huge claim to say the least, but with the young superstar in Anthony Davis and the aging former MVP candidate, yet effective veteran, in Dwight Howard. Are they the next big man duo to set the NBA alight?
Let’s get this out of the way early. I am not comparing Dwight Howard at this moment in time to an in his prime David Robinson.
I am simply comparing Robinson at age 33 and Dwight Howard at age 33 (now 34 but for the start of the season, aged 33). Tim Duncan and David Robinson throughout their illustrious career accomplished more than most NBA players ever will and it would be unfair to compare careers to this point. For the sake of argument, we are comparing the production of Howard and Robinson at 33 and Anthony Davis and Duncan at 25. Are we all in accord? Great.
The Los Angeles Lakers after suffering an opening night loss to their city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, have put together some impressive wins to open the season and have shown that they have the potential to make some noise in the playoff picture moving forward.
On the back of stellar play from superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the purple and gold have put teams to the sword at times and look to be the unstoppable pairing most NBA analysts believed they would be.
Their collective skill-sets have lent perfectly to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. LeBron being the elite play-maker and leader, and Anthony Davis being the elite defender and pick-and-roll monster.
While LeBron and Anthony Davis have rightfully garnered most of the plaudits, several significant role players have stood up and been counted. The likes of Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso, Danny Green, and to a lesser extent JaVale McGee, have all been important pieces to the Lakers’ early-season exploit.
However, one former superstar, who was thought to be on his way out of the league has been one of the key ingredients to the Lakers’ success. None other than the former “Dwightmare” himself, Dwight Howard. I think we as Lakers’ fans can now put to rest that difficult period in Lakers’ history and move on to the next chapter.
Howard has been providing valuable minutes for the purple and gold so far this season. His ability to set bone-crushing screens and slam down some perfectly timed lobs have been greatly appreciated by Lakers Nation and he seems to be doing everything he can as a teammate to get rid of the memory of the “Dwightmare”.
While Howard’s incredibly efficient offensive ability has been in full view and has been great, it is his work on the defensive end that has fans of the purple and gold raving.
Let’s start with his blocking exploits. To start the season, he was 5th in NBA in blocked shots, averaging 2.33. What made this statistic even more remarkable is that he was and still is doing this while coming off of the bench. Howard is currently splitting minutes with JaVale McGee, and with McGee as the starting center.
While Howard’s block numbers have gone down to 1.5, he is still providing a huge amount on the defensive end in turns of staying in-front of his man and his ability to stay in-front of guards to effect their shot. While the blocking stats are incredible, it is the overall contribution in help defense that has endeared him to Lakers Nation.
If he isn’t swatting shots at the rim, he is sliding over to help his teammates as a weakside defender. He has proven to be a nuisance to opposing players and long may it continue.
Alongside superstar Anthony Davis, Howard has formed one of the most formidable big men pairing in the league, which got me thinking about some of the best big men pairings in NBA history.
McHale and Parrish, Kareem and Worthy, Sampson and Olajuwon, some of the greatest frontcourt pairings in NBA history, but the first, and in my opinion best pairing, was David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
Robinson is one of the best and in my opinion the most underappreciated centers in NBA history. His name is often forgotten among the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon as one of the true great centers of the post-Kareem era.
While Dwight Howard was considered the best big man in the league during his prime, he is far from his prime now, but that’s ok.
Comparing his numbers at aged 34 to that of Robinson’s, and the admiral has him beat in pretty much every category, however a few things need to be taken into account.
Howard is playing 12 fewer minutes per game then Robinson was, and is not the first, second, third and sometimes not even the fourth option when it comes to scoring the ball.
To start the season Howard was averaging similar numbers when it came to blocks, averaging 2.3, this has since gone down to 1.5 and so far he has been an ultra-efficient scorer.
Pete Zayas of Laker Film Room masterfully outlines Howard’s contribution on the defensive end.
Again, he is not a better center than Robinson but at the same age, they have potentially similar stat lines. Granted Howard has been poor the last number of years, while Robinson was the height of consistency throughout his storied career.
With Howard as a defensive-minded veteran like Robinson, you need someone who has similarities to Tim Duncan. Look no further than Anthony Davis.
Duncan is understandably considered the gold standard when it comes to power forwards. To me, he unquestionably the greatest power forward in NBA history.
The greatest compliment that can be bestowed upon Anthony Davis is being compared to this Spurs legend. Davis in a rapid period has gotten into the conversation as one of the greats at the power forward position. Yes, Davis has a ways to go yet to catch the “Big Fundamental”, but he is on the right track and has the potential to reach the mountain top.
With Davis’ abilities on both ends of the floor, it is hard not to see similarities to Duncan and Davis’ game. Both beasts on the offensive end, Duncan would beat you with his razor-sharp fundamentals and IQ.
Davis while also a savant on the floor can beat you with his array of post moves and if that doesn’t work Davis is going to use his superior physical build to beat you up in the post.
On the defensive end, both Davis and Duncan were/are juggernauts. Each man among the league leaders in blocked and contested shots. It was truly a marvel to watch Duncan on the defensive end of the floor and I can easily say the same about Davis right now.
So Davis and Howard, are they the next Robinson and Duncan at the same stages of their career? I’m going to say this. The potential is there.
If Dwight Howard can get more minutes and continue to be ultra-effective on the offensive end whilst still wreaking havoc on the defensive end then yes, Howard and AD have the chance to be a special pairing.
It is extremely early days and it would be blasphemous to put them in the same league in terms of achievements throughout Duncan and Robinson’s career. But with Howard and Robinson at 33 and Davis and Duncan at 26 years of age, there is a chance that the Lakers duo could have a similar output to Duncan and Robinson, if even only on the defensive end.
If Davis and Howard can keep this level of play up, stay healthy and learn to play together even better then the rest of the NBA better be on notice. With their defensive abilities, they can be special.
With Davis and LeBron James the main focal point (rightfully so), Howard can continue to grind on defense and maybe just maybe the Lakers can bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Staples Center.