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Just The Sports: Dwight and Shaq

Just The Sports

Friday, March 09, 2007

Dwight and Shaq

Over the past eighteen NBA drafts, the Orlando Magic have held the number one overall pick three times. Only two of those three picks, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard, actually played for the Magic. The third, Chris Webber, was immediately traded away to the Golden State Warriors. With O'Neal and Howard both playing the center position, it is worth discovering which first overall draft selection has given the Magic more production over the first 226 games of their respective careers.

In terms of overall production, Howard provides no comparison to what O'Neal did to start off his career and has a long, arduous road ahead if his desire is to match O'Neal. The former LSU center averaged more points per game (27.3 to 15.0), took more field goal shots per game (18.5 to 9.9), attempted more free throws per game (10.0 to 6.7), and snatched down more rebounds per game (12.8 to 11.5) in his first 226 games than Howard has done in his.

Yet, even trailing Shaq in the aforementioned cumulative statistical averages, Howard begins to make up the deficit once you take a look at his rate statistics. With Howard's free throw percentage of 62.3% topping Shaq's 56.7 FT%, Howard goes from having an effective field goal percentage statistically significantly worse than Shaq's (54.9 eFG% to 58.3 eFG%) to having a true shooting percentage that while lower than Shaq's (58.5 TS% to 59.5 TS%) is not significantly inferior. Howard is also nearly O'Neal's equal when it comes to points per shot attempt (1.17 PSA to 1.19 PSA).

For the sake of judiciousness and fairness, it should be said that Howard has actually been better in a few categories than Shaq in those ever-important first 226 games of an NBA player's career. Before, when I mentioned Shaq averaged more rebounds per game in this time frame, the whole story was not being told. Shaq is only the more prolific rebounder due to the fact he had more rebounding opportunities. Howard actually holds the higher rebound rate (19.4 to 18.8) by a slight margin. In addition, Howard is more adept at getting to the free throw line, finding himself attempting one free throw attempt per 1.5 field goal attempts; Shaq only shot a free throw per 1.9 field goal attempts.

One statistic Howard probably wishes he did not hold the advantage over O'Neal in is turnover rate. Either Howard is not aware turnovers are to be eschewed or he does not yet know how to avoid them. Either way, he needs to find a way to keep from committing 16.2 turnovers per 100 possessions. Even for a center, that is too many.

All Howard needs to do is maintain his rate statistics while becoming more of the focal point of the Magic offense to really become a player as dominant as Shaq has been. At least it was easy to type.



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