When Dwight Howard left the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2013 for the Houston Rockets, not many ever thought a reunion would be on the cards. In the summer of 2019, the unthinkable happened. Howard signed a non-guaranteed minimum deal and implied he was a changed man.
His superstar career has spiraled south in recent years, but the Lakers needed to fill a gap left by the injured DeMarcus Cousins. Howard was the best option available on the market, following his buyout from the Memphis Grizzlies.
Having not played regular minutes since the 2017/18 season, expectations weren’t very high. However, he’s proved everyone wrong. This season he’s been a breath of fresh air in Los Angeles.
He’s averaging 7.5 points, in 19.2 minutes on the season. Both are career-lows. His 7.4 rebounds per game are a career-low also. Although this doesn’t tell the full story.
Howard is shooting at an incredibly efficient 73.2% from the field. A career-high. In addition, his 2.7 plus/minus rating is his highest since the 2014/15 season with the Rockets. With that, he’s collecting 1.2 blockers per game too. He’s putting in the work and producing, in limited minutes.
In terms of rebounds, the 34-year-old is grabbing offensive boards at a 13.5% rate. This places him at an impressive 95th percentile. Defensively he sits at 23.4%. Whilst this may not be as dominant as his former self, it still rests at a solid 87th percentile. These statistics are as per Cleaning the Glass.
When on the court for the Lakers, team offensive rebounds push up +3.4%. The offensive scoring (per 100 possessions) of the team goes up +0.7, to 113.6. Even though this isn’t a lot, it shows that the high offensive production of the team is maintained when the second unit, with Howard, enters the floor.
The lineup of Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, and Dwight Howard has been very effective this season. As a unit, they convert 122 points per 100 possessions. As well as converting at a 61.7% effective field goal rate. Which sits at an impressive 94th percentile (via Cleaning the Glass).
The Eye Test
Most importantly, and statistics aside, Howard looks like he’s having fun out there. His blocks and big plays are often met by outbursts of emotion towards the crowd. He sits when he needs to sit, and when called upon he’s been reliable. Many were expecting drama surrounding Howard, but it’s been the complete opposite.
On December 18, Howard dropped 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks on the Indiana Pacers. Then just short of a month later, he erupted for 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 assists against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He’s scored 10+ points on 22 occasions this season, and has recorded 10+ rebounds 14 times. Surprisingly he’s featured in 62 of the Lakers’ 63 games too, which not many expected going into the campaign.
Dwight Howard has quickly become a fan favorite, and Laker fans are appreciating the effort he’s putting into his second stint with the franchise. That along with his consistent and efficient production. From the off-season, Howard was banging on the “redemption season” drum. Well, it appears he was correct.