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Thursday, December 1, 2011

WEEK 4, DEBATE 4: Dwight Howard vs. LeBron James



Who would you rather have this season: Dwight Howard or LeBron James?

"After ESPN’s NBA Rank project was completed this year, the site allowed fans to rank their own Top 20 Players. As expected, LeBron James got the most #1 votes, then Kobe, Dirk, Durant, Wade, and Rose. Dwight Howard – who finished #2 in NBA Rank’s project – had the seventh most #1 votes, and it was by a wide margin (Rose had over twice as many #1 votes as Dwight). The point I’m making is that nobody thinks Howard is the seventh-best player in the NBA, yet he finished seventh in #1 votes. Why? Because for whatever reason it is extremely hard for big, dominating centers to be considered the absolute best player in the league.

Perhaps it’s prejudice against their size (“That guy is so huge, how could he not pull down 14 rebounds a night?!”). Perhaps it’s the fact that Howard’s impact is greater on the defensive end than the offensive end (quick: name the last player to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season? That’s right; it was Hakeem Olajuwon… 17 years ago!!!). Whatever the case, Howard is never considered for the NBA’s top spot, despite the fact that he’s by far the league’s most irreplaceable player (if you’re the Magic and Dwight demands a trade, who do you go after? What other player in the league even comes close to bringing what he brings?!). It’s time that people seriously start considering Dwight Howard the league’s #1 player, because he is."

"If Pat Riley called Otis Smith and offered LeBron for Dwight 1000 times, Otis would say 'yes' without hesitation 1000 times. Howard is the most dominating defensive force in the NBA by leaps-and-bounds, and is an underrated offensive presence as well. He very well may be the most irreplaceable player in the NBA, if it weren't for LeBron. As evidence, look at what happened to the Cavs following LeBron's Decision. They went from back-to-back 60-win seasons to 19 wins and an NBA-record losing streak. He took a team that started Eric Snow and Sasha Pavlovic to the NBA Finals, and he has stuffed the stat sheet in ways not seen since Magic Johnson. For all of his douchebaggery off the court, LeBron is beloved by his teammates (Mo Williams nearly retired rather than not play with LeBron following The Decision).

You can (and should) talk about the bizarre ends to LeBron's last two Playoff runs, but let's not forget that for his career he has averaged 28.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, and 7.0 apg in the postseason, or that he single-handedly beat Detroit in 2007 with his 48-Special. On defense, LeBron's versatility makes him the most valuable defender in the league not named Dwight, and James's unique physical gifts make him a Bo Jackson-type, once-in-a-generation spectacle on the court. I personally hate LeBron, and yet there is no other player in the league I would take over him. I can't imagine higher praise."

"Let’s clarify something – the only reason Smith would say 'yes' 1000 times is because Dwight’s ready to walk while LeBron’s under contract for five more years; if Riley received the call and was told, 'Dwight says he’s willing to do a sign-and-trade if you give us LeBron,' I think he would think long and hard about that one. Think about it: LeBron’s basically a slightly better version of Wade in every facet of the game (until the 4th quarter that is :D). What Dwight brings cannot be touched by anyone: last year he averaged 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and shot 59%. Shaq never did that. Duncan never did that. Kareem, Olajuwon, Robinson, Ewing, Garnett, Barkley, Karl and Moses Malone – none of them did that! Know who the last player to do it was? You’re right; it was Wilt Chamberlain… in 1968! Tell me, does that qualify in your book as a 'once-in-a-generation spectacle???'

From 2007-2010, LeBron was unquestionably the league’s greatest player. But last year, Howard finally passed him. Dwight took a Magic team completely devoid of any defensive prowess and turned them into the NBA’s third-best defense (two spots higher than Miami). Which begs the question: Which Heat team scares you more? The current James-Wade ying-yang with a sprinkle of Bosh that can’t take down a Mavs team with just one All-Star? Or a Wade-Bosh-Howard triumvirate that would be so impenetrable teams would have to just pray the 3-ball fell to have any chance?!! I know my answer."

"I never mentioned contracts, and -- while the security of LeBron's long-term deal over the remaining year on Howard's would be a factor in real life -- they have no bearing in the context of these debates. Dwight is a unique player, for sure, but a 6-8, 260 pound point forward who can get down the floor faster than most guards, handle the rock, and distribute with a vision matched only by the league's elite point guards is something we've never seen. A Wade-Howard-Bosh team probably would be more effective, but that's because they complement each other better, not because Dwight is better than LeBron. And before we start chastising LeBron as a 4th quarter choker, remember that Dwight's horrific free throw shooting makes him a complete non-factor in the closing frame, making Orlando essentially play 5-on-4 offense at the end of tight games.

For all of James's shortcomings in the Playoffs (although, to be fair, he did follow up that strange Game 5 in 2010 with a ridiculous 27-19-10 triple-double), he's never lost in the first round, which Dwight has done twice -- including last year to an extremely mediocre Hawks team. Dwight's teammates may not have been up to snuff with his 2009 Finals team, but Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and even Hedo Turkoglu provided more value than nearly any teammate LeBron played with in the first five years of his career (Big Z excepted). Dwight very well may be the next Wilt Chamberlain, but LeBron is the first LeBron."

Who won this debate? Go to the right sidebar to cast your vote!


  1. Hi Hardwood Courtroom followers! Due to some technical difficulties, our Headline Matchup of the Week is being posted today and the Rondo-Ginobili debate will be posted tomorrow.

    So where does everyone think Dwight Howard's going to end up? Apparently the Nets are making a strong push for him, offering Brook Lopez, two first round picks, and the willingness to take back Hedo Turkoglu's contract. If I'm the Magic, I keep looking - I'll bet they could find a more appetizing deal than that. Plus that NJ deal will always be on the table. If Howard does force a trade, which teams should the Magic talk to? Any legit trade ideas any of you have?

  2. I don't see any team trumping Bynum, if the Lakers want to go that route. I am greatly enjoying all of the Rondo rumors I'm hearing. I guess the Celtics agree with my take on him. Honestly, I don't see any of these deals we're hearing about being all that legit. Paul for Rondo makes the most sense; all of these Knicks rumors for CP3 are absurd. In much bigger news, I see the Cavs are pursuing bringing back Anthony Parker back HARD. GAME CHANGER!

  3. I like the idea of a Bynum/Howard trade. Howard is so much more durable than Bynum: he would be a great addition to the Lakers and, he would be so much closer to Hollywood where he could flash that million dollar smile on screen!

  4. I have to believe the Magic wouldn't even start listening to offers from the Lakers unless the trade began with Bynum + Odom for Howard + Turkoglu. Even then I'm guessing the Lakers would have to find a third team to sweeten the deal. But if I'm L.A. I do whatever I can to get Howard, assuming he agrees to a long-term signing.