Free Dwight Howard!
That is essentially what Hakeem Olajuwon seems to be saying. Last week, Dwight Howard was working out with the legendary big man, trying to “just shoot” and expand his offensive game.
When asked this week what Olajuwon said, it was less about the broad skill set Howard has developed — he has a nice midrange bank shot now and a host of moves he didn’t have a few years ago — and more about how those skills are used, Howard told the Orlando Sentinel.
Olajuwon feels Howard can be a more effective offensive player with a little more freedom and confidence in his offensive moves.
“He just said I want you to do them in the game, and tell your coach you got a lot of skills and he needs to let you use all your skills,” Howard said Tuesday….
“For me, it’s all about confidence,” Howard said. “All of the stuff that we worked on is stuff I’ve been doing my whole life.”
The Magic use Howard a lot — he had a usage rate of 27.2 last season (meaning when he was on the court 27.2 percent of the Magic’s possessions ended with a Howard shot, him being fouled or his turnover). Only 16 players in the league got a higher usage rate.
But on the question of how Howard is used in the Magic’s inside-out offense, The Dream may be on to something. Last season 59 percent of Howards shot attempts came out of post up situations and he shot 50.6 percent on those (according to Synergy Sports). That’s a high percentage but it’s efficent. Another 13.4 percent came on offensive rebounds. Only 6.8 percent of his shots came with him as the roll man in the pick-and-roll — but he shot 81.7 percent on those chances. That is a situation you want to use him more often in. Certainly other teams focus on him when he rolls (they don’t fear the Magic ball handlers), but the Magic need to find ways to use Howard in that kind of situation more often. He has the skills.
The playoffs showed how Orlando’s offense needs more variety if the Magic are to get back to the finals. It’s more than just that, though, they need someone else who can create his own shot on the perimeter (I mean a good shot, not what Gilbert Arenas was doing). They need to have Howard moving off the ball more. There are other wrinkles they can throw in.
Stan Van Gundy knows all that. But does he have the trust in Howard and the trust in his teammates to execute those new looks? That is another question.