One reason some people don’t consider Dwight Howard quite on the level of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant is that he’s not the go-to guy for the Magic in crunch-time situations. In what 82games.com defines as “clutch” situations, LeBron averages 65.5 points per 48 minutes. Kobe averages 50.1 points per 48. Dirk averages 45.7. Carmelo averages 40.3. Durant averages 38.4.
Howard, on the other hand, averages only 15.6 points per 48 minutes in “clutch” situations. Vince Carter has been the Magic’s go-to guy in clutch situations, averaging 41.1 points per 48 minutes despite the fact he only shoots 37.5% from the field and 28.6% from deep during crunch-time. Dwight’s free throw issues are the main culprit here — Dwight’s gets fouled on 60% of his field goal attempts during crunch time, and he’s only made half of his free throws in pressure situations.
Despite the fact Howard hasn’t been the guy doing the scoring late in games for the Magic, the Magic’s crunch-time offense works with Howard on the floor. Howard has played 96% of the crunch-time minutes for the Magic this season, and when he’s on the floor in those situations the Magic have scored 110.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s a better team crunch-time mark than the Lakers with Kobe on the floor, the Thunder with Durant on the floor, and the Nuggets with Carmelo on the floor.
On NBA Playbook, Sebastian Pruiti has a post up detailing how Howard helps the Magic offensively without needing the ball in his hands. As Howard sets a screen for the ballhandler and rolls down to the rim, he forces the defense to put one or two defenders in the paint to prevent Howard from getting an easy dunk, freeing up one of Orlando’s many perimeter shooters. It’s long been known that this is the Magic’s strategy, but kudos to Sebastian for illustrating how the Magic use their All-NBA center late in the game without needing to give him the ball.