Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has never been accused of being the coolest cucumber in the refrigerator. He’s generally considered a silly young buck. But in a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, he showed a tremendous amount of perspective regarding how teams build themselves for the playoffs, and the treacherous nature of building to beat a specific player.
The idea of specifically tailoring your offseason acquisitions to combat one player is a particularly dangerous idea that’s been copied all over the league. Team executive look at their postseason performance, single out that one player that hurt them more than any other, and then target their free agent and drafted additions to counter that particular player. The problem is that in doing so, you dramatically shift the makeup of your team, its chemistry, and its rotations. You’re essentially endangering your entire roster makeup built upon the idea that it’s all worth it if that one player that held you back last season is neutralized.
But what if you don’t play that team?
Howard was asked about the importance of the Hawks adding Shaquille O’Neal to try to combat him and his dominance in the paint over the Hawks. What say you, Superman?
“That’s only four games out of the season. You have to look long term
and what’s best for your team. Cleveland got Shaq to match up with the
Magic. They also got Antawn Jamison to match up with
the Magic. But they didn’t even play the Magic. They played Boston [and
lost]. You match up for the league, not just one team.”
Look at the big fella getting all wise. Howard’s on target here, and you have to wonder if part of this was built around his own experiences as the Magic took a step backwards in getting Vince Carter to counter Kobe Bryant’s scoring punch at the 2-guard, sacrificing Hedo Turkoglu (though Turkoglu’s turn in Toronto certainly takes the sting off that). But the central philosophy is sound, regardless. Overcoming teams in the playoffs is about matchups, that’s certainly true. But those matchups are the result of a complicated formula that factors systems, specific adjustments, coaching styles, and health. And if you gear your every move to combat a player you never see, it may turn out not only to be worthless, but actually create a mismatch in favor of whoever you do match up with.
So there you go, NBA executives, Dwight Howard has more patience and foresight than you, in this regard. Go ahead and let that one simmer. Add salt, where necessary.