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Rosen: Dwight Howard still a mixed bag

Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13), from Poland, can't stop a dunk from Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

With Al Horford opting for greener pastures, the Atlanta Hawks enticed Dwight Howard to come back home with a three-year, $70.5 million contract.

Let’s take a look at how much of that money Howard earned in the Hawks’ 95-92 loss in Washington.

OFFENSE

7-12 from the field, 6-12 from the stripe, five offensive rebounds, one assist, four turnovers, 20 points in 29 minutes.

A mixed bag here.

Seven of Howard’s points came when he was either on the receiving end of drives-and-drops or on rolls after setting screens. When Howard hustled downcourt in fastbreak or early-offense sequences, he turned accurate entry passes into another six points. Spin moves, lobs and dunks registered four more points.

The only scores he completed on his own recognizance included a surprising drive left from the left elbow for an easy layup. This was against Jason Smith, who isn’t even rumored to play defense. In addition, Howard was isolated in the low post on half-court sets a total of five times — producing one turnover, one air ball and one point.

His lone assist came when a pass bounced off his hands and was caught by Dennis Schroder, who then made an unopposed layup.

Howard did battle furiously to capture his five offensive rebounds — pushing and shoving while being whistled for nary a foul. This was a plus part of his offense.

He also set some solid screens — nine in all — but was also nailed for two moving screens.

To avoid Hack-a-Howard in the closing minutes of the game, he was yanked with 3:40 left and never returned. Another reason for his staying glued to the bench was the all-out hustle, quickness, alertness, and mobility of his replacement, Mike Muscala.

All told, Howard was almost exclusively effective when he could catch and finish at the rim. This is certainly a valuable contribution, and probably worth the roughly estimated offense half of the $21,000 he earned for the game at hand.

DEFENSE

Seven defensive rebounds, three steals, zero blocks, one shot intimidated.

Howard ran much harder in offensive transition than he did while running uphill. But he did execute seven aggressive and semi-aggressive shows when defending high screens (along with three no-shows). Moreover, one of his shows pinned Bradley Beal against the sideline and forced a turnover.

Howard’s steals resulted in either deflections or bad passes bouncing directly into his hands.

He rarely bothered to box out, gathering himself instead to jump for the rebound. In fact, of his seven defensive rebounds, one was a tough catch in heavy traffic while the other six were grabbed without an opponent in the neighborhood.

He often wandered around the paint instead of concentrating/anticipating what the Wizards were aiming to do. On his unavoidable switches, Howard was understandably burned by John Wall, but was also lifted by a fake from Beal a few steps beyond the stripe.

Overall, neither Jason Smith nor Marcin Gortat challenged him here.

On defense, then, Howard thusly earned just about enough to pay for his postgame meal.

While Howard was productive in this game, he still takes too many plays off on defense, can’t shoot himself in the foot, has barely improved his game in his previous 12 years in the league and thinks he’s good enough to be the focus of the offense. It’s unlikely he’ll live up to that contract.

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