Dwight Howard: An MVP Case Study

 The rumbles started in December.  Derrick Rose was carving up interior defenders at will and showing off a newly minted 3 point shot. The Most Valuable Player is a toss-up…but out of the fray, the name “Rose!” is rising from the mouths of commentators and pundits more and more frequently. Charles Barkley. Tony Kornheiser. Kevin McHale. They prognosticate Rose running away with the MVP race. Understand, I think Derrick Rose is PHENOMENAL; 24.9 ppg, 8.1 apg, with 4.4 rebounds a night to boot is nothing to sneeze at. After shooting 26.7% from downtown in ’10, Rose is now at a robust 35% this year. Of all the players who won gold this summer in Turkey, Rose made one of the biggest leaps. He’s an elite young talent who’ll have his Bulls (currently sitting at 40-17, good for 3rd in the East) in the mix for years to come. Hate to say it, but even with all of that, and Derrick Rose isn’t your 2011 MVP. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Dwight Howard. 

Why is Dwight Howard the MVP? 

Dwight Howard is having his finest statistical season yet. He’s scoring almost 5 ppg more than he did last year (23.2, up from 18.3) and is rebounding like he did in ’09 season, snagging 13.8 a game, yet Orlando is seemingly underachieving. They’re sitting at 4th in the East at 38-22, and many are questioning “What’s wrong with the Magic?”. There’s a simple reason behind this: Orlando’s other players simply aren’t as good as their reputations.  


(From Howardthedunk.com)

Take a second and look at the rosters of both Orlando and Chicago without the respective stars. This is Howard’s help: Jason Richardson is putting up 13.6 ppg, Jameer Nelson gets 12.3 ppg, Brandon Bass, 10.9 ppg/5.6 rpg. Rose’s gang? Carlos Boozer is scoring 19 ppg and grabbing 9.7 boards, Deng gets you 17.7 rpg and 6.1 rpg, and Noah is at 13.5 ppg with 11.7 rpg. 

Much is made about how Rose missed Boozer and Noah for chunks of the season. What no one mentions is that even when Boozer was out, Noah and Deng were there, and Noah went down, Boozer and Deng were there. Bottom line, Derrick Rose has had MUCH more high quality help from the guys around him.

As Orlando buckles down for the playoffs, Dwight Howard has ratcheted up his play considerably. Don’t take my word for it; Evan Dunlap of the Orlando Pinstriped Post digs into some of Dwight Howard’s monstrous contributions as of late:

  “Since the day the Orlando Magic reshaped their roster with two trades, franchise center Dwight Howard has taken a tremendous step forward in establishing himself as a legitimate MVP candidate. In 34 games since those trades, Howard is averaging 24.5 points, 15.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.1 blocked shots, on top of 60.9 percent shooting from the floor and a 62 percent mark from the free-throw line.”


Howard’s biggest impact, however, is on the defensive end. Jameer, Hedo Turkoglu, J-Rich, and JJ Redick play the most minutes on the team after Howard. NONE of them are strong defenders, but solely because of Howard, The Magic is 5th in ppg allowed and are 3rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency rating (points per 100 possessions, adjusts for pace). That’s insane. 

Lastly, let’s look at the raw stats. It’s a lot like comparing apples to oranges; towering center stats vs swift point guard stats won’t match up, but let’s check for fun: 

Howard 23.2 13.8 1.2 2.2 1.3 59.7 58.9 3.4 26.59
Rose 24.9 4.4 8.1 0.6 0.9 44.6 84.2 3.5 23.12

 The stat that sticks out to me is the John Hollinger concocted Player Efficiency Rating, a complex equation that takes into account all of a players positive contributions (points, assists, rebounds, etc) while factoring in the negatives, (turnovers, missed shots, etc), giving a single numerical value that reflects how well a guy is playing. Dwight Howard weighs in at 26.59, only 0.12 points behind league leader LeBron James 26.71. Derrick Rose’s 23.12 is exceptional, but puts in at 12th in the league, behind Russell Westbrook and just ahead of Steve Nash.

It’s weird how stories seem to gain momentum, even if the facts don’t necessarily bear out the narrative. With all of the publicity being given to the “ROSE FOR MVP!!!” campaign, that momentum may be too much for Dwight to overcome. From what I see, while Rose is the superior offensive force, Dwight Howard’s combination of offensive and defensive contributions outstrips the o+D combination of any other contender.

Agree? Disagree? Wanna fight about it? Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter, @SnottieDrippen


Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.