Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard has regularly been a starter, but his role as a reserve this season has helped revitalize his career.
Howard is playing a career-low 19.6 minutes a game, but his effectiveness during those minutes has been of the utmost importance to the Lakers. Though Howard is averaging a career-low 7.1 points, his offensive output has been assisted by LeBron James, one of the best playmakers of all time.
With James’ basketball intellect, his teammates are regularly in good positions to score. That dynamic was prevalent for Howard on Sunday night, when the Lakers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 108-95.
Howard scored all of his 15 points in the second quarter and shot 6-of-7 from the field. James assisted on three of Howard’s field goals, with each of them being dunks. When Howard scores 15 or more points, the Lakers are 3-1.
One of the Lakers’ best lineups features Howard and James. The rest of the lineup consists of Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma. According to NBA.com, in the seven games this lineup has played together, it has a net-rating of 26.8 over seven games. The lineup averages 6.5 minutes together, and it shoots 56.6% from the field and 52.8% from the 3-point line.
This is a lineup where Howard can truly shine because of the spacing that’s created. With James and Rondo as the playmakers, Howard is in prime positions for dunks and dives to the rim. With his 3-point shooting Caldwell-Pope helps space the floor, and Kuzma is a solid scorer.
The Lakers have taken advantage of Howard’s ability to play around the rim, whether it be for dunks or layups. Howard is shooting 81.7% of his field goals from within 0-3 feet of the hoop. According to Basketball Reference, that number is a career-high for shots from that distance. Howard is also shooting a career-high 85.4% from that distance.
Aside from his offensive impact, Howard also has been effective on defense. A three-time defensive player of the year, Howard has shown flashes of his prime when he was with the Orlando Magic.
Howard is averaging 1.4 blocks per game this season, ranking third on the Lakers behind Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee. Howard is averaging 5.9 contested 2-point shots this season, according to NBA.com.
The aforementioned offensive lineup that features Howard is also one of the Lakers’ best defensive ones. With that lineup, Howard plays center and is the anchor for the Lakers’ defense. His play on the interior helps the lineup give up 14.0 opponent points per game, according to NBA.com.
For a grouping that doesn’t even average seven minutes together, this lineup is solid on both ends of the floor. With James being the only starter in the group, he leads the Lakers’ core bench players.
An eight-time All-Star, Howard’s days of being a top 10 player are gone. But as he plays his 16th NBA season, Howard is one of the Lakers’ most important players on both ends of the floor.