**Today is Day Three of the fourth annual MVP Series debate. Monday, Phil made his case for LeBron James, and yesterday, Kenny presented his case for Kobe Bryant. Today, our favorite Philadelphian, The Reverend Paul Revere, takes on the challenge of presenting the case of Dwight Howard.**
They say that defense wins championships, yet year in and year out when it comes time to vote for the MVP, the best of the best defensively get ignored. I’m here to correct that. Defense wins championships, and there is none better at defense than Dwight Howard.
He’s the three-time defending Defensive Player of the Year, with his third straight earned yesterday. He averaged 23 points, 14 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. But more than any of that, Dwight Howard made the Orlando Magic go more than any other player in the league made their team go. Let me explain.
Sure, Derrick Rose is the engine that makes the Chicago Bulls go. LeBron James is the most physically gifted basketball player on the planet. And Kobe is the quintessential champion. But none of those guys had to go through what Dwight Howard has had to go through this season.
Just two years ago, the Orlando Magic assembled a roster that defeated the LeBron-led Cavaliers and made it all the way to the NBA Finals. The next season, they let their most versatile player walk for big bucks to Toronto and brought in Vince Carter.
That set the team back, but the rest of the core was still in tact. Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Gortat and company were one series away from winning it all, but when they stalled this season, Otis Smith decided to go out and completely change the team.
He shipped out Gortat, Carter and Lewis, three major cogs for a team that finished second in the East last year. In came Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson, as well as the return of Turkoglu. In mid-stream, Dwight Howard was expected to take an entirely new team back to playoffs. And he did, carrying Orlando on his incredibly broad shoulders.
Despite a complete roster overhaul mid-season, Howard still led the Magic to a 52-30 record, just seven wins shy of last season’s total minus three of the team’s most important players. Beyond that, he improved his offensive game to an impressive degree, developing some real low-post moves working with Hakeem Olajuwon. And he keeps getting better and more confident. That’s the sign of a true MVP, a player who isn’t content to be the best in position. He wants to get better.
Think about it. For the past few seasons, Dwight Howard has been the best and most dominant center in the NBA. He has used his physical tools to overpower the competition and put up impressive numbers while carrying Orlando to success it hasn’t seen since the days of Penny and Shaq. For many players, they’d be content with that, content with being the best at their position. Dwight Howard is not.
He’s busted his ass to get better offensively, to work on his touch, to develop moves, and he continues to be a dominant force on the defensive end. And this year, he moved to a whole other level.
The biggest knock on Dwight was that he was too nice. Not anymore. He’s gotten that mean streak everyone has wanted him to have. Sometimes, he went overboard, getting too many techs. But he did it to fire up his team and carry them once again to home court advantage in the first round. All while getting an entirely new roster of players in the process.
Dwight may not have the ball in his hands as much as Rose, Kobe or LeBron, but there’s no player more efficient at putting in the basket when he gets it. Dwight shot nearly 60 percent from the field this year, while making a Magic team full of terrible defensive players – Redick, Turkoglu, Arenas, Nelson, Richardson, etc. – one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Dwight Howard isn’t the favorite to win the MVP and probably won’t get it. But no player in the NBA was asked to overcome as much as Dwight Howard this season. And no player single-handedly had a bigger impact on his team on both ends of the floor. No one.
House that Glanville Built
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