With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat winning back-to-back championships by defeating the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the gap between Dwight Howard and his peers in South Beach continues to widen. Howard is considered by many as a top-five player. I beg to differ. Howard is a top-five talent, but not a top-five player in this league as of yet.
A top-five player in the NBA is considered one of the elite. When I think of the elite, names like James and Wade are definitely there. Also Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are players in this league that are true elite ball players. So what needs to happen for Howard to get in this class of special ball players? Howard must expand his game.
The Los Angeles Lakers have a history of Hall of Fame big men. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan have all dominated the league and won championships for the franchise. Even Paul Gasol and Andrew Bynum helped Bryant to two-straight titles wearing the Lakers’ uniform. Los Angeles has proven that if you are one of the best big men in basketball, you will win and win big in L.A.
Howard has an opportunity to re-sign with the Lakers and become a member of the elite class of stars in the NBA. The Lakers would be able to build the roster in Howard’s image after the 2013-14 season. The Lakers will have plenty of money to get what Howard needs to become one of the best in the game. All Howard would have to do is do the work necessary to expand his offensive game much like James did since joining the league. James has developed an outside game that ultimately turned him into an unstoppable force. He can go outside, he can go inside, he can pass, he can handle. Basically, he can do it all. Howard needs to take note of that and recognize that if he can maximize talents, he will become a top-five player and be in position year-in and year-out to win championships.
We all know Howard needs a polished post game. If he wants the bulk of the touches, he needs to be able to have some touch around the basket consistently. He has the brutal force necessary to bang with the biggest bodies in the NBA, but teams will just foul him and send him to the line if they cannot keep him from dunking on them every time he touches the ball.
So it is necessary for Howard to be automatic with his jump hooks in and around the paint. A nice little 10-to-15 foot jump shot would not hurt either. It can pull the opponent’s big man out the paint and give Howard the option to use his athleticism to beat his man off the dribble and drive to the basket. And the foul shooting, need I say more? Howard must improve in that area. Duncan was a poor free throw shooter throughout his career, but this season he has raised his foul shooting percentage to 81.6 percent, proving that with hard work and focus, you can turn a weakness into a strength.
The Lakers and Howard have an opportunity to rejoin forces this July and start on a journey to greatness. Howard wants to be considered one of the best, but he also has to put in the work necessary to get there.
He has a great mentor in Bryant to show him what it takes to become a champion. No one in the NBA works harder on his game than Bryant, and Howard can learn some of the secrets that has made Kobe one of the greatest players in NBA history.
Howard can go the easy route and run away from the pressure of living up to the Lakers’ mystic or he can dig deep and maximize his potential by achieving glory by being the best players on the most storied franchise in the NBA. July just can’t get here soon enough.