The first in a series of blog posts that will look at Dwight Howard's statistical fit with each of the teams with which he could potentially sign this week.
The Lakers were in the middle of the pack in paint scoring with Howard carrying the load – losing him would presumably cause them to take a huge step back next season.
Highest % of Team Points in Paint
Howard scored 922 total points in the paint last season, second in the NBA only to LeBron James.
The Lakers were 13th in the NBA last season with 3,446 total points in the paint. Howard accounted for nearly 27 percent of those points, the third-highest percentage of any player for any team last season.
With Steve Nash as the starting point guard and Mike D’Antoni as head coach for the forseeable future, the Lakers seem likely to run pick-and-rolls more often than most teams.
Howard thrived as the pick-and-roll man last season, averaging more points per play than all players except Tyson Chandler. He made 80-of-101 shots (79 percent). No other player in the NBA who had at least 75 shots, turnovers, or trips to the free throw line was even at 70 percent.
Despite having what was perceived as a down season last year, Howard still performed well statistically on the defensive side of the ball, leading the league in rebounds per game (12.4) and ranking fifth in blocks per game (2.4).
Lakers with Howard On/Off Court
However, Howard’s efforts were not enough to prevent the Lakers from allowing over 100 points per game for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
The Lakers allowed 101.7 points per 100 possessions with Howard on the court, and 107.8 points per 100 possessions, which would have ranked 3rd-worst among NBA teams for the full season, when Howard was off the court.
Superstars and sharing
There came a time when the Lakers had to reconfigure their team because a younger star (Bryant) was not given the keys to the offense by an aging superstar (Shaquille O’Neal).
Are we on the precipice of something similar?
Bryant averaged 20.4 field goal attempts per game, second in the NBA to Carmelo Anthony. Bryant attempted nearly double the field goal attempts per game as Howard’s 10.7. The solution may be for the stars to meet halfway at about 15 shots per game each.
The Lakers hovered around .500 for most of the season, but were 15-3 in games when Bryant had 15 field goal attempts or fewer. They were 9-3 in the 12 games that Howard had 15 or more shots.
Howard had 606 post-ups that led to shot attempts, turnovers, or trips to the free throw line in 76 games last season according to Synergy Sports, second only to Al Jefferson.
It sounds like a large amount, but consider this: Howard led the NBA with 661 such plays in 54 games with the Magic two seasons ago.
There’s little doubt that Howard needs the ball more both to be happy and for the Lakers to succeed.
Bryant’s torn Achilles opens up the likelihood for Howard to get more looks in the post next season, but will things change when Bryant returns? That’s a question Howard has to ask himself this week as he considers his fit with the Lakers.
For more on Howard fits with other teams: