Dwight Howard is fresh off of a trip to Houston to train with Hakeem Olajuwon. Howard said earlier this summer he hoped to work on improving his jump shot and his free throw shooting and brush up on Olajuwon's post tutelage. Of course, the best advice Olajuwon gave Howard was not on the court, but rather off it, in telling Howard to be confident in his skills and abilities.
Olajuwon did have one thing he wanted Howard to do though:
"He just said I want you to do them in the game, and tell your coach you got a lot of skills and he needs to let you use all your skills," Howard told Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel earlier this week. "For me, it's all about confidence. All of the stuff that we worked on is stuff I've been doing my whole life."
That prompted the Sentinel to run the headline: "Hakeem Olajuwon says Magic aren't using Dwight Howard Enough." That is not necessarily what Olajuwon may have been saying. Howard's quote suggests Olajuwon is encouraging Howard to be confident enough with his skills to ask Stan Van Gundy to give him more freedom.
Confidence is the main thing Olajuwon is trying to give Howard in their sessions together.
Howard is far from under-utilized with the Magic.
He had a career-best 27.2 percent usage rate, meaning when Howard was on the floor, he made a shot, drew a foul or turned the ball over on 27.2 percent of the Magic's possessions. That high usage rate shows not only how much more the Magic relied on Howard offensively last year -- his previous career high was 26.1 percent in 2009.
Howard could be used more for sure. Shaquille O'Neal had an average usage rate of 30.2 percent when he was in Orlando. His career average was 29.5 percent. So, yes, Howard could go for an up-tick in usage. Orlando could give him the ball more. It should be noted though that Howard's 16.2 turnover rate last year was much lower than Shaquille O'Neal's. O'Neal posted a 15.9 turnover rate his rookie year and then did not eclipse even 12 percent until 2004.
Brian Hill could go to O'Neal a lot more because he would not only score, but make something positive happen with the ball.
Moving away from O'Neal (just to avoid THOSE comparisons), Tim Duncan has posted a 27.8 percent usage rate for his career with a 29.7 percent high (in 2004) for his career. In that sense, Howard seems to be comparable to the usage rate of one of the NBA's all-time great post players.
Dwight Howard is still growing in confidence in the post and has shown much more patience than in the past. In this sense he is improving and as he gains confidence, he will be used more. For now, Howard needs to focus on making the most of the possessions he does get, decrease his turnover rate and continue to display a growing post arsenal.
The Magic could always use more Dwight Howard. He IS the Magic, and I am definitely among the number who feel he should get the ball more. But as we have learned when Howard scores a lot of points, the rest of the team gets stagnant.
The key for the Magic as a team is not to get Howard the ball more -- again, Howard needs to make more with the possessions he does get -- but to get the other players on the team to be more effective with the possessions that they use.
Gilbert Arenas was second on the team with a 23.7 percent usage rate, but his 34.4 percent shooting and -1.6 offensive win share showed how ineffective Arenas really was on the team. It didn't help that Vince Carter was third on the team with a 23.3 usage rate.
In reality, Jameer Nelson was the second best player on the team with a 22.0 percent usage rate, fourth highest on the team this year. That was right at his average and his 13.1 points per game 51.7 percent effective field goal percentage seem to be where his career numbers will be. And, frankly, that is not where you want your second-best player at. You want that player to produce a little bit more, and maybe get the ball a little more.
Take away any discussion of whether Nelson is the right point guard for this team or not, he definitely is not a second option on a championship team. In that regard something has to change. And that likely means either Hedo Turkoglu getting an enlarged role -- his usage rate was 16.5 percent with the Magic, way down from his 23.0 percent posted in 2009 -- and Gilbert Arenas needs to be more efficient with the large number of possessions he uses when he is in the game.
Usage rate is not the be-all, end-all of how a player is performing for sure. The way Turkoglu was playing for much of last season, I don't think Stan Van Gundy minded going away from him. But the metric does give you an idea of who is getting the ball and who ends possessions.
Howard could be getting the ball more. That should not necessarily be Stan Van Gundy's concern though. What he should really worry about is getting the other players his offense uses to be more effective.
Photos via DayLife.com.