Dwight Howard owners have to be frustrated at the moment.
Drafted #30 overall in Yahoo leagues and #25 in ESPN leagues, Dwight Howard has long been one of the safer fantasy picks in terms of reliability and production. This year his production hasn’t been the problem. His season numbers are right on par with expectations for the usually dependable big man.
The problem has been his health. Howard’s missed a third of the team’s first 48 games. His right knee has been a problem all year long, causing him to miss a stretch of 11 consecutive games from November to December. As of January 31st he will have missed at least a month. A right ankle sprain has also been an issue (four missed games).
Whether it’s the knee or the ankle, nagging injuries seem to keep Howard off the court and out of fantasy lineups. Owners have had to play the guessing game all season as to whether Howard will take the court on any given night, an honor previously reserved for only Derrick Rose.
Going forward, let’s take a look at Dwight Howard’s current pickle and what we can expect for the rest of the year and beyond.
This Season: Out Until The Fantasy Playoffs
Through his career, Dwight Howard has rightly earned the reputation of an Iron Man. In eight seasons with Orlando, he has only missed more than three games in one season: that was the lockout season, in which he played 54 of 66 games. In his previous two seasons with the Lakers and Rockets, he has played 76 and 71 respectively, despite a recurring shoulder injury that bothered him for much of the season with the Lakers.
This season is the first black mark on his transcript. A little more than half way through this current season, Howard has already missed more games than any previous season with 16 absences. Given his track record, it is too early to chalk Howard up as “injury-prone”. But at this point, that may not even matter.
With a recent treatment on his knee, Dwight Howard is expected to be out until March, a hair too close to the fantasy playoffs. Similar to the predicament with Kemba Walker, owners sitting comfortably in the standings can hold, while struggling teams might be forced to pawn off or even drop him, depending on the size of the league. Even when he does return, he will probably take a week to readjust to game condition, which could be costly in the playoffs.
Dynasty Leagues: Is This The End Of The “Dominant” Dwight Howard?
Dwight Howard is 29 and the big thirty is right around the corner. There are two categories of big men in the league: big men whose game is centered around skill – Marc and Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan, and Al Horford, and secondly, big men who use their athleticism as their foundation – Dwight Howard, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee.
Ten years into the NBA, Dwight Howard’s post game is still raw to say the least; at this point in his career, it is safe to say that he will not improve in this category any more than his free throws. At this point, Hassan Whiteside’s post game seems more refined.
A much older, skilled big man like Pau Gasol is putting up 18 and 12 this season. It would be unimaginable to see the same future for Howard when Father Time hits. Side note: Pau has also played 15 more games than Howard this season. A happy 34-years old to Pau.
With the emergence of so many young big men recently, Howard is no longer an elite player to own in dynasty leagues. Tyson Chandler is the obvious counterargument to this case as one of the best double-double machines at age 32 this season; however, Chandler was drafted around the 100-mark. Owners would be happy to gamble on a player like Chandler in a later draft pick.
Whereas Marc Gasol or Al Jefferson in a few years should still have a steady fantasy presence, the same cannot be said definitively for Howard. This might be early to declare, but the era of the dominant, Superman version of Dwight Howard could be over. He can still be counted on for the usual categories, although they have been trending down. His steals (0.7) and blocks (1.4) are at career-lows, while his rebounding (11.0) and FTA (6.9) have also been the lowest since his rookie season.
He is still one of the better centers to own in head-to-head leagues, but owners should temper their expectations in the coming years.