Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yao's 5 Toughest Matchups: Dwight Howard (No. 3)

Dwight Howard (ORL)
6-11, 265 lbs | 4 yrs

Head-to-head '07-'08

DH: 18.5 ppg, .500 FG%, 9.5 rpg
YM: 22.5 ppg, .472 FG%, 13.5 rpg

DIAGNOSIS: You may be wondering why D-12 only comes in at no. 3, especially considering most NBA analysts and bloggers have now solidified Howard as the no. 1 center in the NBA. It's mostly because Orlando is one of the few teams that will let their center try to match-up one-on-one with Yao. And Yao has had some of his best games against Howard. Like most centers in Howard's mold, Yao is just too big for him.

When healthy, Yao really hasn't been contained in the last two years one-on-one by anyone in the league. With the arrival of a rookie center (Greg Oden) with true center size and uncommon explosiveness (and who frighteningly resembles a young Shaquille O'Neal) and the continuing evolution of Andrew Bynum, that might soon change, but for now, if teams want to single up on Yao, it means they're satisfied with letting him get his.

For Howard, that's proven to be a humbling experience for the most part but D-12 is a humble guy and has a great deal of respect for Yao. Almost too much, if you're a Magic fan. Howard doesn't seem to take enough advantage of his considerable mobility on defense and seems to try to beat Yao in the low-post with his strength. As strong as Howard clearly is, a 45 lb weight advantage just wears you down. But credit Howard for never playing dirty and taking his lumps with pride. And in that, he may not only be (arguably) the best new center in the league but like Yao, also one of the best sportsmen.

PROGNOSIS: Orlando will let Howard single-up on Yao again this season and will double when needed. With the Rockets new line-up, the Magic can't be too satisfied with just letting Yao get his numbers because they won't be able to double T-Mac as much with Ron-Ron around. Then again, they'll only play each other twice anyway so the implications of the match-ups has less to do with standings or the playoffs than with the "best center in the league" hype. Both match-ups last season were just too entertaining to leave this one off the list.

Originally posted at Yao Central on 2008-10-15 09:21:10

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