Before the NBA season gets started, the Lakers have superstars (whether aging or not) who are on the verge of being discussed in the context of 'legacies.' Multiple players on the Lakers are going to enter the Hall of Fame upon immediate candidacy, while a few others are currently on the cusp or worthy of debate.
The name that might not come first is Dwight Howard.
Howard's career is in its twilight, and as the big-man has shifted into his role player status, it is often overlooked just how dominant he was.
Nick Anderson is no stranger to playing with elite big men. As a member of the Orlando Magic in the '90s, Anderson played with Shaquille O'Neal, arguably the greatest center of all time. Recently, Anderson spoke with Brandon "Scoop B" Robinson of Bally Sports, and when asked if Howard should go to the hall of fame, Anderson's answer was resound.
"Yes I do. You look at what he has done. I don’t have his stats in front of me, but Defensive Player of the Year, rebounding, scoring. Let me ask you this question: If Ben Wallace is a Hall of Famer, shouldn’t Dwight Howard be a Hall of Famer? And I’m not discrediting anything away from what Ben Wallace has done because both of them have contributed the ways that they were asked to contribute -- defensive players, rebounding the basketball… I think Dwight was a much better scorer than Ben Wallace but they brought the same thing to the game basically. And see, the young fellas and the young ladies today have to understand that it’s okay to be a good defensive player and rebounder. You don’t have to go out and average 20 a night. There’s other needs that you can contribute on the floor. I’ve never had a problem with playing defense. I loved it. It was challenging. Challenge yourself, you know? Don’t just challenge your opponents, challenge yourself."
When delving into Howard's career numbers, Anderson has a point. If Ben Wallace has been inducted into the hall of fame, Howard's numbers make him a shoo-in by comparison. Let's get a little analytical with the numbers (just a little) shall we?
Ben Wallace's career PER: 15.5
Dwight Howard's career PER: 21.4
Before I share the next stat, I will define it. VORP is 'value over replacement player.' As defined by Basketball Reference it is, "VORP is defined by Basketball Reference as a measure to estimate each player’s overall contribution to the team, measured vs. what a theoretical “replacement player” would provide, where the “replacement player” is defined as a player on minimum salary or not a normal member of a team’s rotation."
This means that VORP is a cumulative statistic. Even if you hate the statistic itself, it is a good measuring stick for a player's career contributions.
Ben Wallace's career VORP: 36.1
Dwight Howard's career VORP: 38.4
Taking traditional numbers into account, Howard has more blocked shots, rebounds, and points. In his career Howard has done everything on the floor that Wallace did, scored at a much higher clip.
For a long time, Laker fans may not have wanted to entertain the idea of Howard as a hall of famer, but over the past few seasons I suspect most Laker fans have softened their view on Howard. From a body of work context, there is no argument for Dwight Howard not being a hall of fame player, especially if using Ben Wallace as a measuring stick. Laker fans should enjoy seeing this hall of fame player this season.