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Ahead of tonight’s huge clash in Orlando between the Magic (34-10) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (35-8), two of the Eastern Conference’s top three teams, former Orlando sharpshooter Dennis Scott was asked for his thoughts on which of the superstars in tonight’s game, LeBron James or Dwight Howard, is the better building block for a franchise. Scott said he’d choose Howard, opting for his intimidation on the inside and the open looks a dominant big man generates for perimeter players, citing his time spent playing with Shaquille O’Neal, including the 1995-96 season when Scott hit a then-NBA record 267 3-pointers (Ray Allen hit 269 in 2005-06). While Scott was very respectful in giving his response, he concluded by saying that “it’s easier finding another LeBron than a Shaq or a Dwight”. Really, Dennis?
To be fair, the argument that Scott was making, that great wing players come along more often than truly dominant big men, is valid, but it erroneously assumes that LeBron James is a “normal” wing player, and not the most difficult matchup in NBA. While Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are every bit as skilled on the court, physically they are not unlike many other players at the same position. LeBron James, on the other hand, with the size of an NFL linebacker and the speed and agility of a wide receiver, is a force of nature. And after hearing Dennis Scott’s slight, as politely as it was delivered, King James will probably be looking to deliver this message- emphatically. Unfortunately for Mickael Pietrus, Rashard Lewis, Courtney Lee and any other Magic wing players, it’s going to be a little rough. LeBron’s going to be looking to drop the hammer tonight. Gee, thanks, Dennis!
There’s no doubt that Dwight Howard is the NBA’s best big man, along with LeBron, Kobe, D-Wade and Chris Paul, one of the league’s five best players, a devastating defensive force and at 6’11”, 265 pounds, a ridiculous physical specimen, but there is absolutely nothing on a basketball court that he can do that LeBron, who goes 6’9”, 265 pounds himself (the only physical difference is a couple of inches!), cannot. Also, while Howard must have the ball delivered to him in the post in order to dominate, James constantly has the ball in his hands and is charged with the task of being the catalyst for the Cavs’ success every single night- and he’s delivered spectacularly, creating great scoring opportunities for himself (27.9 ppg, 49% from the floor) and his teammates (7 assists per game).
Frankly, Dennis Scott may have had his argument backwards. While it’s true that great wing players are more common that great big men, it’s safe to say that there have been more players in NBA history in the mold of Dwight Howard than that of LeBron James.
If you enjoyed this article, please check out some of my other work on the NBA at my Hardwood Hype blog