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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DWIGHT HOWARD, Orlando Magic
We don’t too much about this kid except that he was selected first overall by the Orlando Magic in last 2004 NBA draft out of Southwest Atlanta Christian High School, becoming the third individual being drafted first overall out of high school (2001-Kwame Brown, 2003-Lebron James).
Coming out of high school, the line on the 6-10 Howard was that he possessed enormous athleticism, and had the potential to become a great all-round player. Despite his height, Howard was commended for his wonderful ball handling, passing, shooting ability, and court vision. With his height, he had defensively dominated his high school opponents, with great rebounding and shot-blocking instinct. As a senior, Howard averaged 25.0 points, 18.0 rebounds, 8.0 blocks and 3.5 assists a game. He was named winner of the 2004 Naismith Award, signifying the nation’s top high school player. Other accolades included McDonald’s National High School Player of the Year, Co-MVP of the 2004 McDonald’s High School All-America game, and Mr. Basketball in the state of Georgia in 2004.
Going into the draft, Howard was selected by Orlando Magic whom believes that Howard will be able to make an immediate impact. His offensive basketball skills are already considered quite polished compared to his other high school-to-NBA contemporaries (Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown, Johnathon Bender).
One of his strengths is his work ethic, and committed nature. He was an honor student during High School, and is devoutly religious. When drafted by the Magic, Howard was confident enough with his ability to state that he is able to step in right now and contribute. Making his NBA debut in an exhibition opener against the Memphis Grizzlies on October 12th, Howard’s performance made me believe he will accomplish what he sets out to achieve.
In a sparkling 18 point, 9 rebound performance in limited minutes, Howard displayed his versatility, shooting 8 for 12 in the field. He however made only 2 of 8 free throws. In his third game against Miami on October 17th, Howard scored 17 points and 10 rebounds, promisingly legitimizing his earlier performance.
The knock on his performance so far is his fast accumulation of fouls. In the Magic’s first three exhibition games, Howard has recorded 16 fouls – fouling out of two of the games. His coaches aren’t complaining about his aggressive defensive nature and wanting to block every ball; they are confident that Howard will adapt, once he becomes more familiar with the style of NBA play and officiating nuances.
The Magic who had traded Tracy McGrady earlier in the summer for guards Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley sincerely hopes that Howard can significantly contribute this season. Being a smaller team, Howard will be relied upon to supply interior defense and rebounding. I believe the success of the Magic’s season hinges on how much Howard adapts to the rigors of the NBA season. He will be thrust into a starting role with the Magic, especially now in light of his current preseason performance. If he capitalizes on his opportunity to play now, the Magic will be a surprise team of the Eastern Conference and will make the playoffs.