Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Good Debate: Carmelo Anthony vs. Dwight Howard

I call it a "good" debate because neither of the players involved are in the discussion for being the NBA's best player; in no way will this approach the level of Kobe vs. Lebron. However, with Cleveland down 1-2 against Orlando, and the Lakers having just had their asses blown out of the water by the Nuggets in game 4, the chances of a Denver and Orlando finals matchup is becoming more and more probable.

And here is where the debate emerges. Carmelo and Dwight are superstars of the NBA, each in their own respect. Both competed on the gold medal winning 2008 Olympic basketball team, and both have their clubs very much in the hunt for the Larry O'Brien championship trophy. So who is better? Let's dive right in...

Statistically speaking...(stats from NBA.com)

Career Averages
Carmelo Anthony: 24.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 3.09 TO, 0.460 FG%, 0.796 FT%
Dwight Howard: 17.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 2.95 TO, 0.568 FG%, 0.601 FT%

Taking these 8 categories into account, Carmelo and Dwight are even at 4-4. Melo's scoring average, FT% and APG are noticeably superior to Dwight's, but he can't touch Dwight's RPG, FG%, and BPG. It's also important to note that Howard is steadily improving is offensive post-game, as evidenced by his increasing annual PPG (20.6 in 08-09). In terms of PER, more differences can be observed. Over the 08-09 regular season, Howard was ranked 4th (25.44), while Anthony was ranked 33rd (19.09) amongst all NBA athletes. However, Melo has made up ground in the post-season; Howard (26.26) and Anthony (26.10) are ranked 7th and 8th respectively in the playoffs.

Advantage: Neither.

On the defensive end...

Carmelo Anthony has made his efforts to improve his defensive play public. And in the current series against the Lakers, it's evident that he's taken this goal to heart. Melo has very active hands while guarding around the player, constantly slapping at the ball or waving around his man's face. In the post, Melo also has the size to play physical defense, and give the opposing player a tough time.

Dwight Howard, on the other hand, is current NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He's sent numerous shots into the next area code (a good number of which are documented on youtube). For the shots that he can't get to, Dwight's sheer size and vertical are usually enough to alter the opposing player's shot. In the post, Dwight is quick enough to keep up with any move executed against him, and strong enough to prevent opposing centers from getting too close to the basket. As for his tendency to challenge players attacking the rim, playing this highlight reel friendly type of defense has its downside: foul trouble. Luckily, the Magic have an adequate back-up center in Martin Gortat.

Advantage: Dwight Howard. Having this guy guarding the rim screws over positions 1 through 5 on the opposing team. He's not Defensive Player of the Year for no reason.

On the offensive end...

Carmelo Anthony is an extremely versatile player when trying to put the ball into the bucket. At 6'8", 230 lbs he is strong enough to post up many opposing power forwards, and almost all opposing small forwards. At the same time, his above average foot-speed and athleticism allow him to take defenders off the dribble to attack the rim. His size and strength also come into play here by helping him finish after contact.

Melo's offensive arsenal encompasses post-ups, fadeaways, and spins, just to name a few. He's got great touch around the rim, and has the ability to hit from beyond the arc. A couple areas he could improve in are passing and decision making. When the Nuggets are playing well, and momentum is on their side (as in game 4), we get to see Melo make some crisp passes to cutting big men for easy dunks. But when the game slows down, and the options aren't so clear, Melo many times makes the wrong move (partially evidenced by his 3.09 turnovers per game).

Dwight Howard's offensive game is comparatively rather limited. Over the last year or two, he's developed a couple moves under the mentoring of former Knicks' superstar Patrick Ewing. If you see Howard get the ball in the post (outside of dunking range), he does one of two moves: a running right-handed hook shot, and a spin-move to the right. Though limited, Howard is becoming increasingly effective; the hook shot is almost unguardable, and falling at a fairly consistent rate. The spin move is Dwight's way of getting off a shot on the left-side, and works well when he's matched up with guys close to him in size. However, taller centers like Yao and Ilgauskus can neutralize the spin with their length.

I would write more about his poor free throw shooting... but there's not that much to say about it than this; it's often a liability in the 4th quarter. I hope he improves it for the sake of all of us; I'd hate to see the last 5 minutes of a game be reduced down to a game of Hack-a-Howard.

Let's not overlook the one offensive aspect Dwight is unparalleled in: dunking. Dwight attempts this high-percentage shot at every opportunity he gets. With intimidating size and strength, he dares anyone to even try stopping him when he goes up. Those who do almost always end up on a shiny new Dwight Howard poster. When passing to Howard, you can pretty much throw it anywhere and he'll catch it; if the ball is 3 ft above the rim, he'll go get it and cram it for an easy two.

Advantage: Carmelo Anthony. Dwight Howard is improving, but at this point, Melo has a much deeper and more refined offensive arsenal to draw from.

and the winner is...

Dwight Howard

Scoring gets you recognition, but defense wins you championships. And no one plays defense better than Dwight.

The other deciding factor for me was room for improvement. I see Howard's ceiling being much higher than Melo's. If Howard can hone his offensive skills (and free throw shooting), add a handful of more moves, then I don't know who would be able to stop him down-low. Couple that with his highlight blocks and ridiculous athleticism, and you've got someone that could potentially be better than Shaq.

Who do you think is better?

...and just in case you were wondering, I am all for Dwight and Melo crashing the NBA Finals party.


The Thrill said...

Clearly the better player to me is Carmelo_Anthony. He can take over a game at any time, and Dwight Howard can't do that yet.

Melo is more versatile, able to both post up and rain 3s, while Howard's game is more one dimensional.

I think it would be hilarious if they met in the Finals so the NBA, ESPN, Nike, etc. felt retarded with all their Kobe/LeBron build up.

toasterhands said...

Dwight might have something to say about the not taking a game over at any time statment.

Destroying the Cavs in OT right now.

But yeah, Melo is better right now, but for both the sky is the limit.