Analyzing Dwight Howard’s Defensive Effectiveness


Anyone who watched the Houston Rockets’ Game 1 victory over the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night could tell you that Houston was a completely different team with Dwight Howard on the floor. That’s not just one homer’s opinion; it’s a statistical fact.

Using’s player and team tracking statistics, we’re now able to quantify just how much more effective the Rockets’ defense is with Howard on the floor.

While Howard didn’t guard any of the Mavericks’ high volume scorers, he did just what you’d expect from a former Defensive Player of the Year, holding the Dallas players he did guard to just 2-11 shooting from the floor. That’s a paltry 18.2% for those of you scoring at home, or roughly 31% lower than the Mavericks shot as a team.

Even more noticeable was how the presence of Howard kept the Mavericks from scoring at the rim. defines “rim protection” as “the defender being within five feet of the basket and within five feet of the offensive player attempting the shot.” Howard was outstanding on Saturday, holding Dallas to 1-8 shooting (12.5%) at the rim while recording 5 blocks in just 17 minutes of playing time. This doesn’t even account for the number of times the Mavs didn’t even bother attempting a shot with Howard in the vicinity, perhaps fearing that he might volleyball spike it into the stands.

Contrast this with Howard’s backup, rookie Clint Capela, who allowed the Mavericks to shoot 7-14 (50%) at the rim in only 16 minutes, and you can easily see how much more success Dallas enjoyed with Howard on the bench.

The rebounding numbers are even more alarming. Howard snagged 71.4% (5-7) of his rebounding chances (the number of times he was within 3.5 feet of the rebound) while Capela converted only 42.9% (6-14) of his. Meanwhile the Mavericks starting front court had a field day on the glass, with Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Chandler Parsons grabbing an eye-popping 72.7% (32-44) of their rebounding chances.

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These stats prove what many of us already knew: the Rockets are going to struggle mightily if they can’t keep Dwight Howard on the floor. Capela put forth an admirable effort (and was a refreshing change of pace from the usually-underwhelming Joey Dorsey), but he just doesn’t have the experience or skill set of Howard.

Much of this is on Howard. He’s got to be more disciplined and stop picking up ticky-tack fouls early in the game. If he doesn’t, you can expect the Mavericks to exploit his absence as they did on Saturday.

And you can expect the Rockets to have a much harder time closing out this series than they should given the significant advantage they enjoy with Dwight Howard on the floor.

Stick with us here at House of Houston for all your Rockets playoff coverage.

Next: Game One Notes From My Couch

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