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The Intimidation Factor of Dwight Howard, Part II
November 2nd, 2009 by Jon Nichols

The following is part of a weekly series I will be doing at the Orlando Magic blog, Third Quarter Collapse.

Last week I took a look at how Dwight Howard impacts the effectiveness of close attempts for opponents.  Specifically, we saw that opponents take it to the basket less often when Howard is in the game, but they are slightly more efficient in making those attempts and getting to the free throw line.

As promised, today I’m going to show which opposing players are the most affected by Howard.  To do this, I again turned to the play-by-play data.  First, I narrowed the list down to players who attempted at least 10 close shots (dunks or layups) against Howard last season.  For each player, I calculated their field goal percentage in close shots and close attempt rate (amount of close attempts divided by total attempts), as well as their free throws per field goal attempts rate.  All of these were calculated when they weren’t facing Dwight Howard.  I then calculated the same three statistics when Howard was in the game, and compared the differences.  The results are available in the spreadsheet below:

There are a couple of important things to note.  First, we have the weighted averages, located at the bottom of the sheet.  Unlike the last study, in which we had mixed results, Howard has a decidedly negative impact (a good thing for the Magic) in each category for these players.  He has the strongest impact on their free throw rate, but he also reduces their close field goal percentage by a decent amount as well.

We still need to separate these results so that they’re showing the impact of just Dwight Howard and not the entire Orlando Magic team.  Therefore, for each player, I looked at how their stats changed against the entire Magic team.  These players increased their close attempt percentage by 0.2%, but saw their field goal percentage go down 2.6% and their FT/FGA go down by 3.3%.  What additional benefit did Dwight Howard (or at least the lineups featuring Dwight Howard) provide?  He lowered the close attempt percentage by an additional 1.2%, the close field goal percentage also by an additional 1.2%, and the free throw rate by an additional 4.3%.

I’m not exactly sure why the results are different from last week.  The last study had the risk of being too broad, but this study has the risk of being too narrow and including small sample sizes.

With that being said, just for fun, let’s look at which players were “intimidated” the most by Dwight Howard last year.  Among the players that qualified, LeBron James shied away from close attempts more than any other player when Howard was in the game (of course, LeBron still takes it to the hole more than most players).  Dwyane Wade is not too far down the list at #5, so perhaps these former Olympic teammates of Howard showed some respect.

Despite challenging him less, those two players still were more efficient around the rim when Howard was in the game.  The same cannot be said for Bobcats Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace, who saw their field goal percentages plummet when they took the ball inside against Howard.  Finally, let’s discuss free throws.  A pair of big men, Anderson Varejao and Zach Randolph, saw their free throw rates decline the most when opposing Howard.

Who wasn’t intimidated by Howard?  An unlikely pair, Rashad McCants and Russell Westbrook, appeared to love a challenge and attempted considerably more dunks and layups than normal when Howard was in the game.  They didn’t experience much success, though.  Marquis Daniels became much more efficient at the rim against Howard (as did James, T.J. Ford, and Wade), while Brandon Roy was the most adept at increasing his fouled rate versus Howard.  For the record, Wade had the most total close attempts versus Howard during the season, followed by David Lee.

Next week I’ll take a look at something that’s been hotly debated: Hedo Turkoglu vs. Vince Carter.