Dwight Howard's Wing Scoring Options: Hedo Turkoglu and Vince Carter

Over at ESPN.com Professor John Hollinger has created a statistic designed to determine which NBA player's games are most complimentary on the court to Dwight Howard's. To determine the "Dwight Howard Teammate Rating" we take a look at a few skills that Professor Hollinger suggested a key complementary player to Howard will have: ball-handling and distribution skills; strong 3-point shooting; a low defensive rebound rate; and the ability to create shots. To create a numerical statistic that will reference all of these categories we will add a player's usage rate (USG%) to how many 3-point attempts they take per 100 shot attempts (3pt./100), then add ten times their pure point rating (PPR), subtract their defensive rebound rate (DRB%), and add three times the difference between their 3-point shooting percentage (3pt.%) and a league average 30% 3-point shooter. We will also at times consider other statistics that I believe to be extremely beneficial for any teammate of Howard to posses, namely steal rate (STL%), free throw percentage (FT%), and fourth quarter scoring (4Qr.Pts.)

To begin we'll look at some of the major acquisitions the Magic have made through-out Howard's career in Orlando and use the "Dwight Howard Teammate Rating" to determine where the Magic have been able to surround Dwight with talent that complements him or if other options were available that could have made the Magic a better team. Perhaps looking through this lens we can see if and when the Orlando Magic front office could have made better personnel decisions.

Dwight Howard's Wing Scoring Options

During his career Dwight Howard has played with two primary shot-creators and scorers on the wing, Vince Carter and Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu was actually a part of the Magic's roster prior to the Magic drafting Howard, but was primarily used a spot-up shooter. It actually wasn't until the Magic hired coach Stan Van Gundy that Turkoglu blossomed into an all-around player and primary ball-handler, but Van Gundy rode Howard and Turkoglu's devastating pick and roll game through the 2009 playoffs. But in the summer of 2009 the Magic swung a trade for New Jersey's star shooting guard Vince Carter, which almost guaranteed Turkoglu's departure as a free agent. That year Turkoglu signed for $50 million with the Toronto Raptors, but failed to meet expectations after his fantastic play through-out the playoffs. With Carter as their primary perimeter shot-creator the Magic rolled through the first two rounds of 2010 playoffs, sweeping both the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks. But in the Conference Finals the Magic struggled against the Celtics, with much of the blame falling on Carter's inability to create shots for himself or others against Boston's defense.

Then after Orlando came out of the gates slow in 2011, the Magic management swung a blockbuster trade with Phoenix that reunited Howard and Turkoglu. But which player was a better fit with Howard on the court? And where there other players the Magic could have picked up in the summer of 2009 who would have been better than Carter?

Hedo Turkoglu

USG%

3pt./100

PPR

DRB%

3pt.%

Dwight Howard Teammate Rating

2008-2009 Season

23.0

34.2

1.55

14.2

.356

75.3

NBA Career 20.5

34.7

1.16

13.8

.386

78.8

Unsuprisingly what makes Turkoglu a good fit on the court beside Howard is his how high his PPR is for a small forward, especially in season when he's full involved offensively. On other teams Turkoglu's tendency to drift away from the paint becomes problematic and his mid-range floor game wouldn't be nearly as effective, but Van Gundy's offense has always been predicated on multiple pick and roll ball-handlers being able to initiate the offensive sets and the attention that defenders have to pay both Howard on the roll and the Magic's spot-up shooters allows Turkoglu the space he needs to attack the defense.

However the Magic are currently paying a high price for Turkoglu and even in his career year in 2008-2009 he showed signs that his decline could be steep. Turkoglu's been effective at times since returning to the Magic, but he's not even been close to the ideal teammate he was for Howard in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons.

Vince Carter

USG%

3pt./100

PPR

DRB%

3pt.%

Dwight Howard Teammate Rating

2008-2009 Season

26.8

29.2

2.79

13.8

..385

95.6

NBA Career 28.8

22.9

1.17

12.1

.376

74.1

In the summer of 2009, Vince Carter actually seemed to offer the Magic a stunning upgrade over Turkoglu's skills as a shot-creator. Though Carter was already years removed from his "Half Man, Half Amazing" routine, he offered the Magic an All-Star quality shot-creator who seemed to be making up for his waning athleticism by developing a more complete floor vision and becoming a deadlier shooter from beyond the arc. In addition his team friendly contract was shorter and less onerous than the one Turkoglu eventually signed with Toronto. But the 2008-2009 season was Carter's best in terms of PPR and in Orlando Carter's ability to break defenses down for good looks was inconsistent. Although Carter was still a good three-point shooter, when he was unable to get past defenders to attack the rim he often attempted ugly pull-up jumpers only a few steps inside the three-point line.

Carter also was less effective than Turkoglu as the ball-handler in the pick and roll, and his superior three-point shooting was less important than it seems given that they're roles in the offense were built around their ability to be more than a three-point threat. Without Turkoglu's height and pick and roll excellence, Carter wasn't quite a perfect a fit beside Howard on the court as it appeared he could be in 2009, and he's steadily declined each season since.

Shawn Marion

USG%

3pt./100

PPR

DRB%

3pt.%

Dwight Howard Teammate Rating

2008-2009 Season

18.1

7.0

-0.54

19.7

.189

0

NBA Career 21.1

22.9

1.17

12.1

.332

16.8

Interestingly, the Magic could seemingly have gotten Shawn Marion in the summer of 2009 easily, as he was essentially replaced in Toronto by Turkoglu and traded to Dallas. The 2008-2009 season wasn't a great one for Marion, who was traded from the Miami Heat to the Toronto Raptors at the trade deadline. But since then Marion has gone to establish himself as a primary player on a championship team. But Marion benefit to the Maverick's championship side of the ball where, although he would easily be the best perimeter defender the Magic have ever trotted out alongside Howard, his skill set would overlap with Howard's dominance. Even worse, while Marion is occasionally a threat from beyond the arc, his offense is more predicated on a smart and versatile post-game that would bring more defenders into the post and throw off the Magic's delicate spacing.

Lamar Odom

USG%

3pt./100

PPR

DRB%

3pt.%

Dwight Howard Teammate Rating

2008-2009 Season

19.8

14.4

-0.15

22.2

.320

16.5
NBA Career 20.5

20.0

-0.28

21.8

.318

21.3

After watching Lamar Odom dominate the Magic's frontline in the 2009 Finals, I remember thinking that the Magic would be much better off with a player with Odom's versatility and ability to create and play out of the post or perimeter. It turns out the numbers don't quite agree with my assessment of Odom's worth as Howard's teammate. While Odom's developed a reputation as a player who can create for others because of his excellent ball-handling and hi-lo passing, but Odom's PPR doesn't quite bear that out. And while Odom has a great 15-20 ft. jump shot and is a threat from beyond the three-point line, he doesn't appear to be a great fit beside Howard. What's most important is that Odom rarely runs the pick and roll as the ball-handler and would struggle to create open looks for the Magic's three-point shooters.

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