Atlanta might just be the yellow sun that Dwight Howard needs to resurface. Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


It’s about 4 years ago when Dwight Howard was being considered one, if not the best Center in the league, and one of the top 15 players in the world. He was as close an MVP you can get, getting double-doubles a night, a Defensive Player of the Year. He was so good that he was a speculation trade target for close to a season when he decided he wanted out of Orlando.

Then the Los Angeles Lakers stint happened. Didn’t go too well with Kobe.

He moved to Houston the next year after that, and it has been nothing but injury bugs, attitude concerns and unhappiness, supposedly with the Rockets’ other star James Harden.

Howard went from being a player every team would want, to a guy who fans on any team have become divided, debating if he’s actually worth acquiring. He went from a multiple time All-Star to a player who some people don’t even want to pay max dollars.

And then, he went home. And it’s always good to be home, seems like.

8 games in and Howard, now with the Atlanta Hawks, is having a rejuvenated season. His averages of 15.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks per game is close to his 17.8/12.7/2.1 career averages, but he’s doing it in an astonishing 28 minutes per game. That’s right, Dwight is back to being Dwight, playing less a full seven minutes less than he would in his entire career.

It’s good to be back home.

Howard was mired with injuries and criticism. His co-existence with James Harden was always in question. He had one final good run with the Rockets during the 2015 Playoffs, a glimmer of the old Dwight, but the situation in Texas seems to just be too much for him to be able to stay.

Atlanta failed to resign Al Horford, and went after Howard in Free Agency, and it has been a good marriage so far. In retrospect, it is actually the perfect move for Dwight Howard and for the Hawks.

A guy who wants nothing but approval, was greeted back home with open arms. A guy who wants to be the guy, goes to a team with an All-Star in Paul Millsap that was willing to step back. A guy who wants the ball, now gets it. ┬áThere were issues in Houston about James Harden being too ball dominant, something that did not sit well with Howard, affecting the way he’s engaged on the court. The Hawks are different. Dwight’s point guard, Dennis Schroeder, passes the ball to him 43% of the time, running constant pick and rolls. He gets the touches that he wants.

He looks happy, and he’s at home.

In return, Atlanta is getting the a lot, if not the full Dwight Howard that people have seen in the past five years. Atlanta is currently 2nd in Defensive Efficiency, a big part of it is due to Howard, who’s Defensive Rating 8 games in, is the highest in his entire career. His rebounding Per 36 minutes is the among the highest in his NBA stint. He has been a significant piece for the Hawks, while playing 27 minutes, remember.

We’re seeing a resurgence in Atlanta, and Dwight Howard could become Superman once again. It has already started.






The NBA might have to fear the beard now. Mark Mulligan / Houston Chronicle

In a season in which everyone is expecting that Russell Westbrook will be an easy shoe in for the MVP, or LeBron James would gun for his 5th award, or Stephen Curry bouncing back for his revenge season, not everyone have guessed that Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden would be spearheading the race.

And he’s going nuts with it.

8 games in, and James Harden is literally tearing up the league. He’s posting 30 points, 7.6 rebounds, 13 assists per game. Those are the kind of numbers people expected Rus to put in, but it’s the other former OKC man who’s tallying up the stat sheets. And it’s not like this is unexpected, people knew that Harden is one of the best players in the world than can do anything on the offensive end, but there’s something much more different. Something we haven’t seen him done before while he’s still putting up insane stats.

He’s very efficient.

Prior to this season, James Harden only shot 45% or better in a season twice, in fact he never shot over 46% in year his career when he got traded to Houston. He’s shooting on a hot 49% this year in 8 games, with a 39% 3PT accuracy. He’s very efficient shooting on the floor, and it’s not a surprise as to why.

As Mike D’Antoni comes in, the plan was simple, surround Harden with shooters, space the floor, make him the ball handler and let him do the work.

The result is an open court for James Harden to do whatever he wants on the offensive end, and with shooters spaced out, he’s got a free lane to either penetrate or take advantage of the mid range game. And with defenders can’t be giving up too much space as he can drill a jumper, and can’t be too close or they’ll be burned off the dribble, the extra space makes Harden’s already elite offense even harder to check.

And then you add the vision.

An open court means to double, defenses have to track a long way to even double Harden, leaving someone very open, and he finds them. In his last 5 games he’s averaging 14 assists per game, tearing through defenses if they committed to him as he runs the Houston offense however he pleases.

And the crazy part is, he maybe able to sustain this all season.

For two straight seasons, James Harden has played 80+ games in a year, and including the playoffs. His usage rate has spiked up as a result of being the primary ball handler, making him the focal point of the offense more than he already was. As he plays 37 minutes per game, with an offense catered around his superb offensive skill and an open court, it’s not hard to expect that James Harden could average close to a triple double while winning the scoring title (currently 2nd), and lead the league in assists.

James Harden has mentioned that he deserved the MVP in 2014-15, he lost to Steph Curry. He may capture that award this year, by setting up what could be the most astonishing regular season an NBA player has ever had.