On Wednesday afternoon, the First Take crew tackled a topic that I find to be quite interesting: is Dwight Howard a Hall of Famer?
Max Kellerman said absolutely. Stephen A. Smith was less bullish, saying he could be, but he's definitely not a first-ballot selection.
Kellerman pointed to Howard's run as the league's premier big man as the only justification he needs; eight All-Star selections, five first-team All-NBA nominations, and three Defensive Player of the Year awards. Smith argued that the latter half of Howard's career -- where he jumped from destination to destination, unwilling or unable to adjust to the new style of the NBA -- has affected his legacy to the point it will hinder his Hall of Fame chances.
Both sides present valid points, and Smith isn't even arguing that Howard won't be in the Hall of Fame one day, only that he's not a shoe-in. But I lean towards Kellerman here.
Howard is the only player in NBA history to win three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards, and only Dikemebe Mutombo and Ben Wallace have won more than three times. During Howard's best five-year stretch from 2007-2012, he led the league in rebounding four times and in blocks twice. He averaged over two blocks per game for six straight seasons. Those numbers all came while he was the fulcrum of the Magic's offense, a double duty that neither Wallace nor Mutombo had to pull-- and he dragged them to the NBA Finals during it all.
Howard's image is in the midst of a rehabilitation after signing with the Lakers on a minimum deal as a backup. Smith is correct in saying his three lost seasons in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Washington will hurt his candicacy, as well as his downturn in production after back surgery earlier in the decade. But for five years, he was the best center in the league by every available metric. If he retired in 2012, he'd probably already be in.
How the twilight of his career unfolds will likely decide when, exactly, he'll get into the Hall. But he'll be there.