Father Time is undefeated, to borrow one of Charles Barkley's favorite lines -- one he has been using in discussions about Dirk Nowitzki for at least five years now.
It's an easy explanation for why Nowitzki, 39, barely made ESPN's #NBARank top 100 and his two-time NBA Finals foe Dwyane Wade, 35, didn't make the cut. The drop of 31-year-old Dwight Howard is a bit premature to attribute to Father Time's merciless powers, but he joins Nowitzki and Wade as former superstars who slid from the #NBArank top five in 2011 to the 40s last year, before flirting with the three times digits after the voting from our esteemed panel was tallied this summer.
With several assists from ESPN Stats & Information's Jose De Leon, here's a look at the declines of these three future Area of Famers, of which only one -- Retro Stephen Curry jersey Nowitzki at No. 97 -- managed to crack the current list of the NBA's top-100 talents.
The center who fancied himself as Superman has become a journeyman, joining his sixth team in seven years when his hometown Atlanta Hawks unceremoniously broken up with him in a trade to the Charlotte Hornets one deflating season into a three-year, $70 million deal.
Howard's divorces from the Orlando Magic, Los angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets weren't pleasant, but this marked the first time that a team simply had no interest in keeping the five-team first-team All-NBA selection. Atlanta's shift into full-fledged rebuilding mode under new management might have influenced the choice, but the simple fact is that Howard didn't make the Hawks better during his one season with the Hawks.
Atlanta was outscored by 2. 0 points per 100 possessions when Howard played last season; the Hawks were plus-0. 7 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor. As much as it troubled Howard, coach Mike Budenholzer had good reason to seat him during fourth quarters in the playoffs.
Howard remains a dominant rebounder, ranking fourth in the NBA in rebounding percentage last season, catching twenty-three. 5 percent of the available boards when he was on the floor. However, along with his explosiveness diminished significantly by injuries, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is no longer an impact player on that end of the floor. He averaged a career-low 1. 2 blocks per game last season, a figure he at least doubled in four previous conditions. There was no difference in the Hawks' defensive rating with Howard on or off the floor.
Howard has become a obstacle to his team on offense, in part due to his reluctance to run the pick-and-roll, a source of chaffing in his dysfunctional, passive-aggressive relationship with Rockets superstar James Harden. Howard likes to be utilized as an old-school, post-up player, a dinosaur in the modern NBA, even though he isn't effective in that role. According to NBA.com tracking, Howard averaged the stephen curry jersey most post touches in the league last season (8.0 per game) but ranked in the 37th percentile in post scoring efficiency (0.84 points per possession).
Howard's scoring averages the Cheap Stephen Curry jersey last two conditions (13. 7 in Houston, 13. 5 in Atlanta) have been his lowest since he was a teenage rookie and so have his usage rates (20. 4, 19. 2).
Howard has used to modernize his game this summer, working on his 3-point shot. It's a curious plan for a player who is a career 8. 9 percent 3-point shooter (5-for-56), sixth worst in NBA history (minimum 50 attempts).
And while Howard doesn't turn 32 years old until December, she has already played more NBA regular-season games (954) and minutes (33, 291) than Wade despite entering the little league a year later.
A better reason for hope that Howard can reverse his recent trend of decline: his reunion with Hornets head coach Bob Clifford, a trusted assistant coach and confidante during the best years of the big people's career.
"I know what he has to do to play well, " Clifford said after the trade to acquire Howard. "He understands that I know him. I know his game. Being around him in different settings I have a feel for what he likes to do... There is no reason he can't get back to playing at a really high level. ".
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