Posted: Tuesday November 14, 2006 11:47AM; Updated: Monday December 25, 2006 2:33PM
Who would you rather have?
Each week, SI.com's Jack McCallum analyzes two players of similar talents and/or on-court tendencies. (Contracts and salary-cap considerations are non-factors.)
Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
The first two picks of the 2004 draft yielded a known college player, three-year Connecticut standout Emeka Okafor, and a relatively unknown high school player, Dwight Howard. Since then, however, they have switched places in the minds of most observers, the Orlando Magic's Howard having become the center-forward of the future and a U.S. national team selection, and the Charlotte Bobcats' Okafor a more mechanical interior player and, further, one with a bad ankle that limited him to 26 games last season.
But don't be too quick to set that judgment in stone. Okafor lost about 20 pounds and looks more mobile this season. He leads the 'Cats in scoring with 18.2 points per game and is still a force underneath with 12.2 rebounds (fourth in the NBA) and a league-leading 3.5 blocks per game.
Meanwhile, Howard's dependence on pure athleticism is beginning to be noticed. "He's an imposing specimen," says one assistant coach, "but he better start to develop a low-post game or teams are going to start figuring him out."
Howard is shaky when he's double-teamed and is near the league leaders in turnovers with 4.1 per game. Still, he leads the league in rebounding (12.9 a game) and gets his points (15.3) on a team with several other options such as Grant Hill, Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Carlos Arroyo.
Consider this an indecisive nod to HOWARD. But, if Charlotte improves, you're going to hear more and more about the Big E.O.
React: Which player would you rather have?
Reader responses: Bowen or Battier?
We received a large number of responses to last week's Choosing Sides between the Rockets' Shane Battier and the Spurs' Bruce Bowen. Here's a sampling of what you had to say:
Mike Delgado of Cainta, Philippines: "If you put Bowen on a lackluster team like Atlanta or New York, he will be forgotten. However, having Battier on said teams may have impact because he is not only a nosy defender but also can be a scorer. Just like his days at Duke."
Eric S. of New York City: "Bowen hands down. Not only does he have a championship pedigree and is a reliable 3-point shooter, he also can take out the other team's best perimeter player. He also isn't a huge detriment when he gets switched up on D to a big man, making it difficult to run the pick and roll against him. Add in the fact that he can psychologically get under players' skin like no one since Larry Bird, and he is the runaway winner here, regardless of age."
Randy of Houston: "Obviously, as a Rockets fan, I will have bias toward Battier. However, unlike my extreme dislike of the Dallas Mavericks, I do not have the same distaste for the Spurs. I respect Bowen and his skills, but besides the obvious facts you mentioned, the other important difference is that Battier plays great defense and you never hear the word 'dirty' from any of the players who go against him. Bowen may play great defense, but many players say he's dirty at times, which tells me he is probably getting away with a bit more than we can see on the surface. Battier hands down."
Steven of Honolulu: "Significant edge to Battier. Although not the 3-point threat that Bowen is, he's reliable at the free throw line and has more than one dimension offensively. Bowen has NBA rings, but Battier also is no stranger to pressure situations and was Duke's leader on their 2001 championship team."
Greg of Schertz, Texas: "I will take Bowen. He is a defensive stopper who has done it in the playoffs and the Finals and a 3-point shooter who has done it in the playoffs and the Finals. Many in the league complain that Bruce is a dirty player. If his opponents are complaining, he must be doing something right. When it is time to defend the likes of Kobe, Dwayne, LeBron in the playoffs, no one is going to completely shut them down, but I will take Bowen every time to slow them down as much as possible."
Eric of El Paso, Texas: "I would take Battier, but barely. And it doesn't have to do with the fact that he is a bigger threat offensively. Bowen is a guy who gets in your head, but Battier can physically beat you while on D. And with big, strong scorers like Kobe and LeBron out there, I would take the younger, more physically imposing Battier."
Daniel B. of Atlanta: "I would choose Bruce Bowen for the simple fact that he has played crucial roles in the spotlight for championship teams. Bowen is a proven clutch performer in the playoffs. And while Battier may average more points and rebounds, these guys are really known for their defense, where Bowen is superior."
James of Austin, Texas: "Well, I think the whole point of a glue guy is to help the team stick together -- you know, to win. Until Battier actually helps a team win, the title is Bowen's."
Daniel of Decatur, Ga.: "Battier. Because fouling him in crunch time (like Nellie did with Bowen when he coached in Dallas) is not an option. Battier can hit a free throw and isn't an offensive liability."
Tammi of Columbus, Ohio: "You cannot discount what Bowen brings to your team, but Battier can also be a useful option offensively as well as on the boards. If you were to trade the two players, I definitely think the Spurs would get the better end of the deal with Battier."