Got Josh Howard?

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To help us through these slow times, I have decided to ho start up some previews of guys who will be playing significant minutes this year.  (If your interested in helping me out with some of these, email me and let me know!)

First up will be Josh Howard.  He to me is the biggest question heading into this season, even moreso than Kidd.  After his poor performance at the end of the season and into the playoffs this year, many wonder if Josh can be the consistent 2nd go-to option on this team we all thought he would be after his All-Star season.

The Mavs FO have continually supported him, and are willing to roll the dice on him again this season, in hopes that he will put last season behind him and pick up where he left off in the 2006-07 season.  Much is riding on his play this year, as many have pointed out, that it takes a "big 3" to even think about competing for a title in the league today.  Josh of course is the logical choice to fill that role, along side of Kidd and Dirk. 

Bill Ingram has listed Josh as one of his top 5 players who must step up this year.

Two years ago Josh was the long bright spot for the Mavericks in the playoffs. While everyone else got that deer-in-headlights look when Don Nelson and the Warriors went small, Howard simply took it to them game after game. The following year he was a driving force behind the team's historic 67-win season, and was named to the All-Star team as a result. Last year . . .a HUGE step backwards for Josh. Whether it was the drug habit he wouldn't shut up about, dreams of drag racing down Winston-Salem streets during the summer, or something else, Josh disappeared on the Mavericks when they needed him most.

Don't blame it on Jason Kidd, either. Josh had his best scoring month of the season in March, when Kidd was just starting to run the show. But for whatever reason, when April and the playoffs rolled around his shooting touch went south and he turned in the worst playoff showing of his career: 12.6 points per game on 29% shooting. It's that killer defense from Peja Stojakovic, right? Yeah . . . .riiiiiiiiiiiiight. Despite tons of speculation that the Mavs would trade Josh, new head coach Rick Carlisle is committed to a vision of the Josh Howard who was so good over the previous two seasons. If we don't see that Josh, the Mavericks are going to be a very, very bad team this year.

 

My take on Josh this year -

Josh has to return to the slashing type of play that made him an All-Star in the first place.  No more settling on the jumper.  He is still way too young and has no reason to be drifting away from the basket like Stackhouse does because of his old knees and groin.  We also need to see some consistent play through out the games from him.  He has always been a guy who has started REALLY hot, and then has gradually cooled off through out games offensively.  Seeing more of a consistent performance from him during games will be huge for the Mavericks being able to win the close ones.

Defensively, he needs to put himself in the same league of defensive that we see from guys like Bowen, Bell, Marion and Artest.  He has the size and quickness to be that guy, but the chip on his shoulder that he has traditionally played with in the past seems to wavier from game to game. 

Josh once again playing with that chip on his shoulder will lead to attacking the basket, and solid defense.  For whatever reason, his decline in play at the end of last year was arguably more of a mental thing than anything else.  If Josh can really get it together mentally and emotionally, I fully expect his confidence and All-star level of play to return. 

If not, it could be a long season for him and the Mavs, as I could see them trying to possibly move him at the trading deadline.

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