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January 5, 2007

Dwight Howard is a Tiger;
Eddy Curry is a Bear 

To see Dwight Howard play Eddy Curry head-to-head in early 2006 in an Orlando-NY Knicks game, you had to wonder what Isiah Thomas was thinking when he traded so much to the Chicago Bulls to get Curry in 2005 (Michael Sweetney and two high first-round draft picks). Howard not only dominated Curry in that game, he looked better -- Howard is a 6'11" wide shouldered monster of an athlete, ripped and strong and quick and powerful. Curry by comparison looked like a slope-shouldered, chubby, out-of-shape softie. 

But looks and initial impressions can be deceiving. As their careers continue to progress, it is becoming clear that Dwight Howard is indeed a tiger. But if he's a tiger, then Eddy Curry is a bear. A bear with big powerful paws and girth, who is quick on his feet. A dancing bear who may have a soft heart but is not here to amuse you. 

Dwight Howard (left) caught showing off menacing tiger sneer while Eddy Curry (right) gives off Grizzly-bear roar. 

 

Dwight Howard has proved so far that he is, and is going to be, one of the great big men of the coming NBA generation. He was the #1 overall pick of the 2004 draft. That was a draft where, coming in, everyone was talking about Emeka Okafor. But in the few days before the draft, word came down that Dwight Howard, a high school kid, was going to be the number-1 pick, eclipsing Okafor. The experts were right; Okafor has shown to be a terrific power forward for Charlotte; a rebounder and defender similar to Alonzo Mourning on defense. But there are now concerns that Okafor will never be the go-to, low-post scorer that Charlotte had hoped to get. Howard, by comparison, has quickly become one of the monsters of the NBA; a guy who could carry Orlando to championships in coming years. 

 

So it may be unfair to compare Curry to Dwight Howard to begin with. Curry was the #4 pick in the 2001 draft, which means that even then, the consensus was that Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, and Pau Gasol were going to be better than him (two of the teams making those picks were wrong; Gasol is the only player from that draft that you might want more than Curry today). Curry was drafted right out of high school and just now, in his sixth NBA season, is starting to show fruition of the talent so many experts like Isiah Thomas saw in him. 

That talent is as follows: 

  1. He is huge. He's 6'11" and 300 pounds. That's not as big as Shaq, but it's still very big. Grizzly bear big.

  2. He has great hands. Not every big man has huge hands that palm the ball like a softball. Patrick Ewing didn't. Curry does. When Curry gets his huge paws on the ball, he doesn't lose it. 

It can't be pried from him. This makes him extremely adept at catching passes and putting the ball in the hoop -- something Ewing was never very good at. Curry is exceptional at catching alley-oop passes, and catching bad passes thrown behind him on the break and turning them into scores.

  1. He can dance. Despite being 6'11" and 300 pounds, he is exceptionally quick on his feet, which enables him to make lots of nice moves to the basket in traffic in the half court. He can also run with the guards on the fast break, most of the time.

  2. He loves to post-up, and is in the process of becoming one of the best post-up centers in the game.

  3. He has a soft touch as far as shooting the basketball. 

The attributes above have earned Curry the nickname "Baby Shaq". Curry still has many detractions -- he is weak as a defender, doesn't rebound well, is not a great shot-blocker (although he can occasionally get up and impressively blast one away), is not a good passer out of the post, and shows inconsistency in his free throw shooting. There have also been questions on whether Curry has the mindset to practice hard to improve, or ever bring a tenacity to the court that would enable him to become an elite player. 

It now looks like many of those deficiencies will be remedied as Curry grows into his twenties. As the 2006-07 Knick season progresses, with Eddy Curry as the focal point of Isiah Thomas's offense, Curry's play improves as his confidence grows. He is starting to look like he is transitioning from teddy bear to big, bad, hungry bear. 

It will be fun to watch tiger versus bear in years to come. 

By the way, LeBron James is a panther.

 -- LouV

Note: For 2007, Howard and Curry are scheduled to play each other on Saturday February 3 (in Orlando), Tuesday February 20 (in NY), and Monday March 26 (in NY).

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Dwight Howard's
Career Stats:

 

Year

GP

Reb

Pts

04-05

82

10.0

12.0

05-06

82

12.5

15.8

06-07*

36

12.5

17.0

 

Eddy Curry's
Career Stats:

Year

GP

Reb

Pts

01-02

72

3.7

6.7

02-03

81

4.3

10.5

03-04

73

6.2

14.7

04-05

63

5.3

16.1

05-06

72

6.0

13.6

06-07*

35

7.2

18.5

*2006-07 season half complete.