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Where Should We Rank Dwight Howard?

If it's basketball season, it must be time for me to talk about Dwight Howard. If Howard isn't my favorite player in the league, he's probably pretty close. If you're a Superman fan like me, you might be shocked by his ranking in Justin Phan's otherwise-excellent cheat sheet:

He's 45th.

I'm sorry, but that's just an outrage.

Yes, I understand that his horrible free throw percentage, coupled with the high number of attempts, dooms you in that category. I realize that in leagues that count turnovers he'll hurt you even more. I realize that his assists and steals aren't going to win you any championships either. And I realize that he doesn't shoot any threes.

But still.

In three categories, he's an absolute monster, and the fourth (scoring) he's no slouch either. In points-based leagues, this more than makes up for the other categories, does it not? What about head-to-head? Want to guarantee a great shot at a victory every week? Try carrying Howard.

His name came come up in blog posts by Andre Snellings and Kyle McKeown earlier this week, where they both discuss his real value. Andre called him "probably a first-rounder" in head-to-head leagues, while Kyle pointed out that his ADP in ESPN and Yahoo leagues indicated top ten, while Mock Draft Central put him at 22, which possibly says more about the disparity of league types using MDC compared to the straight-forward ESPN and Yahoo leagues. Regardless, everyone ranks him better than 45.

So why 45?

I won't speak for Justin, but I'm sure many would agree with him that Howard's free throw percentage really is a killer. In roto leagues, you're almost guaranteed last place in free throw percentage if you carry Howard all year (though I'm sure you can find Corey Maggette-types late in the draft to help you there). At the same time, rebounds aren't that hard to find. While you won't find Howard's 14 boards a night anywhere else, there are plenty of gems way down in the draft who might get you nine or ten.

I'm not in a rotisserie-style league this year, so I don't care about the "1" in free throw percentage and the help Howard won't provide in three other categories. I'm concerned about my points-based league, where everything is thrown into one big pot and Howard is a top-five player (you know, like he is in the real league). I want Howard in my head-to-head league, where a week with four or five Howard games almost guarantees I'll win my matchup.

Ultimately, the real reason he's 45 is spelled out right at the top of the cheat sheet page: "Players are ranked on the basis of an eight-category league (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, FT|PERCENT|, FG|PERCENT| and three pointers made)." It's the part that I may have glossed over - in my hurry to get to the good stuff - the first time I checked out the cheat sheet (admit it, you did too), but it teaches two important lessons:

1) Don't take any cheat sheets you read as gospel. They may give you a nice guide of what you need to know, but you should always use them to enhance your own opinions and analysis. AND

2) Always read the fine print.