Los Angeles Lakers News: ESPN Lists Dwight Howard No. 3 On #NBARank; Why It's Fair

By Jason Van Hoven, Posted: 09/27/12 02:29PM EDT

ESPN's annual ranking of the top 500 players in the NBA has officially come to a close with four players from the Los Angeles Lakers ranking in the top 20. Dwight Howard tops that group by ranking number three.

Last offseason, Howard was ranked second only behind LeBron James thanks to a stellar 2010-11 season that included winning Defensive Player of the Year and making both the All-NBA First Team and the All-NBA Defensive First Team. He now finds himself not only ranked behind the first-ranked James again, but also Kevin Durant, who climbed to the number two spot after ranking sixth last year.

Howard's ranking is understandable. He played in only 54 out of a possible 66 games in the lockout-shortened season because of back problems. As a result, his points per game dipped from 22.9 in the 2010-11 season to 20.6 this past season and his blocks per game dipped from 2.4 to 2.1.

However, despite all that, as well as the whole trade fiasco that mired Howard and the Orlando Magic, Howard could very well be credited as the one who carried the limping Magic into the playoffs as a lucky, yet arguably undeserved six seed. If Howard had not had surgery and missed the playoffs, maybe the Magic could have squeaked out a first-round series win over the Indiana Pacers...maybe.

The voters from ESPN and the TrueHoop network gave scores based on "the current quality of each player," however, as isportstimes reported earlier, that criterion is hard to judge since Howard was injured. For someone who was injured, though, a 9.58 seems to be extremely high quality.

Howard is averaging 20 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks for his career with no signs of a severe decline on the horizon. He might not experience the same pressure that he did with the Magic to do it all, so one would think he would decline with the Lakers and all the talent they have. Still, Howard remains a game-changer, and if there's any decline, it will probably be miniscule at best.  

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