Hakeem Olajuwon Says Dwight Howard Will Have MVP-Caliber Season

After Trevor Ariza recently said Dwight Howard is more athletic than ever, Houston Rockets legend and player development specialist Hakeem Olajuwon has added even more fuel to optimism about Howard’s game. Citing improved health and a new work ethic, Olajuwon thinks that the player formerly known as Superman will have an MVP-caliber season in 2014-2015.

Here’s Olajuwon on Howard via nba.com’s Fran Blinebury:

“I could see last year when I worked with him in camp that there were some things that he could not do. Or they were things that he did not think he could do. The difference now is that he is fit and those doubts are gone. This is the player who can go back to being the best center in the league and the kind of player that can lead his team to a championship. I think he should be dominant at both ends of the floor…”

“I played at a time when were so many players that could win the MVP each year — Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone. It meant you weren’t going to win the MVP every year. But you had to play like an MVP and have your name in the conversation. I believe that’s where Dwight is now. He is healthy. He is physically fit. He is strong. He wants to win.

“It is about attitude. He should have a season that makes everyone vote for him as MVP. If that happens, they should be contenders for the championship. I believe that. Now they have to believe it.”

High praise. The Dream stresses throughout Blinebury’s excellent piece that Howard is finally fully healthy now after suffering lingering effects of a 2012 back surgery. It also helps, of course, that Howard supposedly became a more dedicated trainer in the offseason.

But it’s the health that will prove most influential to Howard this season. Though his skill-game has almost become underrated, it was Dwight’s unmatched combination of strength, quickness, and explosiveness that made him an annual MVP threat in his final seasons with the Orlando Magic. The frightening thing for the rest of the league is that he was still a preeminent physical force for Houston last year.

The league is a better place when players like Howard reach their full capabilities. Should Dwight make good on Hakeem’s acclaim and regain the all-around athleticism of his Orlando heyday, we certainly wouldn’t be shocked if he reemerged as one of the several best players in basketball, taking the Rockets to exalted heights with him.

Will Howard be a legitimate MVP candidate this season?

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