Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis are recognized as two of the best big men of their generation. The reason is their impact on the court, and pure efficiency has given them plenty of accolades over their respective careers. Dwight Howard has played in 18 seasons, while Davis is going onto his 11th season in just a few months. Since they stepped foot on an NBA court, their impact has truly been impressive to watch, and they are ranked among the best at their positions. Dwight has been a center all his career, while Davis has occupied the center position although he prefers to be a power forward.
Howard is one of the best defensive players of all time, and his size and talent have come in handy for multiple franchises including the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers among others. A 3-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, Howard is destined for the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis has made 8 All-Star Teams and captured the 2020 NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is also one of her most talented two-way bigs in NBA history.
Clearly, both Howard and Davis are dominant players with some impressive accolades to their names. In order to distinguish between the two future Hall of Fame bigs, it is time to compare the careers of both players by their most significant achievements to get an indication of which one had the better all-time career.
Dwight Howard: 1 (2020)
Anthony Davis: 1 (2020)
Whenever a debate takes place between two Hall of Fame players, NBA championships are often the first thing that comes up. After all, winning is what matters most and the greatest player of all time must be a winner of the highest order. Both players have/will retire with NBA titles to their names, although they won the title as teammates during the 2020 season. With Davis the second-best player on the team and Howard as a role player, the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in 6 games.
Howard’s role as an interior presence cannot be ignored from the point of view of the Lakers, because his experience helped the team play big. No doubt about it, the Lakers’ size and defense were the main reasons they dominated the league during the 2020 season. Dwight was a big part of that, even if he wasn’t the All-Star player that played with the Lakers during the 2013 season.
Anthony Davis certainly had a bigger role than Howard with the Lakers, because he was the leading scorer on the team during the regular season and also had a sensational 27.7 PPG average in the 2020 postseason. But both players won the same ring, and having a bigger role does not affect the fact that both players currently have one ring to their names.
Finals MVP Awards
Dwight Howard: 0
Anthony Davis: 0
Dwight Howard never won a Finals MVP award, as he lost out on his chance to win it as a member of the Orlando Magic. Dwight was the best player on the Finals Magic team of 2009, as he carried the team against the Lakers. Unfortunately for Dwight and the Magic, they could not usurp a rampant Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers. Of course, losing in the Finals ultimately ensures that a player on the losing team won’t grab a Finals MVP award. Not to mention, Howard had zero chance to win Finals MVP in 2020 as that honor went to LeBron James.
Similarly, Anthony Davis won an NBA championship, but he never managed to win a Finals MVP award. This is obvious because Davis had to play a secondary role to LeBron James in the 2020 Finals, and never truly had a shot at winning the Finals MVP award as a result. Davis certainly has the talent and size to win that award, but unfortunately, it just seems he can’t stay healthy enough to unlock his true potential.
In the end, neither player has a Finals MVP award, and that means there isn’t an advantage for either player during a comparison of their resumes.
Dwight Howard: 0
Anthony Davis: 0
The MVP Award is also another major achievement that comes up in debates between star players. The MVP award shows who the best player is throughout an entire regular season, and in the case of most players throughout NBA history, it shows how many times they were the best player in the league. Unfortunately for either player, they never had a shot at winning the MVP award because they never quite managed to be the best player in the NBA at any point. There is nothing to be ashamed about there because both players played in eras where the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, and Giannis Antetokounmpo all dominated at respective times.
As great as Howard was in his prime, he never quite had the chance to win the MVP award because LeBron was too busy winning four of them. The closest Dwight got to winning the MVP was in 2011 when he finished in 2nd place in MVP voting behind superstar Derrick Rose. Some might argue that Dwight was the MVP in 2011, but it was clear that either Rose or LeBron James was going to win it as the end of that season approached. Again, that should not take away from Howard’s legacy because he was an exceptional player in his prime.
Anthony Davis never came close to winning an MVP award, as he was either on a bad team in New Orleans or was overshadowed by his teammate LeBron James. Unfortunately, Davis has the talent to win an MVP award but still never managed to make a strong enough case. His closest finish was 3rd during the 2018 season when he finished behind winner James Harden and Cleveland’s LeBron James. In the end, neither player has won an MVP award in their careers.
Dwight Howard: 8 (5 First Team, 1 Second Team, 2 Third Team)
Anthony Davis: 4 (4 First Team)
Dwight Howard has played 18 seasons and made the All-Star Team 8 times, something impressive for a center playing in a guard’s game. Howard was truly a bona fide star during his prime and was arguably the best center in the game for years. It can be argued that Dwight should have made more than 8 All-NBA Teams as a result. But over his career, Howard can be proud of the fact he has 5 First Team appearances, which aren’t easy to accomplish.
Anthony Davis has made 4 All-NBA Teams, and he has a chance to make many more if he can stay healthy. Davis still has managed to make the NBA 75th Anniversary Team because even if he should have more accolades, his talent is off the charts. Based on his championship success and resume so far, Davis has had a great career. But as things stand, Davis does not have an edge over Dwight Howard because he has 4 All-NBA Team selections which do not equal Howard's 8 selections.
Advantage: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard: 8
Anthony Davis: 8
Dwight Howard is a 10-time All-Star, and he made 8 straight All-Star Teams starting in his third season and ending in the first year of his tenure with the Houston Rockets. The center averaged 19.5 PPG, 13.3 RPG, and 2.3 BPG over those 8 years in which he made the All-Star Team. Overall, Howard was a consistent All-Star presence because of his elite size in the paint and ability to score around the rim thanks to his offensive rebounding and lob presence. Earlier on, Dwight was an explosive athlete who could explode around the rim and as he aged, Dwight was still impactful due to his ability to protect the rim and use his defensive basketball IQ.
Meanwhile, as Davis nears age 30, he also has a total of 8 All-Star appearances. It is impressive how many Al-Star appearances Davis has made through 10 years, as his only seasons missing the All-Star Team came in his rookie season and the past 2022 season when he appeared in only 40 games. Making 8 All-Star Teams is nothing to sniff at, and he has a chance to make a few more before his career is up. But as it stands, there is no difference between the two superstar big men in All-Star selections, although Davis will probably pass Dwight over the next year or two.
All-Defensive NBA Teams
Dwight Howard: 5 (4 First Team, 1 Second Team)
Anthony Davis: 4 (2 First Team, 2 Second Team)
Dwight Howard is one of the greatest defensive players of all time, and his presence on defense was terrorizing for opponents during the player’s Orlando Magic days. Even as he has aged, Dwight is a factor on defense because of his experience and elite rim protection. Somehow, Dwight only has 5 All-Defensive Team appearances, of which 4 came in the First Team. How can a man who has 3 Defensive Player of the Year awards only have 5 selections? Probably because he had competition for a spot in those 10 places from other big men, including Tyson Chandler, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Ben Wallace, and Marc Gasol among others. But 5 All-Defensive selections look good with 3 Defensive Player of the Year awards in the end.
This one ends in Dwight Howard’s favor because he has been a better defender than Davis has. But make no mistake, Davis is widely recognized as one of the best two-way players in the game, currently. Very few players in the league right now can defend perimeter players if necessary, block shots inside, and use their length to bother players around the rim. That means by the end of his career, Davis will likely have more All-Defensive selections than Dwight if he can stay healthy and produce what he can do on the court. As things stand right now, Dwight has made more All-Defensive Teams than Anthony Davis because of his elite paint presence and shot-blocking around the rim.
Advantage: Dwight Howard
Total Win Shares
Dwight Howard: 141.7
Anthony Davis: 91.3
Win Shares is a statistic that tries to allocate a team’s wins to each player on the roster. For example, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar owns the single-season record for Win Shares with 25.4 during 1971-72 on a Milwaukee Bucks team that won 63 games. In terms of contributing to a winning side and helping his side to win games consistently, it is obvious that Dwight Howard has a better win shares rating than Anthony Davis. The future Hall of Fame center was always a threat when he was around the rim, and his defense was truly off the charts during his prime. That made him a number one option for most of his career, and his stats benefitted from that.
This advanced statistic shows that Anthony Davis was not as responsible for his team’s victories as Dwight was. While that narrative can be argued, depending on their teammates and all-around talent in the league, Howard has the advantage over Davis in this category. It might have to do with the fact that Dwight was able to accumulate more rebounds and blocks over his career because of his impact as the best big man in the game for at least 5 or 6 years. No matter what the reason is, Davis’ win shares rating is not as good as Howard’s and he loses yet another category to a man who did not even make the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
Advantage: Dwight Howard
Career Player Efficiency Rating
Dwight Howard: 21.3
Anthony Davis: 26.9
Player Efficiency Rating, better known as PER, is a statistic created by John Hollinger that’s goal is to give each NBA player a comprehensive rating. Hollinger’s PER metric is unique because it combines a player’s positive and negative contributions on the court.
Dwight Howard ranks 51st all-time in PER, with a figure of 21.3. That is still a strong rating considering there have not been many NBA players with at least 21 PER ratings. For a center with limited impact in terms of go-to scoring, Howard’s PER is quite strong when compared to other big men in his era. Even if Dwight was not a natural scorer, his impact came on both ends of the floor and mainly through his elite paint presence and rim protection.
Meanwhile, Anthony Davis ranks 4th all-time in PER, with an incredible score of 26.9. The only players above him are Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Nikola Jokic. Davis even has a higher PER rating than the likes of Shaquille O’Neal (5th), Wilt Chamberlain (7th), and Kobe Bryant (28th). While PER is not the be-all, end-all for player statistics, it is still impressive to see Davis rank 4th all-time when he is not even 30 years old yet. That is a testament to the big man’s talent on both ends of the floor because he can win an MVP in the regular season, win a Defensive Player of the Year award, and even win a scoring title. The big man has not quite underperformed over his career, but he should have more accolades considering how special he is as a once-in-a-generation player. Nonetheless, his PER rating is all-time great and exceeds Dwight Howard’s.
Advantage: Anthony Davis
Dwight Howard vs. Anthony Davis 3-1
This was not a very close career comparison, even if both players are exceptional players with impactful playing styles. In terms of defending the rim, Dwight Howard is one of the best in his era. The man was very dominant in the post, mainly because he had one of the greatest physiques in the history of the NBA. But Dwight wasn’t just a powerhouse player, as he had elite speed and explosiveness for his size, which saw him average at least 18 PPG for 6 seasons in his career. Even as his athleticism waned with his age, he was able to defend the rim thanks to his size, and that is why he is one of the top bigs in his position. In terms of all-time regular-season rankings, Howard is currently sitting 11th all-time among prior and active players in rebounds and 15th in blocks.
Anthony Davis has not played as long as Dwight has in the NBA, and his accolades pale compared to his counterpart. Davis is ranked 172nd all-time in points scored, and he has a chance to climb the rankings before it is all said and done. But as things stand, Davis has a long way to go to equal Howard in terms of accolades and he needs to start cutting the distance as soon as next season. But Davis is still an excellent all-around player, averaging 23.8 PPG and 10.8 RPG over his career and it is obvious the former Pelicans star is a better scorer than Dwight ever was.
But in the end, Howard has a significant career advantage over Anthony Davis and it will likely remain the case unless Davis can stay healthy over the next few seasons. Dwight earns the advantages in this career comparison so far because of his incredible dominance during his prime and his luck of being the first option on a good team in the early part of his career. That gave Howard the advantage of appearing in many more All-NBA Games and also padding his stats. Although, it must be mentioned that as a pure scorer, it is obvious that Davis is better than Howard. But in terms of this career comparison, 3-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard is considered the better player with the better career.