The drop of 31-year-old Dwight Howard is a bit

Father Time is undefeated, to borrow one of Charles Barkley's favorite lines --
one he has been using in discussions about Dirk Nowitzki for at least five years
now. It's an easy explanation for why Nowitzki, 39, barely made ESPN's #NBARank
top 100 and his two-time NBA Finals foe Dwyane Wade, 35, didn't make the cut.
The drop of 31-year-old Dwight Howard is a bit premature to attribute to Father
Time's merciless powers, but he joins Nowitzki and Wade as former superstars who
slid from the #NBArank top five in 2011 to the 40s last year, before flirting
with the three times digits after the voting from our esteemed panel was tallied
this summer. With several assists from ESPN Stats & Information's Jose De
Leon, here's a look at the declines of these three future Area of Famers, of
which only one -- Retro
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Nowitzki at No. 97 -- managed to crack the current list
of the NBA's top-100 talents. The center who fancied himself as Superman has
become a journeyman, joining his sixth team in seven years when his hometown
Atlanta Hawks unceremoniously broken up with him in a trade to the Charlotte
Hornets one deflating season into a three-year, $70 million deal. Howard's
divorces from the Orlando Magic, Los angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets weren't
pleasant, but this marked the first time that a team simply had no interest in
keeping the five-team first-team All-NBA selection. Atlanta's shift into
full-fledged rebuilding mode under new management might have influenced the
choice, but the simple fact is that Howard didn't make the Hawks better during
his one season with the Hawks. Atlanta was outscored by 2. 0 points per 100
possessions when Howard played last season; the Hawks were plus-0. 7 points per
100 possessions with him off the floor. As much as it troubled Howard, coach
Mike Budenholzer had good reason to seat him during fourth quarters in the
playoffs. Howard remains a dominant rebounder, ranking fourth in the NBA in
rebounding percentage last season, catching twenty-three. 5 percent of the
available boards when he was on the floor. However, along with his explosiveness
diminished significantly by injuries, the three-time Defensive Player of the
Year is no longer an impact player on that end of the floor. He averaged a
career-low 1. 2 blocks per game last season, a figure he at least doubled in
four previous conditions. There was no difference in the Hawks' defensive rating
with Howard on or off the floor. Howard has become a obstacle to his team on
offense, in part due to his reluctance to run the pick-and-roll, a source of
chaffing in his dysfunctional, passive-aggressive relationship with Rockets
superstar James Harden. Howard likes to be utilized as an old-school, post-up
player, a dinosaur in the modern NBA, even though he isn't effective in that
role. According to NBA.com tracking, Howard averaged the stephen
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most post touches in the league last season (8.0 per game) but
ranked in the 37th percentile in post scoring efficiency (0.84 points per
possession). Howard's scoring averages the Cheap
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last two conditions (13. 7 in Houston, 13. 5 in
Atlanta) have been his lowest since he was a teenage rookie and so have his
usage rates (20. 4, 19. 2). Howard has used to modernize his game this summer,
working on his 3-point shot. It's a curious plan for a player who is a career 8.
9 percent 3-point shooter (5-for-56), sixth worst in NBA history (minimum 50
attempts). And while Howard doesn't turn 32 years old until December, she has
already played more NBA regular-season games (954) and minutes (33, 291) than
Wade despite entering the little league a year later. A better reason for hope
that Howard can reverse his recent trend of decline: his reunion with Hornets
head coach Bob Clifford, a trusted assistant coach and confidante during the
best years of the big people's career. "I know what he has to do to play well, "
Clifford said after the trade to acquire Howard. "He understands that I know
him. I know his game. Being around him in different settings I have a feel for
what he likes to do... There is no reason he can't get back to playing at a
really high level. ".
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