NBA Roundtable

Goukas: Dwight Better Defender than Russell

In General NBA on April 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Orlando Sentinel rehashing an old quote from Goukas

We’ll say it again: Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is a more dominating defensive player than Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell.

As every season passes and every Howard blocked shot is rejected into the stands, the more I believe this bold statement made last season by Orlando Magic TV commentator Matt Guokas.

Howard on Monday became the only player in history to ever win three successive NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, lending even more credence to what Guokas contended last year: That Howard is the greatest defensive player in NBA history.

Goukas adds

Is this basketball blasphemy by a homer broadcaster or is it intrepid analysis by an astute observer of the game?

If it was anybody else except Guokas, I might call him a hopeless homer, but that’s just not Guokas’ style. He is not a bombastic broadcaster who is disposed to hyperbole. He is a thoughtful, knowledgeable historian of the game who gives honest opinions during Magic telecasts.

Not only that, but he played against Russell, played with and against Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and is old enough to remember when George Mikan played for the old Minneapolis Lakers.

The other day, I called Guokas and gave him a chance to recant the statement he made about Dwight being better defensively than Russell, but he refused to budge.

In Guokas’ opinion, Howard has more overall athleticism than Russell. He’s bigger and stronger. He’s better-conditioned. He runs faster and jumps higher.

“As good a rebounder as Bill Russell was, Dwight is better,” Guokas says. “And as a shot-blocker and shot-changer, Dwight has all of the same instincts Russell had, but Dwight is better out on the perimeter defending pick and rolls.”

In addition, Guokas rightfully points out that players today are much tougher to defend because of their size, speed and athletic ability. The average size of all NBA players today is close to 6-foot-8. In 1960, when Russell was in his heyday, there were only four players taller than 6-8 in the entire league.

Says Guokas: “Even though the league is watered down to some degree now because we have more teams, there are still more great players today—players who have athletic ability and explosiveness to drive to the basket.”

Interesting words from the respected Matt Goukas.

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