It’s been a long time since Dallas drafted a player who became an all-star. Mavericks fans are hoping that changes on Thursday night. But before the focus shifts to the Mavericks’ newest rookie, I thought we could look back at Josh Howard: the last all-star drafted by the Mavericks.
If you read my last post, you know that Howard was the last player drafted by Dallas that became an all-star. (If you read the whole thing, you also know that’s not as bad as it seems.) It seems like about once a year you’ll find an article on Howard, like this one from three years ago. Or this one from Kohl Rast just last year. This long-form article from Grantland (RIP) is great.
Why? Howard has taken on an almost mythical quality for Mavs fans. We love to read about him, we love to write about him, and we love to wonder what might have been.
Howard fell to the Mavericks at the 29th pick in 2003 because despite his talent, at age 23, there didn’t seem to be much more room for him to grow. The belief was his ability was maxed out and there were other players with a higher ceiling available. But Dallas saw something in the swing-man from Wake Forest.
Things started out well. Howard made the all-rookie second team in 2004. He averaged 8.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Somehow he was able to carve out 23 minutes per game on a team that featured Michael Finley, Antawn Jamison, and Antoine Walker. Add in Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, and I’m not sure how Howard was able to get the shots to average almost nine points per game. He showed promise.
In 2005-06, his third year in the league, Howard discovered his 3-point shot. He went from averaging 29% from behind the arc the previous year to a scorching 42%. It sparked the legendary 23-0 statistic Mavs fans are familiar with to this day. As in, when Josh Howard scored 20 or more points that season, the Mavericks were 23-0. Howard was one of the most important pieces on a Dallas team that came up just short of a championship.
The next year he was even better. He earned an all-star nod by averaging 18.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Howard was even better the next season, averaging 19.9 points and seven rebounds per game, despite his 3-point percentage falling to 31%. Somehow he was left off the all-star roster.
The wheels started to fall off that 2008 postseason, however. Before game three of the Mavericks’ first round series with the New Orleans Hornets, Howard admitted to smoking marijuana. Later he passed out flyers in the locker room for his birthday party immediately after a loss that put the Mavericks down 3-1 in the series. Then he decided to be an early adopter and have a national anthem controversy. There was his arrest for street racing.
Josh Howard had a bad summer.
He still had a good season, posting a respectable 18 points per game. But things weren’t right. Howard didn’t have the same spark. He and Rick Carlisle didn’t get along anymore. In 2010, Howard was shipped to the Wizards as part of a deal that brought back Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson. You know how that trade worked out.
All told, Josh Howard was here for the better part of seven seasons. 431 games. He only made one All-Star Game, and never won a championship. Devin Harris, Shawn Bradley, and Michael Finley all played more games for Dallas, but we’re not writing pieces about them every year, looking back wistfully on their days in a Mavericks uniform.
So why do we keep looking back to Josh Howard? There’s something special about your favorite team drafting someone who becomes a star. You get to be there from the beginning, you get to see the ups and downs, the growing pains and the exciting moments when you see the game slow down for them. We got to watch all of that with Howard, some of it on the biggest stage possible.
Howard came out of nowhere and was really, really good. He was the second best player on a perennial contender, and the Mavericks acquired him with the last pick in the first round of the draft. They saw something no other team did, so we as fans saw it, too. We knew he could be great, and every year he proved us right, until he didn’t.
I think that’s why Josh Howard looms so large in Mavericks history. He was a homegrown star who never shined his brightest, and we still wonder what might have been.