Is Dwight Howard still elite?

Measuring exactly what the Houston Rockets center brings to the table

Updated: February 19, 2014, 12:54 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

HowardScott Halleran/Getty ImagesIs Dwight Howard no longer elite? His numbers suggest decline has begun at age 28.

Who is Dwight Howard?

Is he an MVP candidate who can almost single-handedly anchor a top-ranked defense? Is he an aging, 6-foot-11 center with a back injury that has sapped his otherworldly athleticism?

Or, is he something else?

Howard's decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers for the Houston Rockets this past summer completely shifted the balance of power in the Western Conference. But after back surgery and turning in a sub-20 player efficiency rating (PER) for the first time in six seasons, not to mention the nagging turmoil that shadowed his every movement in L.A., which guy did the Rockets get for their $88 million?

Based on a half a season worth of data, whoever he is, he doesn't look like an elite player anymore.