Small ball has taken the league by storm the last couple of seasons but the center position is not dead. There are still a handful of centers that are dominating under the radar.
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Oct 18, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
In a guard-heavy league, the center position has gone a little under the radar as of late. This could be due to the fact that there are few true centers in today’s NBA, unlike in years past.
Many centers play the power forward position and vice versa so the lack of a back-to-the-basket center is very apparent.
It starts with college. Few are poised to play from block to block for an entire game so you see a more hybrid position being born. A center that can score from the block, but also knock down a three every now and then is imperative to success it seems.
Very few offenses run through the center position in today’s NBA. Instead, the guard/forward position dominates possession in the half-court. This makes it tough for centers to shine in the traditi
Dec 3, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) goes up for a shot against Charlotte Hornets forward Spencer Hawes (00) in the first half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
For a second-year big man, Karl-Anthony Towns has proven that he is a powerhouse on the offensive end. A center that can do it all at 21, he has all the skills to be one of the most dominant centers in recent memory.
He is currently averaging 21.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves and continues to awe us with his overall ability. Towns has proven to be a successful center in today’s NBA.
He can score from anywhere on the court but more importantly, he is comfortable with the ball in his hands.
Towns currently shoots 37.2 percent from behind the arc, which leaves the middle of the court open for slashers like Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. He fits the mold for the Timberwolves’ offense and has the potential to thrive in their system.
Towns is one of the hybrid centers that is taking the league by storm. He doesn’t mind taking a big man off the dribble to the basket. He also doesn’t mind having a defender on his back, back to the basket and working his baby hook over a 7-footer.
This rare prowess makes Towns not only fun to watch, but a matchup nightmare for any defender.
Dec 6, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) drives the ball against New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Hassan Whiteside has progressed tremendously over the past three seasons since being in a Miami Heat jersey.
After being drafted by the Sacramento Kings, where he only played 19 games in two seasons, Whiteside bounced around between the NBA D-League, Lebanon and China before finding his stride in Miami.
He has seen his points per game climb every year since being in the NBA.
From his rookie campaign and averaging 0.0 points per game (he only played one game) to his fifth season where he is now averaging 17.6 points per game, Whiteside is proving that he is not just a defensive stopper.
Whiteside is more or your traditional center where he plays block-to-block. You won’t see him stretch the floor, but the Heat don’t need him to. He is shooting an impressive 54.9 percent from the floor, which ranks 10th in the league at the quarter mark.
Whiteside also continues to impress on the defensive end. From sending shots into the fifth row to straight up snagging shots out of mid-air, Whiteside is one of the most dominant rim protectors in the league.
He averages 2.5 blocks per game this season, which is down from last year’s impressive performance of 3.7 blocks per game. He also leads the NBA in rebounds per game at 14.7.
Keep doing your thing Whiteside; your 2K rating will continue to skyrocket with these types of performances.
Dec 6, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) drives in the second quarter as Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) defends at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
The veteran. Marc Gasol has proven that Father Time has not caught up to him quite yet. Gasol is still one of the best centers in the league at age 31. The 7’1″ center has been one of the most consistent big men since coming in to the league in 2008.
Gasol is averaging a career-high 19.9 points per game, which ranks fourth among centers. His offensive outpouring might be because of point guard Mike Conley‘s absence but regardless, Gasol is having a career year on the offensive side of the ball.
He has averaged 1.1 blocks per game or more in all nine seasons he’s been in the league, averaging 1.6 this season.
His rim protecting ability has been a staple for the Memphis Grizzlies and he currently ranks No. 1 in career blocks (909) ahead of his older brother, Pau Gasol (877), in Grizzlies’ history.
Zach Randolph is the current franchise leader in total rebounds with 5,155, but Gasol ranks second. He has tallied 4,571 total rebounds and is averaging 7.7 per game throughout his career.
Gasol may not have many years left in the tank, but for now, he remains one of the more dominant centers in the league.
Nov 29, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) dunks against the Brooklyn Nets during the first quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
A more prototypical big, DeAndre Jordan has not been forced to change his game to fit the mold of today’s centers. He has enough firepower around him that he can be the defensive anchor the Los Angeles Clippers need.
The Clippers currently rank seventh in opponents’ points per game, allowing 99.8 a contest. Jordan is a key reason as to why the Clippers have been so locked in defensively. He is looking for his first Defensive Player of the Year honor, an award that coach Doc Rivers thinks is possible.
Rivers is on record for saying that D.J. is “clearly the Defensive Player of the Year” last season. (per sbnation.com)
Whether it’s putting players on posters and stopping posters being printed on his end, Jordan’s sheer athletic ability has allowed him to be one of the most athletic bigs the league has seen. He can get off the floor in a matter of seconds and finish around the rim among the best of them.
Jordan has never stunned anyone with his numbers on the offensive end but his presence at the rim will make any grown man tremble. He is seventh in the league among centers in blocks per game (1.70) and has averaged 1.8 blocks over his career.
The former second-round pick has proven to be a beast on the boards averaging 13.8 rebounds per game the last four seasons. He is the Clippers’ all-time leader in rebounds. tallying an impressive 5.998 in just more than eight seasons.
Jordan still has some good years ahead of him and depending on what happens in the offseason for the Clippers, Jordan could continue to be the staple on the defensive end.
Nov 18, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) against the Los Angeles Clippers at Golden 1 Center. The Clippers defeated the Kings 121-115. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to most basketball fans. DeMarcus Cousins has been dominant since entering the league in 2010, but people often discredit his body of work due to his passion for the game that gets mistaken for a bad attitude.
Cousins currently leads the Sacramento Kings in points (28.8), rebounds (10.7) and blocks (1.4) per game this season. He has been one of the few bright spots the Kings have had in recent years.
Turmoil and players coming and going has proven tough for the Kings to be successful, but Sacramento fans should rejoice he is still donning a purple jersey.
His 28.8 points per game ranks first among centers and third in the league overall. Cousins is one of the most prolific scorers that the center position has seen in quite some time. The next closest center is Karl-Anthony Towns at 21.8 points per game.
With the new “hybrid” center being born, Cousins has proven he can last in the NBA. He, like Gasol and Towns, can stretch the floor at any given time and isn’t afraid to put the ball on the deck.
He is shooting a career-high 39.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc which makes him the complete package.