Much has been made of the “death” of the traditional center in the NBA. Big back to the basket bruisers like Shaquille O’Neal and Patrick Ewing are now viewed squarely in terms of the league’s past.
Even players like Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins are viewed as an “endangered species.”
Stretch power forwards have taken the game over. During the last two seasons, there has been a mad dash to identify and incorporate these players. Kevin Love, Ryan Anderson and Marvin Williams have all seen their value skyrocket in response to this new landscape.
A huge problem for most franchises is that there are only so many of those types of players to go around. What can certain clubs do when they just don’t have the personnel for that style of play?
One answer is to adopt a one big strategy and play another perimeter player at the larger forward spot in the hopes of stoking the offensive production of a unit. For example, how Stan Van Gundy uses Andre Drummond in Detroit.
All of these recent developments has given some scrappy inside players new life as small-ball centers. They rebound, protect the rim and finish off plays near the hoop. Here are three of the most promising small-ball centers in the game today:
The Manimal’s true destiny lies at the five in the heart of a quicker unit. He has struggled to shoot from outside but, his hustle and energy are worth it on the offensive side of the ball. Denver is dramatically better at scoring the basketball when using smaller lineups.
Defense is where it gets a little tricky for the 26-year-old. Despite a good motor and decent measurable, he is undersized in the middle and lacks explosive athleticism that helps when protecting the rim.
Faried will be a useful find for a team if the Nuggets decide to trade him due to their overload of big men.
Biyombo was nothing less than a star during last year’s Eastern Conference playoffs. Especially against a depleted Miami Heat team.
The young big devoured rebounds and had his way in the paint over much of that series. He even managed a promising showing against the Cavs in the next round.
In Orlando, they have a bunch of front-court players. He might be best suited for lineups where he can focus on his real elite skills: rebounding, blocking shots, and finishing.
Their best lineup would stem from the athleticism of Aaron Gordon and Serge Ibaka at forward spots along with the Congo Native in the middle.
When the Cavaliers drafted Thompson in 2011 with the fourth pick, I thought it was strange to, essentially, be drafting JJ Hickson again. But, Double T has exhibited an interest in the defensive end that Hickson never even showed.
The former Longhorn was a linchpin in both of Cleveland’s recent runs to the NBA Finals. His length and speed allowed him to switch onto smaller players like Stephen Curry with little to no worry about mismatches.
On offense he does what he needs to do: catch lobs and dunk. He should be the mold for any undersized big looking to stick around the league right now.