The NBA is moving outside. It used to be that the goal of every basketball possession was to get the ball as close to the basket as possible by using NBA centres. No more.
Now, everything is perimeter-oriented. Because of this shift, centers are becoming less important and garner fewer minutes. If a big man can’t cover the perimeter, he will find it hard to play late in games.
There is still a talented and versatile group of big men in the NBA today, though. The position has not disappeared just because its usefulness has waned.
Here are the best NBA centres in the game, collated by Kevin Kennedy.
Jordan thought about leaving Los Angeles to be a bigger offensive focal point in Dallas. That isn’t his game. Jordan is the best in the NBA at playing rim to rim, though he will never been confused for Kevin McHale on the block.
After getting paid like a star, Whiteside is also performing like one. He is a big-time scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. He can’t play outside like some centers, but has everything else one would want.
Second in the league in blocks and first in block percentage, Gobert protects the rim like few players in the game. His defensive presence more than makes up for his offensive shortcomings, even though he is one of only eleven big men in the league averaging a double-double.
It seemed that Marc Gasol may have been entering the back side of his career entering this season. Instead of continuing a slide stemming from injuries in 2015, Gasol is playing the best basketball of his career and is a menace in all aspects. He now shoots threes as well, adding to his repertoire and making him one of the best play-making bigs in basketball.
Horford didn’t get much love in Atlanta, but moving to Boston has allowed more NBA fans to see how good and well-balanced his game is. He is setting a career-high in assists in his first year as a Celtic and is flashing a similar three-point shot as Gasol. These guys would be considered stretch fives if they also didn’t dominate closer to the basket. Horford and Gasol have some of the best all-around games at the position.
Just 21 years old, there isn’t much Towns can’t do. He is averaging 19 and 11 through his first 100 games in the NBA. Whilst he’s still young, he plays with a poise which even some seasoned big men can’t match.
Also, with the ability to stretch out his jumpshot all the way to the three point line, he’s near unguardable if he’s in the right frame of mind.
Though Embiid is still a qualifying rookie, the only question that seems to remain about his game is whether he can stay on the court. His per-possession numbers are astounding as Philadelphia attempts to limit his strain and usage in the early going.
What’s more, like KAT, he can even shoot the three ball – making him a threat from nearly any part of the court.
No matter what you think of Cousins’ personality, he is arguably the most offensively talented big man in the sport. Offering a bullying physical presence in the post and the footwork to take almost any defender to task, he’s one of the games real talents.
Defensively he might not be quite as effective, but he’s still capable enough to bother his opponents even with his lack of athleticism compared to come other big men.
The only man who could challenge Cousins’ throne physically is Anthony Davis. The dude does it all. He scores the ball at a phenomenal rate, can extend out to the three point arc with ease and has an ever developing low post game to compliment his athleticism.
His defensive qualities are still somewhat raw, but his size and speed offer him the tools to be one of the games best players if he continues to develop.