The NBA is in an age now when you shoot threes and ask questions later. From the Splash Trio in Golden State to the three point family affair in Houston, the league is moving further and further from the rim. The question has to be asked, can your team flourish when your best player is a center?
If you look at all the teams in the league, there are seven teams that you can arguably (and some clearly) say that their best player is at the five (center): The Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets.
Fun fact, in the last four season (not including this one), the Golden State Warriors have gone 238-90 in the regular season. Excluding the Grizzles and Miami (because of LeBron and DWade), the other four teams listed above have won 621 games in those same four seasons.
It is so easy for teams to pack the paint, so it’s even more important that you surround a center with quality shooters. When you fail to do so, you get 621 games in four season. Yes, players like Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Andre Drummond are star players in the NBA, but everybody (even LeBron James) needs complementary players around them (which they haven’t had). With the lack of dribbling and playmaking ability, it’s hard for a center to truly dominate in todays game.
Well what about Anthony Davis who’s went bonkers several times this season, isn’t he one of the top five players in the entire NBA? That would be a resounding yes, but his team is currently 16-24 so there’s that.
Many would look to the days when Dwight Howard was destroying rims left and right in Orlando back when he took his team all the way to the NBA Finals. He was a force on both ends of the floor, and that carried Orlando the whole season.
So if it worked for Orlando back in 2009, why can’t it work today? Well it’s quite simple actually, back in 09, teams where taking on average 15 threes a game. Today, that number has more than doubled (36 three point attempts today). Teams are in need of a skilled shooter before a skilled center today.
Memphis is the exception to all this. Marc Gasol is a star that has fueled the “Grind House” engine that is the Grizzles. The difference however between Gasol and the other centers is his teammates. Playing alongside Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and “Grind father” Tony Allen, it’s hard to be a bad team. On the other hand however, Memphis has been a good team, but not great. Yes they made it all the way to the Conference finals back in 2012-13, but they haven’t been out of the conference semis since then.
There is no question that players like Anthony Davis, Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Joel Embiid and Brook Lopez are all great players, but when they are your best players (and no outside shooting help), your team will struggle. No matter how good they might be. Spacing is key, talented bigs without shooters make things hard.