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Are "true" centers a dying/dead breed?

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Old
11-05-2012, 01:58 AM
  #1
Carolinas Identity
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Are "true" centers a dying/dead breed?

I've been loving and watching basketball since the late 80's and I'm fortuanate enough to have grown up watching several great players, and while I still get to watch great players these days, I've noticed that one position in particular seems to be on the decline.

20 years ago there used to be absolute behemoths roaming the paint. Names like Mark Eaton, Arvydas Sabonis, Hakeem Olajuwon, Greg Ostertag, Manute Bol, Gheorghe Muresan & Rik Smits come to mind. Guys who easily topped 7'4" and 300lbs, and who, while lacking in scoring, speed and agility, could average double doubles on rebounds and blocks alone, and were immovable pillars of defense that struck fear into opposing shooters simply by their sheer size.

Now when I watch games, I basically get to see every team (with the *VERY* odd exception) play two Power Forwards. Guys at the 5 who sometimes aren't even 6'10" and barley 220lbs. While I get that they are more athletic by a mile and can score 30 a game, it just doesn't give the same power or effect, and at the end of the day your center shouldn't be scoring you points anyway, just the same way your point guard shouldn't be rebounding all that often.

Imagine being a 5'10", 170lbs guard today trying to hit a game winning jump shot over Amar'e (for example). Ya he's got some inches and size on you but it's not too big a difference.

Now imagine, same situation but Gheorghe Muresan, at 7'7" and 315lbs is set in the paint. With that size and length he doesn't even need to guard you, cause he knows full well, it'd be physically impossible for you to shoot over the top of him, and with 150lbs on you, there's no way you could hope to move him or back him down and with a wing span boardering ten feet, you can't really pass or dribble by him either. What do you do?

This thread kind of went off on a tangent here, but my point I guess is that is there still a place for a behemoth, back to the basket center in today's game? Or is it dying? (FWIW, the NBA no longer includes C on it's all star ballot, you pick three forwards now instead)

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11-05-2012, 02:55 AM
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As you said, those guys (not that they all did) lacked the speed and agility, they didn't have the athleticism. Today we have monstrous guys who are athletic, agile, can get up and down the court no problem, as well as spot up for a jumper. No good having your big oaf guys lumbering up and down the court and trying to get comfortable in the paint when your Garnett's and Bosh's will just take the ball mid ranger if not deeper and drop shots on you all day and are too fast and athletic for the tall timber types to stick to.

Hell we have guys like Lebron, KD, George, these guys are 6ft8, 9, 10, so you need big men who can get out and get a hand in their faces as well not sit in the paint.

You say your center shouldn't be scoring your points, but that's a pretty outdated mentality now I would say, the game has evolved beyond that way of thinking, there's more and more guys with a "hybrid" game out there. That said there's still some big boys out there at the 5.

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11-05-2012, 02:56 AM
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The center you have described is pretty much dead. I don't think NBA teams reveal a players true weight at times to be honest, but there is such an emphasis on being in shape that lots of players won't come into camp anywhere near the 275 mark. A few of those tall guys were sticks but you made a good point in that their game was just different.

I do like the current center though. It is a form of super athlete. I cannot understand how some of these guys move so fast.

Guys like Gortat, Cousins, Monroe, Jefferson, Jordan, Noah, Bogut, Lopez, Hibbert, Bynum, Howard, Chandler, both Gasol's and potentially Anthony Davis are a better group of centers than the NBA has had in about a decade, but their games are all different than a Shaq for example. I think there is a place for a solely back to the basket center but they are very rare, and because the league has changed, they aren't of the same body shape and are more athletic. This generation of centers is a whole lot better than the last that's for sure. Not to hijack, but what seems to have changed a lot from my perspective is the power forward. Now it is expected for a power forward to have some ability to stretch the floor. That wasn't very normal a short time ago.

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11-05-2012, 03:37 AM
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Its the nature of the game and how the sport has evolved. The game has transitioned into an offense generated game plan and has thus caused centers and big guys like to retool their capabilities in order to blend in and not get lost in the shuffle. Gone are the days of centers pitching a tent in the middle and going to work, both offensively and defensively. These guys have to be able to get out and stretch the floor, be mobile in transition, hit mid-range jumpers consistently and be active with their feet and hands defensively, especially with the number of screen and rolls continually going up in offensive sets.

So, in effect, I would say that "true centers" are dying. There are some out there who possess the capability, such as some of the names a poster above mentioned, but it will never be the same.

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11-05-2012, 07:59 AM
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Offence from centres is also gone. Back then, some of the best scorers were centers. Shaq, Hakeem, Robinson, etc those were guys who scored 25-30 ppg. Now few centres get to 15.

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11-05-2012, 08:41 AM
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They died a long time ago

Dwight doesnt hold a candle next to the great centers of the 80'S and 90's; they would make him look like a scrub

Skills-wise, I prefer Bynum to Dwight....too bad Drew is unjury-prone and has a questionable work ethic

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11-05-2012, 10:58 AM
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Didn't the majority of the pundits and fans agree with Portland's decision to draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant by arguing that a brilliant center would be more difficult to acquire? At least, I remember the discussion that way.

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11-05-2012, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by BSHH View Post
Didn't the majority of the pundits and fans agree with Portland's decision to draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant by arguing that a brilliant center would be more difficult to acquire? At least, I remember the discussion that way.

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On paper it made sense, if you looked at their roster at the time

But the Blazers are cursed anyway

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11-05-2012, 11:56 AM
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Despite what it said on paper said I was taking Durant wrong or right if I ran Portland. That's not in hindsight either. I said it at the time.

He was the better player.

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11-05-2012, 04:14 PM
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But the Blazers are cursed anyway

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11-05-2012, 04:27 PM
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Despite what it said on paper said I was taking Durant wrong or right if I ran Portland. That's not in hindsight either. I said it at the time.

He was the better player.
he was not the better player. Some people did say they would take Durant at the time, but not many. Oden had all the tools to be the most dominating big man in the game since Shaq.

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11-05-2012, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Jussi Trollinen View Post
Imagine being a 5'10", 170lbs guard today trying to hit a game winning jump shot over Amar'e (for example). Ya he's got some inches and size on you but it's not too big a difference.
There are so few players in the league under 6 feet tall, and even fewer that are any good that this situation will never happen. The shortest players tend to be around 6'3.

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11-05-2012, 04:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McSorleyStick View Post
They died a long time ago

Dwight doesnt hold a candle next to the great centers of the 80'S and 90's; they would make him look like a scrub

Skills-wise, I prefer Bynum to Dwight....too bad Drew is unjury-prone and has a questionable work ethic
Offensively.

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11-05-2012, 08:27 PM
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Offensively.
And defensively

Dwight just relies on his athleticism

Remember when Hakeem sent his opponents to the moon with a pump fake? Well Dwight would join them in 0.895 nano-second if he faced prime Hakeem


Hakeem was a freak athlete too, but defensively he had great fundamentals and patience, and read the offense much better



Heck, he even finished a few seasons with more than 2 steals per game, which is unreal for a center

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11-06-2012, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Fish on The Sand View Post
There are so few players in the league under 6 feet tall, and even fewer that are any good that this situation will never happen. The shortest players tend to be around 6'3.
I just picked a number at random, but tbh, I don't think it matters how tall you are, 6'8" LeBron wouldn't be able to shoot OVER 7'7" Muresan, that shot is going 20 rows deep in the stands every time. He'd have to try to get around him with quickness.

For all the lack of speed and scoring the older centres had, the one thing they did do well was block. If I had to bet money on one record (game, season, career) that I thought would *NEVER* be broken, I'd have to go with Mark Eaton's 1984/1985 blocks record of 456 (or 5.6 a game) Last season McGee, Bynum and Hibbert were the only players to even average 3, and even then it was barley.

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11-06-2012, 12:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jussi Trollinen View Post
I just picked a number at random, but tbh, I don't think it matters how tall you are, 6'8" LeBron wouldn't be able to shoot OVER 7'7" Muresan, that shot is going 20 rows deep in the stands every time. He'd have to try to get around him with quickness.
The problem is, Lebron would get around him everytime. And once a bull like Lebron gets a head of steam, he can posterize any of those guys.

Players like Muresan, Bol, etc... were in the league to defence against the Robinsons, Ewings, Parrishs & Olajuwons of the league. When they were done and not replaced, the players paid to bang with them stopped offering value.

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11-06-2012, 12:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jussi Trollinen View Post
I just picked a number at random, but tbh, I don't think it matters how tall you are, 6'8" LeBron wouldn't be able to shoot OVER 7'7" Muresan, that shot is going 20 rows deep in the stands every time. He'd have to try to get around him with quickness.
LeBron wouldn't shoot over him, he'd go around him with ease or he has the range to take it all the way out to the three if he wishes and just drop that instead, those freakish 7'5ish dudes aren't hustling out to that range all game. As Nalyd said, LeBron would have no problem jamming on those guys if he wanted to take it to the rack, hell some of those guys would probably get snapped in half trying to stand in LeBron's path. LeBron is obviously an exception to many rules, but there's plenty of 6'10-7ft guys in the league with good range who would love those long lumbering guys being too slow to get out on them. None of today's players would try to shoot "over" someone that size, nor would they need to.

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11-06-2012, 12:36 AM
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Zero question the answer is yes. Question then becomes why. I've thought about it before myself and I'm not exactly sure. My concern is that the way the game has changed has led to this (if that's the case it's very unfortunate). Allow me to explain.

Watch some classic games on NBATV (I'm not talking 60's, even early 90's) and tell me if you notice any glaring differences. See how many guys rotate defensively and sneak under a driving player in an attempt to take a charge. (This just cost the Clippers the game on Saturday). This essentially didn't exist 25 years ago. Even up until probably 8 or so years ago what you would see is guys like Mourning, Mutombo, Ewing, Olajuwon, etc. rotate over in an attempt to block/foul said player. There was an attack by the offensive player, followed by an aggressive defense by (typically) the center. This doesn't happen anymore. I think a lot of it funny enough can be attributed to both Sportscenter and the accessibility of highlights. No one wants to be on the wrong end of a poster. It's the classic line from White Men Can't Jump, "You'd rather look good and lose, than look bad and win." I used to watch dunk videos as a kid, and I believe every year they'd make a new hour or so video of all the best dunks of the year. Most of them were one guy dunking on/over another. You just don't see that much these days. There aren't really any true shot blockers left. And yes I know Howard blocks a lot of shots, as does the kid (Davis) from Kentucky, but they won't do what Mourning or Mutombo used to do. Those guys would attempt a block no matter what, and if they got dunked on, so be it. Guys won't do that nowadays. Those battles at the rim were as exciting as it gets, so it's really unfortunate that we don't see them anymore.

But back to your original point, while yes they are a dying breed, there's no question a player like Olajuwon, Robinson, Shaq, Ewing, etc. would still thrive in the game today, but for whatever reason it just doesn't seem like we're getting 7-footers who are top talents. I think a lot of kids probably view the fundamental big man as boring, so they try to mold their games after guys like LeBron, Durant, Howard, Amare, Griffin, etc. as opposed to the great centers from the 90's.


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11-06-2012, 12:54 AM
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There aren't really any true shot blockers left. And yes I know Howard blocks a lot of shots, as does the kid (Davis) from Kentucky, but they won't do what Mourning or Mutombo used to do. Those guys would attempt a block no matter what, and if they got dunked on, so be it. Guys won't do that nowadays. Those battles at the rim were as exciting as it gets, so it's really unfortunate that we don't see them anymore.
I think a lot of that is because shot blocking isn't great defence. Look at Tyson Chandler, he's a mediocre shot blocker but a great defender. Because rather than always committing to the block, he forces opponents into low percentage plays. I think players like Duncan, Garnett and Chandler changed the way big men defend the paint, and they made it more effective, but also more of a rare skill.

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11-07-2012, 01:51 AM
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I think a lot of that is because shot blocking isn't great defence. Look at Tyson Chandler, he's a mediocre shot blocker but a great defender. Because rather than always committing to the block, he forces opponents into low percentage plays. I think players like Duncan, Garnett and Chandler changed the way big men defend the paint, and they made it more effective, but also more of a rare skill.
I agree with you 110% but, I must admit, watching Mutumbo send a shot ten rows into the stands and do the famous "finger wag" was just as good, if not better than a Michael Jordan//Dominique Wilkins dunk.

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11-07-2012, 06:33 PM
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Watching some of the blocks Wade pulls off is pretty awesome.

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11-08-2012, 01:14 PM
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If only stupid politics didnt prevent Sabonis to join the Blazers right after he was drafted .......

I mean, Jordan wouldnt have won 6 rings, that's for sure


That 90-92 Blazers team, with a young and healthy Sabonis ?


Just damn

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11-08-2012, 07:59 PM
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Two factors play a big role IMO

1) The 3 point line being put into place. Back in the day when there was no line, there was no reason to shoot from back there. Everybody wanted to get shots close to the basket, so centers that could stand in the paint and contest shots were important.

2) The game has gotten so much faster. Players like Lebron and those guys get to the basket so quickly on the break. If your center can't run up and down the court players are already scoring before he can get set up in the paint.

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