Monday, September 9, 2013
Biancardi's Breakdown: Centers
By Paul Biancardi
Today it's hard to find player who wants to be a true center or accept that his is a center, as the game has made hybrid positions from the forward and guard positions. A center remains someone who is known as the tallest or strongest player on the floor, who likes physical contact and stays close to the basket.
A center's primary role is to protect the basket defensively by not allowing his man or other opposing players to get good looks at the basket from inside the painted area. In most cases with young big men, their defense is ahead of their offensive development for a number of reasons. One is they don’t get to touch the ball that much and are still developing their foot- and hand-eye coordination. On the offensive side of the floor a center must be able to score inside by finishing drop-off passes or making a post move with his back to the basket. In addition, a center should be able to rebound, screen and make free throws.
A true center who demonstrates the positional qualities and understands and accepts who he is can impact the game at any level. Let’s take a look at five keys to being an elite center, why they're important and which prospects in the Class of 2014 do them best.
1. Back-to-the-basket scorer
Why it’s important: If you are going to be a dominant player in the game from the center position, inside scoring is essential to separating yourself. The ability to have a post move that you can go to is invaluable, and even more important a counter move will certainly make one stand out. Playing with your back to the basket is difficult and takes years to develop, but when it happens success follows quickly.
|No. 1 recruit Jahlil Okafor uses his wide 6-foot-10, 265-pound frame to seal off defenders and score with a jump hook.|
Who does it best: Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young)
As he enters his senior season he dominates games especially in the lower half of the paint with his back-to-the-basket-scoring skills. Okafor is blessed with size, strength, magnetic hands and footwork to make a post move and score over most defenders. He utilizes his wide body to make and maintain contact to hold his position and establish his space. By sealing a defender with his body he creates passing angles into the post and gives a hard-to-miss target so his teammates can throw him the ball. He can count on his jump hook over his left shoulder as his move of choice to get a basket when needed. He is learning how to use his left hand to counter when opponents take away his hook.
Why it’s important: To have someone who can erase opponents' shot attempts at a moment’s notice on his man or from the help side is a luxury in basketball. The great shot-blockers don’t go after every shot but they do challenge almost every attempt and affect shooting percentage. To have a bona fide rim protector means you can press and pressure more, taking chances for steals and creating turnovers, knowing someone is behind you safeguarding the basket. It can lead to quick and easy run-outs on offense.
Who does it best: Myles Turner (Bedford, Texas/Trinity)
Turner has terrific timing and pride on his shot-blocks, and it doesn’t hurt too have his enormous wing span. He owns an imposing vertical with a bouncy second jump that will either get the block or a piece of the shot, at the very worst he alters the shot attempt. Turner denies his own man a shot and will come over from the help side or even go outside the paint to swat shots. This guy changes, challenges and blocks shots with regularity and affects the outcome of a game by doing so.
3. Physical attributes
Why it’s important: A center first and foremost must rely on what physical characteristics he possesses. The ability to catch the ball is so basic yet so instrumental, so developing hands becomes the priority. To have the massive size and strength to handle contact, fight for position inside and gain leverage is vital especially in the lower body. Does one own wing span or the length to reach and change/block a shot or over a defender? Mobility is huge, as a center must move his feet laterally in the lane and run the floor. These are the core physical parts where a center can impact the game.
Who does it best: Elbert Robinson (Garland, Texas/Lakeview Centennial)
At 6-foot-11 and more than 270 pounds, he owns the size, length, and power to not only absorb contact, but he can dish it out and he is willing to do so. He loves to screen and roll to the rim. When you look at his frame you don’t expect him to move well, but he moves extremely well for his size. His body is still fleshly but proper conditioning and hard work will allow him to run and move in multiple sequences without getting fatigued. Large and secure hands allow him to pass and catch, while his footwork needs polish. Robinson has all the pure physical qualities to be very good down the road.
4. Rebound, run and rim
Why it’s important: To excel in the middle without being a dominant shot-blocker or scoring big man one must be able to rebound, run the floor and finish at the rim. To be a committed rebounder you must have the desire and willingness to go find an get the ball or block out your man and untimely do both. By running the floor, especially in multiple trips, it allows the center to be a factor for a transition bucket or get back in the play on defense. The ability to catch and finish at the rim makes a center valuable.
Who does it best: Khadeem Lattin (Houston, Texas/Redemption Christian)
Like most big men, his defensive tools and instincts are ahead of his offensive game. When you analyze his game it’s a combination of many moving parts. A big part of it is running the floor to score or screen on offense or to protect the painted area and grab the board on defense. On the offensive glass he will go outside of his space to rebound. On his teammates' dribble penetration, he quickly gets the ball to the rim for a score. He is also good at catching lobs. He needs to develop a simple offensive package, but you can count on Lattin to effective in these areas.
5. Skills and range
Why it’s important: It’s rare that a big man possesses more than one skill and range beyond the lane, but when it happens that player has a chance to become special if he keeps the balance of attacking inside and outside and not have a steady diet of living outside. Besides scoring, if a big man can be an interior passer and on the pass on the perimeter, he becomes a bigger part of the offensive scheme.
Who does it best: Karl Towns Jr. (Metuchen, N.J./St. Joseph)
Towns is an outstanding prospect, and his uncanny ability to stretch a defense with his shooting range is remarkable, as he knocks down shots to 22 feet. For a 7-1 player his passing skills are terrific, as he shows floor vision and the unselfishness to hit the open man. At this stage of his young career he might be more productive outside rather than inside. As he develops a paint game and learns how to use his mammoth size, he will reach his potential. Kentucky fans will be excited when he arrives on campus and puts on a uniform.