The center position has drastically changed in the NBA over the last decade or so, with the defensive-minded 7 footer with no range protecting the rim getting kind of obsolete with teams leaning towards the long ball.
So what’s hype nowadays is to have all shooting lineups and play small ball, allowing teams to push up-tempo in the half court and spread the floor by making people guard you all the way to the three-point line?
That has made coaches develop a lot of adjustments to try and make their personnel fit that kind of system, with the center being pretty much the scapegoat and being sent to the bench unless he can also shoot the three ball with ease.
And with NBA playoffs being all about making adjustments, we believe that there are 5 non-center players that might as well get a lot of run at the center spot during the playoffs. Here they are:
5. LeBron James
We’ve already seen this happen before, and now that the Cavs have an above the average playmaker in George Hill, we might as well watch the King play below the rim once again with 4 shooters surrounding him to try and stretch the court.
James is an underrated rim protector and even though he may be kind of undersized, he’s strong enough to face bigger opposition. Also, we already know how deadly he is when he drives through the lane and attacks the rim, and he’s a terrific skip-passer to play in the pick and pop as well.
4. Larry Nance Jr
If the LeBron James at 5 experiment doesn’t suit Tyronn Lue, he can always turn to Larry Nance, who’s going to make the most of every single second of playing time he gets with his top-notch hustle in both ends of the hardwood.
Nance is a bit undersized for the position but has a huge wingspan and giant-like hands to make up for this, and he’s an underrated passer as well. Also, he’s great at running the floor and can finish in transition with both hands, so he definitely fits an up-tempo kind of offense.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Milwaukee Bucks have a diamond in Giannis as a guy that can play and guard all 5 roster spots due to his wingspan and athleticism, and now that Jabari Parker’s back and Malcolm Brogdon will also be ready when we hit the playoffs, they can just surround the Greek Freak with shooters and throw him at the 5.
Giannis still lacks a shooting stroke from distance and makes the most of his speed and athleticism to get what he wants in the paint, but being a one-man fast break as he is, as well as a very good playmaker, a Bledsoe, Brogdon, Middleton, Parker, Antetokounmpo lineup might be as deadly as they come.
2. Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons has a very similar skill set as LeBron James, so it wouldn’t be crazy to think he could also play at the center spot just like Magic Johnson did in the Finals during his rookie season back then in 1979 when he was forced to replace Kareem Abdul-Jabbar down low against the Sixers.
Obviously, if they decide to throw Simmons at the 5 it means that Embiid’s in foul trouble or hurt, and he would most likely pass the playmaking duties to TJ McConnell, with the Sixers also relying on Redick, Covington and Saric with their small ball experiment.
1. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant has already spent some time at center right now and he’s currently leading the Golden State Warriors in blocked shots per game with 1.9 swats a contest, so this move shouldn’t come as a surprise at all for Steve Kerr.
Durant is arguably the best shooting big man in the history of the game and can put the ball on the floor and be a playmaker as well, and the Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Green, Durant lineup has proven to be the deadliest lineup in modern basketball era, featuring lockdown defense and top-tier shooting at the same time.