Episode 2: Bigs and Ben – First Line Podcast
The NBA’s late-2010s era of small ball dependency and decreasing minutes to traditional centers forced the tallest basketball players on the planet to adapt their game to the times. Now one full season into the 2020s, the NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic, was a Center for the first time Shaq one it in 1999-2000 (Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Garnett are listed as Power Forwards on basketball reference for their MVP seasons in the 2000s). Centers are becoming better passers, three point shooters, and more athletic.
We discuss two traditional centers in different points of their careers – Andre Drummond and DeAndre Ayton. Drummond is coming off of his post-rookie max only receiving a 1 year, $2.4M contract from the 76ers to back up Joel Embiid. Ayton, who broke out in 2021 as the Suns reached the NBA Finals, will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2021-2022 season, awaiting the max contract he is trending towards receiving. We use their careers to explain how context is critical to understanding he value of a center to a team in the modern NBA.
Then all of this talk about centers who aren’t three point shooters smoothly transitions into a nice conversation about roster building around Ben Simmons amidst the trade talks surrounding the 25 year old headed into the second year of his 5-year max contract.