Hey gang. It’s been awhile, at least in terms of updating anything on the website. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that if anything, I’m probably still tweeting too much, but just haven’t gotten around to adding any new content. Well, I figured it was time to talk about what I think is a bit of a fallacy with regard to the need to traditional low post scorers in today’s game.
As with most things that I get rant-y about, this started on Twitter after I’d finally gotten around to watching some clips of Jesse Edwards, the 6-foot-11 center prospect that Syracuse recently offered out of the Netherlands, by way of IMG Academy.
(Sidenote… let’s hope that the individual from IMG Academy who was named in yesterday’s total shitstorm involving bribes and college admissions fraudulence has nothing to do with Edwards or any of the football players out of IMG currently on our roster.)
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I was watching Edwards and the first thing that really stood out to me was that he’s not remotely a “traditional” center prospect. He’s not a back to the basket, low post scorer. He’s long, lanky, and has a tremendous amount of skill for a player his size. He can handle and he’s got a nice looking stroke on his jumper, but no one is ever going to confuse him for a dominant inside presence. With the way he moves and plays, along with his build, he reminds me a bit of Chris McCullough, but less explosive athletically.
It was my first time watching him play, and I can see why Syracuse’s coaching staff likes his potential. There’s plenty of it, that’s undeniable. He’s a very low risk, high reward type of prospect, along the same lines as Marek Dolezaj and Robert Braswell.
And that started a little bit of back and forth with some folks on Twitter who believe you need a back to the basket center, or at least someone a little more traditional in that role. Frankly, I disagree. Looking back at some of the recent national champions, how many have had a real “traditional” center that was pivotal (no pun intended) to the team’s success? Duke had Jahlil Okafor when they won the title in 2015, but of the last five champs, he’s really the only traditional back to the basket volume scorer in the mix.
The game has been trending away from the “traditional” center (think Shaq, or Patrick Ewing – if you can stomach it – for example) for a long time, and has been evolving into more of a positionless style. Last year the top two picks in the NBA Draft – DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III – were center prospects, but are a far cry from being “traditional” in that they are both face up scorers.
Looking at the 2019 recruiting class, even the top big men in the nation are hardly traditional. James Wiseman is probably the closest, but when I saw play on the EYBL circuit he scored as much facing up as he did with his back to the bucket. Vernon Carey is a power forward with a perimeter game, and obviously, Isaiah Stewart isn’t actually a center prospect despite being perhaps the most “traditional” low post player in this year’s class.
These days, you win with skilled players at virtually every position, or at least four of the five, with the center on some teams being more about altering shots, rebounding, and being able to catch and finish without needing to create for themselves.
With Jon Bol Ajak and, if they get him, Jesse Edwards, the Orange are really following recent basketball trends more than anything else, bringing in what are essentially stretch 5s who can spread the floor but aren’t necessarily going to be someone you stick on the block and rely on to make any Hakeem Olajuwon-esque post moves to get you points. Syracuse hasn’t had many centers like that in the last couple decades, with really only Arinze Onuaku, Ricky Jackson, and Rakeem Christmas immediately springing to mind for me. Even Etan Thomas wasn’t necessarily a guy who was particularly adept at creating his own offense, relying more on someone driving and dishing or making his living on the offensive glass. Sure, he could score in the low post, but it’s not really what he was all about.
Would it be nice to have a dominant low post scorer? Of course it would. You always want to have various options to put points on the board, and adding that element would be fantastic in order to pull defenders down from the perimeter so that you can free up some space for our shooters. But that’s not really how basketball is played these days. Now, it’s all about ball movement and being able to handle and shoot the ball – which I’m very much OK with, mind you. Traditional centers are out there, but they’re few and far between. If Syracuse winds up without one in this class… personally, I’m fine with that. I just want someone who can set good screens, block shots, crash the boards, and score at least a little bit. I don’t care where they score from or how they score… catch a pass and go right up with it, knock down a 12 footer, or catch it on a pick and pop and hit a three from the top of the key.
And that, my friends, is the end of my rant. Be sure to check out my SoundCloud.