Grading the Centers Circa 1978

Then there is the center - still called the center - who brings it all together. The top centers today are Bill Walton of Portland, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of Los Angeles, Bob Lanier of Detroit, Bob McAdoo of New York, Dave Cowens of Boston, Dan Issel of Denver and Artis Gilmore of Chicago. Walton is the best. He isn't a top scorer, but he could be if the shot more. He is that rare athlete who makes all of his teammates better. "Walton is the man right now," said George McGinnis of the 76ers. "You can surround him with average players and still win."

Walton has reasonable shooting range and can play with his back to the basket or facing it, opening the possibility for an inside pass or a drive to the basket. He is the consummate team player, the perfect person around whom to build a team. He blocks shots, rebounds and starts the fast breaks. Perhaps he also is the best passing center today. He is almost fundamentally perfect and has the right temperament. He loves to play and hates to lose. All of the top centers have individual styles and strengths, but none can do all of the things Walton can do. Abdul-Jabbar and Gilmore have fine inside games and their strong suit is putting the ball in the basket. They want the ball low and, when they get it, they shoot rather than pass. Both are limited, though, and the farther they are from the basket, the less effective they are.

Both seem to look only for what comes their way, saving most of them energy for offense. Gilmore and Abdul-Jabbar get a lot of rebounds, but neither is a good rebounder. Neither is very aggressive and seems to come up only with the rebounds anyone 7 feet tall should get. Abdul-Jabbar does have his sky hook, that he can shoot with either hand, and that makes him almost unstoppable down low. Gilmore has an array of close-in shots, but none is unstoppable. McAdoo is the best shooter among the top centers. He doesn't make many moves or drive much. He roams the floor until he gets the ball and fires it up. He plays more like a forward because he likes to face the basket as opposed to playing with his back to it. Lanier, Cowens and Issel are perhaps the most versatile offensively because they can play with their backs to or away from the basket. All three also have great range on their outside shot, forcing the center outside with them. That, in turn, opens the middle. Lanier and Cowens also are aggressive, tough rebounders, who also set screens.


Lex said...

you can surround him with average players and still win.

I don't know of one other player that is true for.







I'm gonna say no again.







FLCeltsFan said...

I'd have to say maybe Larry.... He was pretty incredible.

Lex said...

That is a tough one.

The 1980 team had cowens and tiny, but not at the height of their powers.

Corbread, pretty good.

Then, later on, he had lesser talent, but he wasn't at the height of his powers.

Lex said...

another way to ask the question what players have won an nba title without the aid of one of the 50 best players of all time.

mj -- pippen
kobe -- shaq, Pau is OK, but no great
kareem --no, he had oscar in MIL
Hakeem -- ?
Duncan -- After robinson?
2000 pistons - -0- all time greats
rick barry -- ?
Larry -- mchale, parish, dj, walton
Magic -- kareem, worthy
sonics -- DJ and who else?
bullets -- hayes, unseld
1980s pistons - zeke and rodman

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