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The Easiest Two Points in Basketball

Get Back to the Basics

Basketball has always been a game played from the inside out. The core of the game is played in the paint. The low-post is the area of the court where dominant big men can make or break a game. For as long as basketball has been around, the center has been the go-to player on the court. The basic formula in basketball is that if you can’t find a shot, dump it down low to the big man so he can finish. In the last few years, it seems like the center is not used like it was before. Formulas in the game seem to be more about finding any possible shot around the perimeter and using the paint as a pure driving lane. The sad thing is, the center is sometimes the player shooting from the outside! Centers need to live in the paint and not leave the area unless they are setting a screen or running the pick and roll. However, you don’t see that much anymore. Why you ask? Because teams don’t run plays like they used to. Centers are the key when running plays. The point guard drops the ball inside to the center then bounces it back to the guard/forward running the key. Running plays used to be essential in the game of basketball and I think every fan would like to see more of it.

Take Shaquille O’Neil for example. At LSU, O’Neil averaged 21.6 ppg and 13.5 rpg. Do you think he got all those rebounds from leaving the paint? Do you think he scored all those points from the perimeter? No, Shaq lived in the paint and that was his area of dominance. There was no other center in the game that Shaq couldn’t overpower. Every player he played with knew that if they couldn’t find an open shot, get it inside to Shaq and let him dominate. Why is this not seen much anymore? It’s because everyone wants to be Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. A center is supposed to be someone who damages in the paint and doesn’t shoot three pointers. Fundamentals seem to be absent from the game which could result from the youth stage. The pressure to win and to make the big shot can take a heavy toll on players. More and more players go for the flashy plays which instills in other players heads that they have to make them too. Staying in the paint and doing the job centers are meant to do seem to be much less important.

As mentioned in my first article, college basketball already has a problem with one and done players. They don’t need to be losing position players also. Most times I watch a game, it seems like teams care more about three pointers than they do inside shots. Centers are the relief players and are always there to get the team those easy two points. Greg Oden, former center for Ohio State, was this type of player. Oden was an ideal center who lived in and owned the paint. During his year at Ohio State, Oden averaged 15.7 ppg and 9.6 rpg. Oden was a player who defined the center position and it was a shame to see him leave after one season. However, his college numbers are ideal numbers for a center. Nowadays, you see centers wanting to branch out and shoot from the perimeter. The only problem with that is that if they are on the perimeter, there is no one in the paint! Therefore, the easiest area of scoring on the court is empty. That doesn’t seem like smart basketball.  Luckily, there are players coming into college basketball that embodied the center position during their high school career that could easily transition to college.

For the Kentucky Wildcats, #9 recruit 6’10 C Dakari Johnson (Montverde Academy/Montverde, FL) brings a major presence in the paint (Rivals.com). Johnson is more a traditional center and shows the signs of how a center should play the position. He is a back-to-the-basket postman and a dominant rebounder on either end of the court. He’s a player that fills the lane on defense and makes it difficult for any player to drive to the basket. Johnson will be a great replacement for past Wildcat big men Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel.

For the Kansas Jayhawks, #25 recruit 7’0 C Joel Embid (Rock School/ Gainesville, Florida) brings great size and athletic ability to this roster (Rivals.com). At 7 feet tall, this guy doesn’t ever need to leave the paint. His athletic ability comes in quite handy when backing down a defender or going up for a rebound.

These two players embody the center position and how it should be played. Their physicality and dominance in the paint will not go unnoticed during the season and will result in a high number of shots inside. Players like these are too talented not to use in every type of situation. With these two big men staying down low and grabbing a high number of rebounds, opportunities will be given to other players to make plays and get high field goal percentages. Wiggins at Kansas and the Harrison twins at Kentucky will see high percentage chances at the perimeter due to the heightened number of second chance opportunities from the big men rebounds. I’m not saying that every team is guilty of misusing the center or that they aren't running plays. I’m just saying that it seems to be happening more and more where centers are taking shots from the perimeter or not spending enough of their time in the paint. If you can, why not go for the easiest two points in basketball?