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The Re-emergence Of The Big Man: Redefining the Center Position

The NBA has undergone significant changes in recent years, notably with the rise of the three-pointer and analytics. This shift in play style has led to a greater emphasis on smaller, quicker lineups. However, with the recent success of centers Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and power forward/center hybrid Anthony Davis, we may be witnessing the resurgence of the big man. Both Embiid and Jokic have won MVP awards, with Jokic winning in 2021 and 2022, and Embiid securing the title in 2023. This marks the first time since the 1979-1980 season that centers have claimed the MVP title for three consecutive years, harkening back to a time when centers dominated the league with 16 consecutive MVP awards. So, how have these two players managed to defy the odds and carve out a spot in the new era of basketball? The answer lies in their versatility and defensive IQ.

Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Anthony Davis are not your father's centers. These guys possess unique skills that allow them to excel in a league dominated by guards and wings. Offensively, they can shoot from beyond the arc, handle the ball, and facilitate for their teammates. Defensively, they can protect the rim and switch onto smaller players when needed.

Embiid's offensive prowess is well-known. He can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting and demands a double-team in the post. Similarly, Jokic's passing ability is unmatched for a big man. His court vision and basketball IQ make him one of the best playmakers in the league, regardless of position. Meanwhile, Davis's versatility shines through his ability to play both the power forward and center positions. His agility, shooting touch, and athleticism make him a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses.

In addition to their offensive skillsets, Embiid, Jokic, and Davis have all proven to be impactful defenders. Embiid's length and athleticism make him an elite rim protector and shot blocker, while his agility allows him to switch onto perimeter players when necessary. Jokic uses his size and anticipation to disrupt passing lanes and force turnovers. Davis, a former NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, is known for his shot-blocking ability and defensive versatility. He can guard multiple positions, making him invaluable to his team's defensive schemes.

Embiid, Jokic, and Davis have found a way to not only survive but thrive in the modern NBA. They have brought the big man back into the spotlight by adapting their games and using their versatility to their advantage. Their recent successes are a testament to their impact on the game and a reminder that, while the league has evolved, there is still a place for talented and versatile big men.

The re-emergence of the big man in the NBA, exemplified by the success of Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Anthony Davis, serves as a reminder that basketball is an ever-evolving sport. As the game changes, so too must the players. With their unique blend of skills and ability to adapt, Embiid, Jokic, and Davis have carved out a place for themselves in the era of the three-pointer and analytics. Their successes are a nod to their incredible impact on the game and a testament to the enduring relevance of the big man in the NBA.


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