The landscape for NBA centers has continued to evolve throughout the years. In the late 90s they banged down low and we had some of the best centers in league history battling it out. As more foreign players came over more centers started to move out the paint and became better shooters. The traditional center role took a backseat during the LeBron Miami Heat run when small ball lineup became the preferred way to play for a lot of teams.
People thought traditional centers would just be faded out but the center position is very strong. Instead of just banging in the paint, these centers can do a little of everything. They can post up, attack the basket off the dribble, pass and now they are stepping out to the 3-point line.
There were three seasons during the 2000s when two centers hit 100 or more 3-pointers in the same season. Raef LaFrentz and Matt Bonner did in during the 2005-06 season, Mehmet Okur and Andrea Bargnani did it during the 2006-07 season and Andrea Bargnani and Matt Bonner were the last duo to do it during the 2008-09 season.
The last center to hit 100 3-pointers in a season was Matt Bonner during the 2011-12 season. Last season Al Horford led all centers with 88 made 3-pointers and 256 attempts. There has never been a season where three centers hit 100 or more 3-pointers.
DeMarcus Cousins is a talented player. He does moves that make you double-take and think how can a man that size make that move. Last season DeMarcus decided to take 3-pointers. Before last year his career high in made 3s was just four and his highest attempts was 22 back in the 2012-13 season.
Cousins took 210 3-pointers last season which ranked third among centers. He hit 70 3-pointers which also ranked third among centers. That translates to 33% on the season. Not bad for a guy who was so used to dominating on the inside. Cousins definitely caught defenders off guard by launching 3-pointers last season. It was a new weapon for Cousins although some people thought he shouldn’t be taking 3s.
Instead of listening to the naysayers Cousins worked on his shooting. He takes 4.7 per game and he’s shooting 38% from beyond the arc. He’s 32-84 and both rank second among centers. Cousins is the best 3-pointer shooter on his team in terms of makes, attempts and percentage.
Moving on to another center, Marc Gasol is another guy who has decided to step out to the 3-point line. Entering the season Gasol had made 12 3-pointers in his career and he never took 20 3-pointers in a season. Maybe it was the injury last season but Gasol decided to let it fly this year.
Gasol is taking four 3-pointers a game and is 30-70 from beyond the arc. The 42% leads all centers in the league. He’s already hit game clinching 3s in this early season.
Brook Lopez was just like Marc Gasol; he didn’t take many 3-pointers before this season. He only made three 3-pointers entering this season. Lopez leads all centers with 102 3-point attempts and ranks in the top 20 among all players. He’s made 38 which is good for 37%. Just like Cousins, Brook leads his team in 3-point attempts, makes and percentage.
I went to a couple of Nets games this season and Brook was letting it fly a few feet from beyond the arc. He’s so comfortable shooting the ball and the defense is not used to it. He takes wide open 3s because defenders forget to close out on him.
In terms of the young centers Joel Embiid has taken 35 3-pointers in his limited time on the court which is good enough for 11th among centers. He’s actually shooting 51% on those attempts. Karl Anthony Towns has made 30 3-pointers this season which already matches his total from his rookie season last year.
This season can be the first of many where we have three or more centers hit over 100 3-pointers. Centers are definitely back but they are a different breed. More and more centers will continue to step out beyond the arc and that will help spread the floor even more.