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Building The Perfect NBA Center: Nikola Jokic's Basketball IQ, Joel Embiid's Scoring

Building The Perfect NBA Center: Nikola Jokic's Basketball IQ, Joel Embiid's Scoring

We are here with our final installment of building the perfect players by position using players from the 2021-22 season. The final position we will be making today is the center position. The 2021-22 season was spectacular for centers around the NBA. For the first time in 20 years, a player at the center position led the NBA in scoring. A center was named back-to-back MVP for the first time since Moses Malone. The big man is officially back in the NBA, and fans should be excited about what will come next.

Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid are not the only centers to enjoy a fantastic season. Rudy Gobert continued to be the interior defensive force that won him 3 Defensive Player Of The Year awards. Karl-Anthony Towns established himself as one of the best shooting big men we have ever seen. Bam Adebayo continued to show his defensive versatility as one of the best defenders at the position. Even young guys like Robert Williams and Jarrett Allen had the best seasons of their young careers.

Which of these top centers in the league will we use to build our perfect center? Let’s take a look:

Scoring - Joel Embiid

It should be no secret that Joel Embiid is the best scoring center in the NBA today. For the first time since Shaq in 2002, a center won the scoring title, and that was Joel Embiid with his 30.6 PPG. Embiid can get his buckets any way that he wants, but most of his damage comes in the paint where he dominates. 25.3% of his attempts come from the 0-3 foot range, where he connects at a 76.3% rate. This only means one thing, feed Joel Embiid inside and let him go to work.

The paint is not the only way that Embiid racked up the points this season. His game has begun to rely on his jumper more and more as time wears on. Joel attempted his second most amount of shots from the 10-16 foot range, where he enjoyed moderate success. He connected on 43.1% of his shots from the mid-range, making him nearly unstoppable when he gets it going from there. He has also developed the three-point shot and shot it at 37.1% during the 2021-22 season on the second-most attempts of his career. When it comes to scoring, Embiid is the most lethal in basketball right now. Get him to his spots, and he will reward you with success.

Basketball IQ - Nikola Jokic

While Embiid may be the most dangerous in scoring the ball, Nikola Jokic is the most dangerous in several other ways. One of the ways that make Nikola Jokic such a big threat is his basketball IQ. If there is one center in the league that you want running an offense or calling out plays for your offense, it is Nikola Jokic. The man just knows basketball and directs his teammates like a conductor leading an orchestra. If you need him to run an offense like a point guard, he can do that and do it well.

Where Nikola Jokic displays his highest IQ is in the post, whether it be high or low. No matter if it’s creating for himself or finding a teammate on the perimeter, Jokic always makes the right play. When you direct an offense, you always know where your teammates are going to be, or at least where they should be. This enables Jokic to find slashers on the move or his shooters on the perimeter. The back-to-back MVP is the smartest man on the court nearly every night, and there is no other center’s basketball IQ we would rather have.

Shooting - Karl-Anthony Towns

Nowadays, big men in the NBA have become more and more adept at shooting the ball and spacing the floor. There is no big man in the league that does it better than Karl-Anthony Towns. If you were to ask Towns who the best big man shooter of all time was, he would say himself 100 out of 100 times. It may be controversial, but Towns silenced the critics this year both with his victory at the 3-point contest and his play throughout the year.

This season was one of the best of Towns’ career when it came to shooting the ball. He shot the 3rd highest percentage of his career at 41.0% from beyond the arc on 4.9 attempts per game. His mid-range game was on point as well, shooting 53.7% from the 3-10-foot range. He showed that he was versatile in shooting the ball with a 64.0% true shooting percentage. He displayed soft touch from every spot on the floor and showed exactly why he is the best shooting center in the NBA.

Handles - Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic

If there is any center you can trust handling the ball for your offense, it is Nikola Jokic. It is not only about his skill while dribbling but what he can do with it to make your offense as efficient as possible. Jokic has shown numerous times that he can bring the ball up like a point guard and set up an offense in numerous different sets. He can also run a transition/fast-break offense, and with his elite passing skills, it usually ends well for his team. As far as centers go, there is no one that we would trust to handle the rock for us than Nikola Jokic.

Defense - Rudy Gobert

In the 2021-22 season, Rudy Gobert proved once again why he is the best interior defender in the NBA. For the 8th consecutive season, Gobert averaged over 2.0 BPG, which is where his value shows itself the most. He also led the league among centers with a defensive rating of 103.2. It isn’t just his ability to get a piece of the ball that makes him such a force on the inside. Even if he misses the ball, Gobert’s length and IQ allow him to greatly alter almost every shot that is taken from within the paint.

The 2021-22 season was considered by most as a “down season” for Gobert, but that just wasn’t the case. The only time that Gobert ever looks lost defensively is when he had to help bail out the weak perimeter defense of the Utah Jazz. They would pick on him in pick-and-roll situations because of his weakness against smaller guards. However, on the interior, he was still the same old dominant defensive force who was selected to his 6th straight All-Defensive First Team. With Gobert on the move to Minnesota, look for the Timberwolves to become one of the best defensive teams in the league.

Passing - Nikola Jokic

It isn’t hard to see after watching for only a few minutes that Nikola Jokic is the best passing big not only in today’s game but maybe ever. He led all centers in 2021-22 with 7.9 APG. He can make every pass that needs to be made to set up himself and his teammates to win. His bread and butter is the give and go. You can guarantee that when Jokic catches a pass on the perimeter or in the high post that a cut is coming, and Jokic will make the pass with pinpoint accuracy. Jokic’s strong presence on the perimeter opens up countless passing lanes, which is where Jokic will eat opponents alive.

Jokic also does significant damage from the post. Not because of his ability to finish but rather his ability to see the whole floor and find open shooters. He can’t be double-teamed, or his shooters will be open. He is also highly effective on his interior passes off the roll. Now, he is dangerous because he has a soft enough touch to finish it himself, but when defenses ultimately collapse, he is the best at making the next right move. He either finds a shooter, a cutter, or an inside drop-off, which he is the best in the business at all three. If you need a center to make any kind of pass to open things up for an offense, Jokic is your man.

Finishing - Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid is a bully in the low post with high efficiency, and for those reasons, our built center will have his finishing. Embiid took over 25.0% of his field goal attempts from 0-3 feet and hit on 76.3% of them, by far the best by a center in the league. There are no other bigs in the league outside of Giannis and Maybe Bam Adebayo that can contain Embiid when he has his back to the basket. He also possesses soft touch around the basket, which makes him even more valuable. He can knock down shots from pretty much anywhere at a high clip. If he gains momentum on his way to the rim, watch out for a nasty dunk or smooth layup. Floaters, lay-ups, or dunks, Joel Embiid, is the guy you want to finish in the lane.

Hustle - Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo Says He Wants To Stay With The Heat For His Entire Career: "Going From A Random 14th Draft Pick To Being A Cornerstone In This Organization And To Become Something Bigger."

Offensively or defensively, Bam Adebayo never stops working and giving maximum effort on the court. He is one of the league’s most versatile defenders, working hard to cover guards and forwards on the perimeter and bigs down low in the paint with equal effectiveness. He has no problem putting his body on the line and diving for loose balls either. He fights for rebounds on both ends of the floor with no fear and is usually quite successful in that area. His hustle resembles that of someone who is trying to make the team, not someone who is solidified in a starting role. It is his constant display of maximum effort that makes his hustle an easy choice for our build.

Athleticism - Joel Embiid

We have already spoken enough about Embiid’s ability to finish at the rim. How he does it is another story. He is built out of pure strength and athleticism, making him the choice here for our build. Offensively, he moves with authority but also with a certain grace at the same time. Using his athleticism, Embiid creates shots and physically wears down defenders with his strength and athletics. Defensively, he is just as versatile. He can size up any big in the league and can stay with them and disturb their efforts because of his size and power. There could have been a few choices to fill in for this trait, but Embiid seems like the only fitting one.

Mentality - Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets could have easily laid down and moved on to the 2022-23 season when Michael Porter Jr. joined Jamal Murray with a season-ending injury. The MVP of the league had different plans. Jokic put the team on his back and averaged 27.1 PPG, 13.8 RPG, and 7.9 APG to lead his team to a 6th place finish in the Western Conference. Refusing to just roll over and die for the season, Jokic brought the best out of every teammate in the 2021-22 season. That is exactly the type of mentality our center needs to be the very best.

Clutch - Nikola Jokic

No center in the league has been more clutch than Nikola Jokic since 2015. No player overall has been more clutch either. Jokic shoots 50.7% in the clutch for his career, but it is not all about his ability to hit the big shot for him. Jokic will always make the right basketball play whether there’s a full game to go or there are only a few ticks left on the clock. 

Opponents know that he is at least going to touch the ball with the game on the line and they still can’t stop what happens next. If you let him catch the ball within striking distance, he will end the game on his own. If you pressure him with double-teams, he will find his open teammates wherever they may be. He even hit cross-court passes with pinpoint accuracy. Jokic is fearless in clutch situations. He feels no pressure and for that reason, we have to take his clutch gene for our player.

Is Fadeaway World’s Center The Greatest Of All-Time?

The center we built today, we think, can rival any player stacked up against him as the greatest of all time. If you were to take the worst team you can think of in NBA history, throw this center on their team as “The guy”, and he will have an impact on that franchise the likes of which we have rarely seen. Offensively, there is nothing you can do to stop him. If given an inch of space, he can knock down any shot from any range within reason. If you decide to double him, he will make you pay with his elite basketball IQ and playmaking abilities.

Our center here never stops moving on the court. With the defensive capabilities given to him combined with his athleticism and hustle, he can shut down even the most dominant of bigs. He would be able to control the paint on both ends. On offense, there would be no game plan created that could slow down his shooting, finishing at the rim or general leadership he uses to run the offense. On defense, he is too versatile and athletic for the average NBA center. He would alter and block shots at a historic rate up there with the likes of Wilt, Russell, Hakeem, and Jabbar. One can only assume that the final averages for this player would be along the lines of 45.0 PPG, 18.0 RPG, 12.0 APG, and 4.5 BPG. It may seem outlandish to think of such numbers, but that is what you get when you build the perfect center.


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