Let’s Show the Big Men Some Love

Introduction Graf: As we enter yet another year of great NBA action, the league continues to shift as the skill level and athletic talent continues to improve. 

In today’s game, there is one phrase everyone has fallen in love with when discussing the change in playstyle over the years across the NBA: “Positionless Basketball.” 

Similar to how a few years ago the NFL was presumed to be phasing out the running back position, this phrase seemingly has convinced NBA executives that there is no place for traditional 7-foot centers that just rebound and block shots. With that in mind, big men have continued to expand their games by adding things like a pick-and-pop game, a three-point shot and have just become better overall offensive players over time. 

Last week we praised some of the league’s top guard/wing talent, but this week it’s all about the big men! These two big men embody what the 2021 version of a dominant center looks like while demonstrating that the center position is still continuing to improve and adjust to the times. Happy New Year to this week’s Players of the Week, Joel Embiid from the Eastern Conference and Christian Wood in the Western Conference. 

Joel Embiid

Since missing last week’s game against Cleveland Cavaliers due to a back injury, Embiid has been on a tear over the last three games: 29 points and 16 rebounds while hitting 14-of-16 free throws against the Raptors, 21 points and nine rebounds against Orlando, and 19 points and 14 rebounds against Charlotte. The common denominator: all in victories. 

With Embiid in the lineup this season, the 76ers are undefeated (5-0) and he is playing like an MVP-caliber big man most around the league know he can be, shooting 24-of-30 from the free throw line along with five blocks and three steals over the course of the last three games. This indicates that he is being extremely aggressive on both sides of the ball and is putting his physical frame to proper use. 

With that, Embiid is currently 7th in scoring (26.5 PPG) , 3rd in rebounding (12.3 RPG), and 4th in Player Efficiency Rating (30.32) in the entire NBA. Embiid not only looks dominant, he looks virtually unstoppable and, as of right now, Philly cannot seem to be stopped with him in the lineup. 

This may be his first season with the 76ers, but head coach Doc Rivers has a history of bringing out the best in big men. Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, perennial All Star Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and even Tobias Harris who had a career season under Rivers for the LA Clippers before being moved to Philly. So far, so good as this looks like the perfect coach-superstar pairing along with Ben Simmons who has also played relatively well in the opening weeks of the season. 

The issue with this team has always been the injury luck of their two superstars, but when healthy these guys have the potential to make the 76ers a serious championship contender this season.

Christian Wood

Definitely not the same kind of household name, but nonetheless a guy who has truly taken advantage of the situation going on in Houston. We’re talking about a guy who is playing on his fifth team in five seasons and was just looking for a team to finally believe in him. 

Since signing a three-year $41 million deal this offseason with the Rockets, Wood has begun to show why those other four teams passing on him was a mistake. Although it is a small sample size, Wood is playing like one of the top centers in the game right now on both sides of the ball. 

After a 33-point outburst in Houston’s first game of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers, Wood has not let his foot off the gas pedal, contributing 23 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three along with two blocks and two steals against Denver. Then in back-to-back matchups against the Sacramento Kings, Wood put up a combined 41 points, 27 rebounds, two steals, and six blocks leading to two big victories, and getting the Rockets to .500 at 2-2 on the season. 

When looking at where he currently stands in the league so far this season, Wood is top 20 in scoring (12th), rebounding (15th) and Player Efficiency Rating (18th). Also amongst ESPN ratings, Wood currently is ranked in the Top-10 with a score of 44.4, above All-Stars like Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis

Alongside the duo of James Harden and John Wall in the backcourt, Wood helps form the three-headed monster of the third-highest scoring offense in the league (119.7 PPG), behind only the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks. It is way too early in the season to truly judge, but on the trajectory that he is on, Wood has a chance to compete against guys like Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, and Karl Anthony-Towns for an All-Star spot in the Western Conference. 

Watch out cause this guy is no joke and at 25 years old, he is only getting better by the dribble. 

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2 years ago

Wood is the three-headed monster, yes! That’s my guy – I like him as best C in West next to Joker for consistency and putting #s. KAT, I don’t trust his heart or health…Gogo is beast, but % killer – Wood contributes everywhere without requiring a punt.

What’s your outlook this season for RoCo, Smart, & Lonzo in a league with 11 cats – std 9 plus off reb & def reb?