Jan 25, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) during the first half against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Old Guard

Today’s veteran centers have paved the way for this new school wave of big man. Each provided different attributes that have contributed to the growth and evolution of the position. From a dunk champion to the smarts of the Stanford graduates, today’s veterans revived the position.

The heir apparent to Shaq in Orlando and Los Angeles was supposed to be Dwight Howard. Though Howard possessed a game of physicality similar to O’Neal, the two personalities on the court could not have been more different. Defensively, he has shined, winning a Defensive Player of the Year Award three times. Where Howard becomes a trendsetter and further progresses the center position, is his win in the Slam Dunk Contest. That marked the first time a true center won the contest.

Stanford’s “twin towers”, Brook and Robin Lopez, may be twins, but their games differ in many ways. Brooklyn’s Bro-Lo is a natural scorer and has great ability from the mid-range jumper to the low post. Robin, on the other hand, plays a “blue-collar” type ball, working and hustling for every rebound and clogging the lane. The eight-year veterans, who were selected only five picks apart, continue to provide Brooklyn and Chicago intelligence at the position.

There have been plenty of European centers to enter the league, but not many have become more accomplished than Pau Gasol. Arguably the best Spanish product the NBA has seen, Gasol is a two-time NBA champion. As Kobe’s wingman post-Shaq, Gasol has turned his type of “euro-style” basketball into the norm. Players like Porzingis, Embiid and Nikola Vucevic all can credit Gasol for his consistency shining on the biggest of stages.

No players embody the importance of a building a relationship between the center and power forward than the Celtics’ Al Horford and Pistons’ Andre Drummond. Horford, along with Joakim Noah, helped the Florida Gators capture back to back NCAA Championships. While Horford was a more prominent scorer, Noah provided the defensive end of the partnership. It looked like when the Atlanta Hawks brought in Paul Millsap to play alongside Horford, they followed the template of the Gators, but this past season Horford opted to take his talents to Boston.

Drummond, on the other hand, saw his post-mate Greg Monroe ship up to Milwaukee. But the center of attention in the Motor City has shown that no matter who stands with him, he can still thrive while averaging an impressive double-double, showing that adaptability is the key to success for any big man.