When looking to develop players the first thing that you must understand is how the position is currently being played. Our game is alway evolving and looking to improve to become more exciting as well as more efficient. Back 5 years ago the center position was filled with post ups and isolation as well as one that protected the paint. As the game evolved over time , the position has changed to one of running, screening, finishes at the rim, and rim protection on defense.
I'm not trying to say that you should develop all centers the same because that wouldn't be smart on my part. Centers come in all shapes and sizes and that should be a determining factor when deciding how you want to develop them. In this blog post I will discuss the skill sets on both sides of the ball and post some youtube videos to show you how some of the NBA's top centers play on both ends of the floor.
I mentioned it earlier in the post, that the center position is one more of screening & Rolling, cuts, lobs, and rim running. As far as post ups very few get featured on the block only and if they do get close to 10 touches on the block it's usually a quick spin or backdown hook with others also facing up for that Tim Duncan ban shot or running hook across the lane.
As a big you need to run to the rim in transition, besides being able to catch the ball on the run and score 2-3 layups every single game it also creates a problem for the defense. It forces other defenders to leave their man to bump the big running or else give up the layup. When Kevin Garnett played in Boston he would rim run all the time forcing defenders to leave Ray Allen in transition opening up jump shots for him on the perimeter. Running always forces a problem for the defense. A big can never run too much, just run down the center of the floor to the front of the rim if you don't get the ball you can post up in front or pick a block to post on.
Screening is such an important part of offensive basketball at any level. It can be screening to free up a shooter or a back screen for a lob pass. You can also screen on the ball to create a problem and give the ball handler an advantage by getting a hit on the defender guarding them. It is so important to either get a hit on the defender or forcing then to go under the screen. In both instances you are creating a problem for the defense.
After you set a screen rolling to the rim hard creates a big problem for the defense. Not only do you have the opportunity to get the ball rolling towards the basket, but it will force multiple defenders to suck in to the paint to bump the roller opening up perimeter players for easier shots. Anytime a team can get multiple defenders guarding one player either on or off the ball it opens up opportunities for high percentage shots. Good screening is invaluable to teams at any level.
Even though post ups are less frequent in today's game it always helps to have a couple of moves and counters to go with them. Hooks with either hand is one of the better things to have in your arsenal. When you catch the ball on the block always wait for cutters to go through and then go to work. A face up jumper from the mid post also helps. Quick spins and quick moves are always good to have. Punishing defenders in any way possible is the goal, if you can score on the block so be it. Keep in mind to don't have the ball sticks where 4 others are watching you while you grind away for shots.
CUTTING OFF THE BALL
Playing out of the dunker or ducking in are other ways to get involved. When your perimeter players drive always be in position to cut to an open area, keep your hands off your sides always expect the late pass. Don't dip the ball as defenders look to strip the ball. There are always ways to impact the game and cutting from off the ball is a huge way.
Rebounding is such an important part of the game for offense or defense. Any good big man can average 1 REBOUND EVERY 3.5 MINS OR LESS. On offensive rebounds when the ball goes up get in front of your defender and almost like you are moving into position to box him out try to always get the advantage. Defensive players always watch he ball when it is shot and very rarely box out. Take advantage of it.
I am going to post 3 Youtube videos I came across on 3 very good centers in the NBA. Rudy Gorbert, Robin Lopez, and Steven Adams. I like watching a player's game highlights instead of overall because you see how they get their shots and opportunities over the course of a game instead of a highlight real of plays from an entire season. I want you to watch how their energy levels impact the game. They are bigmen that all screen well and roll. Watch the defenders off the ball on their screens and the number of players that suck in. All players are different even if they play the same position, watch how all three of them impact the game.
When one thinks about a Center's defense they think standing in the middle of the paint swatting balls away. Shot blocking without question is an important part of the game of basketball but "protecting the paint" is much more than that. When guarding the screener on S&R defense it is about pressuring the ball handling and taking him off course. Rebounding the ball is also an important part of it. Off the ball defense is just as important as on the ball defense because of how defenders scramble when screen and rolls are in play as well as multiple drive and kicks on offense.
Such an important part of the game is how to guard on the block without fouling. Stopping a good on the block scorer from scoring is such an important trait. Standing your ground without leaving your feet. Force the offensive players to grind for tough shots.
OFF THE BALL SHOT BLOCKING
Wherever you are on the floor, always be in position to help and get a deflection on someone's shot. Understand that a lot of people leave their men to stop the ball on penetration and screen and rolls. When you see someone leave their man on penetration and you are the closest person to the player he left always drop down and be in position. Deflections and blocks are so important to anchor a team's defense.
I mentioned this earlier a good big man can grab a rebound every 3.5 minutes or less. Boeing out and not letting the offensive player to get on the inside of you is very important. Lack o rebounding and screening kills teams. Allowing multiple shots on a possession can put a team in a bad way. Winning the war on the boards in every game is. Get a body on anyone in your area, secure with both hands.
SCREEN AND ROLL DEFENSE
Whatever scheme that your coach runs when guarding screen and roll differs from team to team. Keep your hands up and get a deflection. Learn how to move your feet and not pickup cheap fouls. Keep that ball handler from getting straight lines to the basket and veer them out of line. Always be active and always be moving.
The video will be of the same three centers. Look how they impact the game with their activity. They are all very good shot blockers, are active when rebounding and cause a problem for offensive players. With the game getting smaller and smaller when big men are on the floor it is so important that they add protection of the paint for their team.