Center is an interesting position in the modern NBA. The need for a dominant, back-to-the basket big man isn’t as important as it was in days of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. It’s not even as important as it was in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, when Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, and other centers dominated the league. In the current NBA, the leagues elite players (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, etc.) are mostly wing players. The exceptions (Dwight Howard, maybe Andrew Bynum) are far and few between. Nevertheless, the position is still important. Otherwise, teams like the Portland Trailblazers wouldn’t take Greg Oden over Kevin Durant, and then offer a not quite elite Roy Hibbert a four year, $58 million offer sheet in the span five years. Now onto the Cavs and their current centers.
Current Centers: Tyler Zeller, Anderson Varejao, and Tristan Thompson
– I expect this position to change a lot this season. Varejao started here last season, but he’s better suited to play power forward. That leaves the rookie Zeller, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, to man the position. Tristan Thompson can also play center when needed, but like Varejao, he’s better suited to play the four. Depending on what line up is in the game, and what team the Cavs are playing, any three of these players could man the position.
– Key Stats: Zeller – 16.3 points per game, 9.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game, 55.3% shooting. Zeller’s stats last season at North Carolina were among the best of any big men in college basketball last season. He also shot 80.8% from the free throw line, which is phenomenal for a center. If he can play close to that in the NBA, he’ll be a great addition to the Cavs roster.
Some Centers Available: Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, Chris Kaman, Ben Wallace (former Cav), Spencer Hawes, Robin Lopez, Aaron Gray
Best Fit for the Cavs: None
There is no need for the Cavs to sign any free agent center. They have a young one in Zeller, a veteran hybrid in Varejao, and a young power forward in Thompson who can play the position when needed. If Zeller hadn’t been drafted, making a move for some one like Hawes or Gray would have made sense. If the Cavs want to add a center, Sasha Kaun (whose rights they own) would be a good move depending what his status is with CSKA Moscow in Russia.
Best Case Scenario: Zeller preforms well right off the bat, Varejao fills in when needed, and Thompson only plays center sparingly. Center thus becomes a strong spot on the Cavs roster.
Worst Case Scenario: Zeller busts out, and Varejao gets hurt, leaving Thompson to play center. This would be disastrous for the Cavs.
What Likely Happens: I expect Zeller to have a solid, but not great, rookie season. Varejao fills in when needed, and when he has to, Thompson plays well. Center is a non-issue for the Cavs.