If there is a role that has evolved in the modern era of basketball more than any other, that is the center position. The static big men that played on the post are a thing of the past, nowadays, the 5 is versatile enough to provide his team multiple options both defensively and offensively. In this article you will discover all you need to know about the role of a big man in Europe. 4 coaches with multiple years of experience, give us their thoughts on the matter.
The 5 men have always played a very important role in my teams, not only defensively, but also in offense. The budget makes a big difference here, perhaps the biggest difference of all positions, but no matter the skills, I want my 5 to be an important part of the game plan. In order to get that, I need to be sure about what he can really do, because I’m going to ask all the other players to respect his offensive options. I don’t look for a 5 that is going to be able to score through 13 different moves, maybe just 1, but good enough and with a great confidence level.
1) Defense: Good defense, good intimidation or both. Anyway I look for a good presence inside
the paint. Some use quickness, other size or athleticism, but defense must be a requirement.
2) Rebounding: Obviously, he must be a good rebounder at both ends, but in this case I want the
Guarantee that he is my best defensive rebounder.
3) Low Post moves: I love to have a low post player, able to score from that position. Despite this option is not it’s not easy to see nowadays, where every offensive option seems to rely on a pP&rR.
4) Free Throws: FT is, for the whole team, a very important element. For the 5’s, who often visit
the FT line, it gets a huge plus. I am not saying this is a deal breaker, but it is a positive point.
In my basketball vision, the center position in Europe should be covered by a very good athlete, he has to run the floor really well, he has to know how to play defense (good shot blocker and he must understand how to close the paint). It is not necessary for the player in this position to be the best scorer, but he has to be extremely useful for the team. Also in modern basketball it would be great if he has a good shot from middle range and even 3pt. Defensively he has to be able to play switching defense on p/rP&R situations.
Not all teams in Europe play with a traditional “center”. Therefore, most teams will be looking for a player that is strong enough to guard a big body inside and quick enough to guard undersized bigs on the perimeter. You crash the boards on both sides of the floor. It’s a big plus if you can knock down open looks behind the three point line to keep the defense honest.
The center or 5 is the one who sets most of the screens for the outside players and usually gets the ball near the basket for high-percentage finishes on rolls or post ups. If very athletic, the passes can be above the rim for spectacular alley-oops. Depending on the makeup of the team, the ability to shoot mid-range or even from behind the arch can be a plus.
Nevertheless, in most cases the specific technical and tactical skills of screening, rolling, sealing, and posting are more important. Defensively it is desirable that the center is the anchor and ensures stability. In addition to his post and pick & roll defense duties (ability to switch is great), he should protect the basket (rim protector) and direct his teammates from a central position. Rebounding is also a focal point of the center position in Europe, although it is best if every player on the field works hard in this area and feels responsible for boxing out and securing the ball.
If you want to see these concepts applied and master the center position in Europe, we recommend watching tape of these 7 players: Brandon Davies, Nikola Milutinov, Jan Vesely, Walter Tavares, Bryant Dunston, Ante Tomic and Bojan Dubljevic.