NBA

3 Centers Who are Underappreciated This Season

Dec 17, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela (15) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas (17) during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

There is so much talent at the center position this year. Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns–the list goes on. However, many centers around the league aren’t getting the credit as much credit as they deserve. Many big men are very underappreciated this season. So, today we’ll examine some of these centers and the excellent play from these unsung heroes.

Jonas Valanciunas

Apr 11, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis (11) fights for the ball during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

With Jaren Jackson Jr missing the entirety of the season, Valanciunas has had to step up. He has played great basketball this year for Memphis.

Valanciunas is averaging 17 PPG and 12.7 RPG on a stellar 57.6 FG%. He is the only player averaging at least 17/12 on 50 FG% this year. Additionally, he is a big part of why Memphis is the eighth seed in a very stacked Western Conference.

In his last seven games, Valanciunas has turned his game up even more. He has averaged a monster 22/13.4 on an efficient 73.06 TS%. Also, Memphis is 5-2 in this span.

Valanciunas is also playing terrific basketball on the defensive end. He is top 15 in defensive rating this season, even beating some elite defenders like Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green.

Valanciunas has had some incredible games this season. He posted 34 points and 22 boards against Indiana last Sunday. Additionally, he put up a stellar 29/20 against Washington last month. At times, Valanciunas can be wholly dominant and impossible to stop for opposing defenses.

In short, Jonas Valanciunas has been incredibly valuable for Memphis and is very underappreciated this season. He is playing great basketball on both ends of the floor and is helping them reach the eighth seed when many thought they would miss the playoffs altogether. When Jaren Jackson Jr. returns at the end of April, Valanciunas will continue to be an essential piece for them.

Enes Kanter

Apr 10, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter (11) pulls down a rebound against Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (28) during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Enes Kanter has been a crucial big man for Portland this season. With Zach Collins having missed the whole season and Jusuf Nurkic missing a large part, Kanter has been huge for the Blazers.

This season, Kanter is averaging 12.1/11.9 on 60.7 FG% in just under 27 minutes per game. Although he is not the best interior defender, he has been terrific on the offensive end. He is an absolute magnet for offensive rebounds and helps Portland get lots of easy buckets off of misses.

Kanter has had some vital games for Portland as well. Last Saturday against the Pistons, Kanter put up 24/30, becoming the first Trailblazer to grab 30 rebounds in a game. He also scored 22 points and grabbed 21 rebounds last month against the Kings.

Kanter is a big part of why the Blazers are the sixth seed this year. Not only does he have the second-highest offensive rating in NBA history, but he is second in offensive rebounds per game this season. Additionally, he’s one of just two players to average at least 12/11 on 60 FG% this year, along with Rudy Gobert.

Kanter has had a huge offensive impact on the Trailblazers this year. He is a significant contributor to them being a top-six seed in the West and will continue to have a huge impact off the bench for Nurkic this season. With his great stats and offense, Kanter is certainly among centers that are underappreciated this season.

Clint Capela

Apr 11, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela (15) tries to block a shot by Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier (3) during the second half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Clint Capela is an excellent example of a traditional big man. He is very athletic and a great rebounder, defender, and finisher in the interior.

Capela is putting up incredible numbers this year, averaging 15.3/14.1 along with 2.2 blocks per game on 60 FG%. Additionally, he’s the only player in the league putting up at least 15/14 this season. He has been Atlanta’s defensive anchor this year and has helped them reach the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

In the 2020-2021 season, Capela is first in rebounds, third in blocks, and top 5 in defensive rating. Capela has an enormous impact on the defensive end, as seen in his dominant statistics and league rankings.

Additionally, Capela has had some excellent outings this year. He recorded 30 points and 14 boards in January against the 76ers. He also recorded a stellar 28 points, 17 rebounds, and five blocks against the Spurs

Capela’s defense is a significant factor in the Hawks being a top-four seed in the East, even above Miami and Boston. Day in and day out, Capela does a stellar job protecting the rim and helping Atlanta get stops on the defensive end. He will continue to have a huge impact throughout the season and in the playoffs.

All three of these centers have a tremendous impact on every game for their teams. These big men are a reason their teams are in the playoff picture. Valanciunas, Kanter, and Capela are all very underappreciated this season and play great basketball for their teams.

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