The NBA’s Big Man Renaissance Is Here

The NBA has largely been dominated by wing players and guards over the majority of the last two decades. In fact, we haven’t seen a “true” big man win the award since Kevin Garnett in 2003. While Giannis Antetokounmpo technically plays the Power Forward position, we know that his game is not that of the traditional post player that once dominated the NBA.

The 1990’s NBA MVP winners were largely post players from 1990 through 2003. Winners from that 13 year period include:

  • 1990 – Michael Jordan
  • 1991 – Michael Jordan
  • 1992 – Charles Barkley
  • 1993 – Hakeem Olajuwon
  • 1994 – David Robinson
  • 1995 – Michael Jordan
  • 1996 – Karl Malone
  • 1997 – Michael Jordan
  • 1998 – Karl Malone
  • 1999 – Shaquille O’Neal
  • 2000- Allen Iverson
  • 2001 – Tim Duncan
  • 2002 – Tim Duncan
  • 2003 – Kevin Garnett

Throughout that period, we saw Michael Jordan win the award 4 times and Allen Iverson 1 time giving the guard position 5 total MVP awards. Post players won the award 9 times during that period, nearly doubling the guard position despite the Michael Jordan era being in full effect. It is astonishing to see how different the league is at this point and how much that award shifted the types of players awarded.

From 2003 until 2019, the winners were:

  • 2004 – Steve Nash
  • 2005 – Steve Nash
  • 2006 – Dirk Nowitzki
  • 2007 – Kobe Bryant
  • 2008 – Lebron James
  • 2009 – Lebron James
  • 2010 – Derrick Rose
  • 2011 – Lebron James
  • 2012 – Lebron James
  • 2013 – Kevin Durant
  • 2014 – Stephen Curry
  • 2015 – Stephen Curry
  • 2016 – Russell Westbrook
  • 2017 – James Harden
  • 2018 – Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • 2019 – Giannis Antetokounmpo

The award has largely been given to high scoring, offensive based players outside of the Greek Freak’s back to back victories. Currently, much of the talk surrounding the MVP award leads us to believe that Lebron James has a true opportunity to win this award again which would prevent the Big Man position from seeing its first award since 2003. However, its hard for me to believe that neither Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic see the award in their hands by the end of the season.

Prior to this breakdown, lets remember that we are only 1/3 of the way through this season with so much basketball left to be played. However, these two players have been unbelievably good at this point.

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We will start by looking at the Joker of Denver.

Jokic is averaging eye-popping numbers for the Center position with 27.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game with an efficiency rating of 31.48. His efficiency rating is the highest in the NBA to this point of the season. He is in the top 10 for all 3 major statistical categories at 8th in points, 8th in rebounds, and 5th in assists. A NBA center is 5th in assists which is a point that must be repeated.

His Nuggets, however, are not amongst the best in the league and that is surely keeping his MVP odds tempered. The Nuggets are 15-13 and sit in 3rd place in their own division behind the red hot Utah Jazz and the smoldering Portland Trailblazers.

Jokic is doing something we’ve not seen at the Center position in a long time. The man’s ability to pass is amongst the best guard’s in the league, his scoring ability is amongst the best, and he’s one of the best rebounders in the league despite being a mid-range or greater threat. Its hard to say anyone is playing the game any better than the Joker at this time.

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Joel Embiid is playing outstanding basketball and is on a much better team than the Nugget superstar.

Embiid is averaging 29.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game with an efficiency rating of 30.82. His efficiency rating is 2nd behind only Nikola Jokic. His points are in the top 5 in the league and he is a top 15 rebounder. The 76er superstar has also led his team to a 19-10 record and currently the best record in the Eastern Conference.

While Lebron James, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, and others will have a claim at the MVP Award this season, the two aforementioned big men should see consideration for the award and be the heavy favorites. We’re seeing the position become more important again as even the New York Knicks are seeing benefits from their two big men, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, and a potential playoff berth in their future.

In fact, we can see that half of the top 10 efficiency ratings in the NBA belong to a post player. The Big Man renaissance is here and the position is beginning to show just how important ti is again. For my money, the two dudes playing the best basketball right now both play the center position. If this holds true, the big man will reign supreme again for the first time in almost 20 years.

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