Nikola Jokic, winning the 2020-21 NBA season's MVP award, saw him become the first center in over 20 years after Shaquille O'Neal to claim the highest individual honor in the league. His closest competitor was also a center, the Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, who finished as the runner-up.
The modern day NBA is all about guards and forwards with flashy dribbling skills and a lethal shooting range. It is usually players in those positions that end up claiming the highest individual honors in the NBA. But that trend could be coming to an end with Jokic's victory.
It further increases the significance of having a dominant big man in your squad as well. Most of the teams in the NBA that had a permanent player in that particular position did extremely well this season.
The Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns, for example, boast the likes of Rudy Gobert and Deandre Ayton, who have been terrific at both ends of the floor this campaign. They have been crucial for their teams in their 2021 NBA playoffs run. Gobert also managed to claim his 3rd DPOY award as well.
Meanwhile, not all teams had the luxury of having some of the best individuals play at the 5 spot, and they evidently struggled. The LA Lakers and New York Knicks could be prime examples of the same.
On that note, we list down five teams in the NBA that should be looking at making upgrades for the center position, which could see them find success next season.
#1 Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets are one of the teams that are primarily planning to go after centers in the offseason. They have previously been linked to the likes of Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell and were recently linked to Myles Turner and Richaun Holmes.
Their two centers for the 2020-21 NBA season, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo, both had disappointing campaigns. Neither of them averaged above 10 points or 10 rebounds per game. They did not have any impact on the defensive end either and are likely heading into free agency as a result, with the Hornets not expected to bring them back.
The Charlotte Hornets acquired a high-potential point guard in LaMelo Ball during the 2020 NBA draft and have a decent squad comprising Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and PJ Washington. If they do manage to acquire a center or two in the offseason, who could hold up the paint on both ends, they will become one of the strongest playoff contenders from the East. The Hornets could even make a run for the NBA finals.
#2 Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are another team that is in the market for a center this offseason. Their current pairing of veteran Tristan Thompson and youngster Robert Williams III hasn't quite bolstered them. Both players will be out of contract at the end of the next NBA season.
Thompson averaged just 7.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game in the 2020-21 NBA campaign. While he does appear to be a solid veteran presence in the locker room leading the team's leading young players, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, his on-court impact remains questionable.
Meanwhile, Robert Williams III has emerged as a player for the future but still has a long way to go to stake his claim as one of the best big men in the NBA. The Celtics need a solid option at the 5 to form a lethal frontcourt alongside Tatum and Brown.
So far, they have shown interest in Indiana Pacers' star center Myles Turner, who led the league in blocks per game in the 2020-21 season. They are also the bookmakers' favorites to land Kristaps Porzingis should the Dallas Mavericks trade him in the offseason.
Both players would certainly be an upgrade on Tristan Thompson. Turner will have more impact on the defensive end, though, which could see them be more aggressive in trading for him. Meanwhile, if the Celtics do look to trade for Porzingis, it would just be to swap Kemba Walker's bad contract with Porzingis'. Both players have a negative trade value because of their injury woes.
Nonetheless, Porzingis is a player who, if on song, could give them 20 points per game and will provide them a massive boost offensively in the NBA. However, considering his decline on the defensive end and injury woes, it remains to be seen what the C's will do if there is an opportunity for them to sign him.
#3 New York Knicks
After making their first post-season appearance in seven years, the New York Knicks are looking to bolster their squad with quality talent. They hope to turn into championship contenders in the coming seasons. One area that needs a massive upgrade is the center position for the team.
Nerlens Noel is set to become a free agent, while Mitchell Robinson has a player option in the offseason. Both players are solid options, but if the Knicks are to possess a huge threat in the East, they will need a top-tier center in their ranks.
Andre Drummond and Myles Turner are two players that have been linked with the franchise so far. The former was an option they were considering mid-season, but Drummond decided to join the LA Lakers instead. Meanwhile, the latter was recently reported to be on their radar. Both would offer a lot more than either Noel or Robinson could provide and on both ends of the floor.
#4 LA Lakers
The LA Lakers center pairing of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee during the 2019-2020 NBA season was one of the crucial reasons behind their championship run. However, they decided to part ways with both stars and acquired former DPOY Marc Gasol and 2020 NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner, Montrezl Harrell.
At first, it seemed like a great scoop made by the Purple and Gold, but it did not turn out to be their best move as the NBA season progressed. 36-year-old Gasol failed to match up to the opposition's big men physically and evidently seemed way past his prime. Meanwhile, Harrell's individual impact was there, but it did not necessarily help the team, collectively, especially at the defensive end.
The Lakers were in dire need of a center who would bolster the side defensively and pose the same threat Howard and McGee had the previous season. They turned their attention to Andre Drummond mid-season in the 2020-21 NBA campaign and signed him until the end of the season.
Drummond's move also did not work out as expected as he posted the worst numbers of his career since his rookie year in a 22 game-stint with the Lakers. It could be argued that the injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James played a crucial role in depriving Drummond of understanding the team's needs and playing style.
As per reports, the Lakers do consider him in their long-term plans and could look to re-sign him in the NBA offseason. They have also kept other options open and could look to trade for Myles Turner, who has been linked with four of the five teams on this list.
#5 Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks had five players in the 2020-21 NBA season who played in the 5 spot. Kristaps Porzingis couldn't offer much impact in the paint and continued to struggle with injuries. Meanwhile Dwight Powell, Willey Cauley-Stein, Boban Marjanovic and Maxi Kleber were all used in the later stages for the side to explore their best possible frontcourt combinations.
The continuous changes in the lineup because of the center position made it evident that the Mavericks needed a top-tier center in their ranks, who they could rely on throughout the course of an entire NBA season.
Dallas could be keen to trade Porzingis this summer due to his poor performances in the NBA playoffs and his struggles with injuries. The huge contract that pays him $31 million per year until 2024 is also one of the reasons they would want to part ways with him in the offseason.
The Mavericks need a defensively sound player at the 5 who can rebound the ball efficiently and also provide rim protection. If the Lakers decide not to re-sign Andre Drummond, he could be a suitable option, along with the likes of Myles Turner and Richaun Holmes.