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Warriors Leave the NBA in the Dust with Jordan Bell at Center

Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer highlights the evolving center position. Are old-school centers worth it?

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

With Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green already in the fold, the Golden State Warriors didn’t need much extra help at the center position. They got it anyway in the person of rookie Jordan Bell, a non-archetype pivot whom they’ve converted into one of the more unusual weapons in the NBA. Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer suggests that Bell is so revolutionary, he may leave traditional centers in the dust.

Bell is a new kind of defensive anchor. NBA offenses have changed, and defenses are changing with them. Not many teams pound the ball inside anymore, or run much offense through the post. The goal these days is to force big men to defend in space on the perimeter. Centers without the speed to leave the paint have become a liability. Winning wrestling matches inside is no longer their primary responsibility. NBA teams have been downsizing at the position over the past few years, and Bell is taking that trend to its logical conclusion.

Tjarks also points out that Bell is doing his share on offense.

Lineups with Bell, Durant, and Green have been dominant this season. They have an offensive rating of 112.7, a defensive rating of 91.3, and a net rating of plus-21.4 in 110 minutes. There isn’t just one Lineup of Death anymore. Warriors coach Steve Kerr can mix and match between an almost infinite number of small-ball combinations over the course of a game. Bell has been the 5 in 21 different lineups that have played at least five minutes this season.

Playing with so much talent has made Bell’s life easy on offense. All he has to do is cut to the rim when he’s open and beat slower big men down the floor in transition.

Bell’s impact relates to the Portland Trail Blazers in a couple of ways. First, he’s a University of Oregon alumnus. Second, the Blazers will have to make a decision this summer whether to invest in a far more traditional center in Jusuf Nurkic, who will become a restricted free agent in July.