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Time Machine All-Stars: Five Centers Who Would Have Dominated 2020

From Wilt the Stilt to Hakeem the Dream, we pay homage to the big men who ruled their eras—but would have been even more fun in this one

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

In today’s NBA, the best offenses weaponize the threat of the 3-point shot to spread the floor; the best defenses scheme ways for long, smart über-athletes to erase that space; and the best players tilt that spatial battle in their teams’ favor. But today’s players aren’t the only ones with the right skills to tick those boxes; plenty of their predecessors could, too.

In fact, some of them might have translated even better to today’s league—and might have been even more enjoyable to watch in the 2020 NBA than they were in their heyday. I decided it might be cool to write about some of these players.

This is not intended to be a definitive, inarguable list, or a scientifically rigorous exercise. There will be some statistical cherry-picking, because cherries are delicious, and there will be some decisions made purely on aesthetics, because we hold it as true that things that look dope should be prioritized. We’ve gone position by position over the past few weeks, aiming to pass some of our seemingly endless downtime by remembering some kick-ass players in a fun thought experiment.

We’ve already covered point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and power forward. Last, but certainly not least, for the Time Machine All-Stars: the men in the middle.

“Chances are,” Chris Ballard wrote in his excellent book The Art of a Beautiful Game, “the mobile big man and sweet-shooting 7-footer could have emerged at an earlier time in the game’s history if players had been given the opportunity.” Well, friends: Let us, one last time, use our collective powers of imagination to grant that opportunity.

Wilt Chamberlain

Career (1,045 games, 1959-73): 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists per game, 54.0% FG, 51.1% FT

No player from the past feels harder to wrap your mind around than Chamberlain. The statistical record is just unfathomable: 37.6 points and 27 rebounds per game as a rookie; 50.4 points in 48.5 minutes per game in 1961-62, headlined by the 100-point performance that still stands as the highest-scoring game in history; the most 40- and 50-point games ever, as well as the longest streaks of 20-, 30-, 40-, and 50-point games; basically every major rebounding mark in existence; etc. It’s like you went through MyCareer in NBA 2K and decided to never let any teammates rack up a single box score statistic—only it actually happened in real life, and it went on for about a decade and a half.

Chamberlain’s monstrous numbers would surely come down in a modern context, if for no other reason than he wouldn’t have as many chances to pile them up. During his 14 seasons, according to, the league’s average pace never dipped below 110 possessions per 48 minutes of game time; that’s a full 10 possessions per 48 faster than this past season. Fewer possessions means fewer shots, rebounds, assists, and block opportunities to go around. Combine that with what would assuredly be a significantly curtailed workload in the age of load management—Wilt averaged an absurd 45.8 minutes per game for his career—and you’ll get fewer mythological stat lines.

It’s not like adjusting for pace and contemporary minutes management would make Wilt just another dude, though. This would still play:

At 7-foot-1 with a reported 7-foot-8 wingspan and 9-foot-6 standing reach, having starred at both 250 pounds as a lithe rookie and a muscular 300-plus pounds during his latter years with the Lakers, Chamberlain had more than enough size, length, and strength to challenge even the burliest modern bigs. He wasn’t just a lumbering giant, either: Chamberlain could sky to block shots and snare rebounds, and sprint the length of the court to fill the lane on the break. Like all massive 5s, he’d have to prove capable of defending in space and handling jitterbug guards on switches in the pick-and-roll. But a modern Wilt would profile, at minimum, as a mammoth rim protector and interior deterrent; think a thicker Rudy Gobert (a close analogue in terms of measurables) with a collegiate high jumper’s hops.

The other end would be even more interesting. Chamberlain essentially wrote the scoring record books of his era, using his physical dominance to overpower nearly every opponent he faced. (Nearly.) He was such a force down low that the NBA literally changed the rules, and the width of the lane, to mitigate his influence. In today’s game, though, with post-up play largely marginalized as teams look to work from the perimeter and attack defenses in space, would Chamberlain still be a high-volume source of offense?

It’s possible. Today, a prep prospect with Chamberlain’s physical attributes and skill would probably be given the green light to create at an early age, sanding off some of the rough edges in his ball handling and footwork. In addition to the brawn he used to bulldoze his way to the basket, Chamberlain also flashed a soft touch on non-flush finishes, and was an early adopter of the fadeaway jumper that would become part of the repertoire of so many great low-post scorers in future generations:

And while there’s some dispute about just how valuable his passing was to his team’s offensive performance, Chamberlain could facilitate with his back to the basket, finishing second in the league in assists in the 1967-68 season and turning in what remain the two highest assist-per-game averages of any center in league history:

Context matters in a player’s development. Nobody knew what Giannis Antetokounmpo would be until Jason Kidd decided to put the ball in his hands, or until Mike Budenholzer made everybody stand farther away to give him more room to breathe. Give a young Wilt a steady diet of reps as a creator in the half court and more space to work with, and who knows what alternate pathways to dominance might open?

It’s also worth noting what led to the blossoming of Wilt’s playmaking in the late ’60s: He reportedly wanted to dispel the notion that he was a selfish player. Chamberlain experienced fabulous success playing one way, fielded criticism from fans and pundits over it, and then just decided to play an entirely different way to prove a point. That reaction underlines another reason I’d love to see him now: He’d be an unbelievably alluring subject for modern media coverage—a larger-than-life character whose outsize public figure would be rivaled only by his raw-nerve sensitivity. As Lakers teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Jerry West put it in his autobiography, West by West: “Wilt was very self-conscious about his size and strength … and he was reluctant to be viewed as a villain. He wanted to be loved more than anything else, and yet he was convinced that ‘nobody loves Goliath.’”

Even if we set aside his infamous bedroom claims—which, of course, we most certainly would not—Wilt still would be an object of unbridled fascination today. Here was a man who once claimed to have bested a mountain lion in single combat. Decades before Shaquille O’Neal ripped mics with Fu-Schnickens, the Dipper was out here crooning, dog. After years of trying and failing to conquer his free throw shooting demons, Chamberlain found success with underhand, “granny-style” shooting—he went 28-for-32 from the line that way in his 100-point game—only to give it up because he “felt like a sissy.” He wanted to be cool, tall, vulnerable, and luscious, and he couldn’t hide it. When you’re that big, you can’t hide much.

Given his love for the spotlight, his polarizing on- and off-court presence, and his sensitivity to blowback, how would a figure as towering as Wilt Chamberlain play in the social media era? The mind reels at all the possibilities—and at all the vitriol his burner accounts might unleash.

Hakeem Olajuwon

Career (1,238 games, 1984-2002): 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 3.1 blocks per game, 51.2% FG, 20.2% 3FG, 71.2% FT

In the book Basketball: A Love Story, Olajuwon describes the first time he saw an NBA game. He was already in America, having come over from Nigeria to enroll at the University of Houston, and he went to a Rockets game. He went home elated—not because of all the skill, pageantry, and aerial artistry he just witnessed, but because even as an undergraduate just barely getting his feet wet in the game, he wasn’t too impressed with the future competition.

“I see people, they drive to the basket, I say, ‘I must be missing something. How come that shot isn’t blocked?’” he recalled. “I see opportunities that should be rejected, but it scores. The next day, the reporters ask me, ‘You were at the Rockets game, what do you think?’ I told them, ‘I think I could block four shots I saw.’”

He was right then; he blocked four or more shots four times in his first six NBA games, led the league in blocks three times, and still tops the all-time leaderboard in swats nearly 20 years after his retirement. Needless to say, Hakeem could hang. I think he’d do just fine now, too.

Hakeem likely could’ve become a passable 3-point shooter with enough commitment. Olajuwon had an excellent midrange game, with incredible touch on those turnarounds and fadeaways out of the block, and shot a crisp 50 percent between 16 feet and the arc during the 1998-99 season, his final healthy run before the wheels started to come off. Even if a contemporary Dream never stretched all the way out, though, we already know the best way to unleash him as a menace in a modern offense. You just do what Rudy Tomjanovich and Co. did in 1994 and ’95: Surround him with shooters in a four-out set, and watch as he kicked the ball out of double-teams to open cutters and perimeter marksmen, or used that absolutely lethal face-up game to decimate overmatched defenders.

Like, for instance, David Robinson.

(For what it’s worth: Robinson would be a worthwhile choice for this exercise, too. Dude was a chiseled-from-granite gazelle with rocket boosters in his heels, a legit Defensive Player of the Year who could fit into any style or tempo. This does not change the fact that, shortly after he won MVP honors, Dream summarily digested him.)

Olajuwon’s fluidity, length, and quickness would flourish in an era when a big man’s defensive value is predicated on being able to both protect the rim and guard in space. In his prime, Hakeem seemed capable of covering half the court by himself, assessing threats and snuffing them out with unnerving efficiency. He was disruptive as hell, registering a block on more than 5 percent of his opponents’ 2-point tries and logging a steal on more than 2 percent of their offensive possessions; only six other players who have played at least 5,000 career minutes have done both. One of them was fellow Time Machine All-Star Andrei Kirilenko, who was also one of just two players in NBA history with multiple 5x5 games—at least five points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks—to his credit. The other? You guessed it: The one who turned the 1984 draft into prom night.

Something about Hakeem’s game always seemed to bridge eras; sure, he was a rim-rocking dunker and an aggressive shot-swatter, like centers of the past, but damn, since when did 7-foot, 250-pounders move and shake like that? He embodied the best of the position’s present while hinting at an even brighter future. Drop him into today’s league, and the bet here is that he wouldn’t miss a step—and, in fact, he might have even picked up his pace of production.

And now, we move from Hakeem to the man he once nearly played one-on-one for $1 million put up by Taco Bell in an event promoted by Donald Trump, in what sounds like a stirring round of Some Bullshit Mad Libs but is actually a thing that almost happened:

Shaquille O’Neal

Career (1,207 games, 1992-2011): 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 2.3 blocks per game, 58.2% FG, 4.5% 3FG, 52.7% FT

If we’re going to wonder how Wilt Chamberlain would look in the 2020 NBA, we must also consider what the present might hold for Wilt Chamberneezy.

When I think of Shaq’s playing days, I immediately flash to the version that dominated in Los Angeles in the late ’90s and early aughts. You remember him: the irresistible force who tipped the scales after adding all that bulk to withstand the legions of Hack-a-Shaq implementers, the immovable object whom noted giant Yao Ming described in 2003 as “like a meat wall,” and the mountainous MVP who Juggernauted his way through the league to the tune of 27-and-12 on 57.5 percent shooting for a smooth eight years.

But when I think about the prospect of Shaq playing now—with more long and skilled big men to line up against, and fewer fellow kaiju roaming the painted area to batter him every time he catches the ball—I wonder whether a Shaq who came along in 2020 might have been better served staying down around the 290 pounds of his salad days for a little longer. That would be pretty rad, because Orlando Shaq could fuckin’ move, man:

Maintaining that staggering combination of power and quickness would be critical for a modern-day O’Neal. He would need to stay trim and explosive enough to cover a ton of ground, because you can bet that every modern offense would make it Job No. 1 to play a stretch-5 against him to try to draw him out of the middle and keep him from walling off the paint, or run dozens of pick-and-rolls aimed at getting him switched onto guards and forcing him to defend in space. Whether he could stay nimble enough to meet that kind of challenge would go a long way toward determining how effective he’d be—and how much damage he could do on the other end. We got a brief glimpse at something like that about a decade ago—lest we forget, Shaq averaged 18-and-8 alongside Steve Nash for the Slightly Longer Than Seven Seconds Suns in 2008-09—but by then, he was 36 and heavier, with more than 45,000 regular and postseason minutes on his body. How would the fresh-out-of-the-box version look?

It seems more likely that O’Neal would still need to do the lion’s share of his damage within arm’s reach rather than suddenly developing a feathery touch from 23 feet. He’d need to be as adept as ever at bursting past defenders with one-dribble power moves, spinning away from them to elevate for alley-oops, and rim-running in transition. Inspired by rule changes that allowed for zone defenses, easier double-teams, and more effective swarms of players holding the ball in the post, the game has moved away from just dumping the ball down to your big man on the block and letting him cook.

Outside of a select few scorers who still get a bunch of low-block touches, like Joel Embiid or LaMarcus Aldridge, post-ups these days are more often a vehicle for creating catch-and-shoot 3s, or a way to attack mismatches when defenses switch themselves into a “mouse in the house” situation, than a main feature of an attack. While the Shaq we know bemoans the disappearance of dominant back-to-the-basket bigs, the 2020 model would need to be capable of getting his points in other ways in a league where post-ups have largely been excised from the playbook altogether.

In fairness, though, O’Neal absolutely could be the sort of force worthy of a steady diet of post entries. In an ESPN feature published earlier this year about the evolution of NBA big men, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said that if his notorious envelope-pushing team had O’Neal on the roster, “I would give him the ball 1,000 times, is my guess.” Once he got it, keeping him from getting to the rim—and from putting his man inside it—would be an awfully tall order, and would likely result in even more trips to the line for someone who averaged nearly 10 attempts per 36 minutes for his career. That could work against O’Neal, who famously struggled from the stripe, shooting just 52.7 percent for his career; but a half-decade after the institution of new rules aimed at reducing intentional fouling to improve game flow, it might not be quite as big an issue as you might think.

If you’re wondering what it might look like, the Big Baryshnikov has a comp handy. “I would actually love to play in this NBA,” he told Jackie MacMullan and Kirk Goldsberry. “I would bring a little bit more physicality. I would bring my length, I would bring my athleticness. So, before you say, ‘Shaq can’t play in this era today,’ I’m already playing. My name is Giannis Antetokounmpo.”

Arvydas Sabonis

Career (470 games, 1995-2003): 12.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.1 blocks per game, 50.0% FG, 32.8% 3FG, 78.6% FT

By the time Sabonis finally came to the NBA in 1995, he was already 31 years old with a pair of ruptured Achilles tendons and a litany of leg and groin injuries rendering him a pale imitation of what he once was. That might seem like a bit of an exaggeration: After all, Sabonis still starred in the States, averaging a double-double in Year 3, posting a player efficiency rating over 20 in six of his seven NBA seasons, and playing an integral role on Trail Blazers teams that went to consecutive Western Conference finals, including one that came within a hellacious fourth-quarter comeback of beating Shaq, Kobe, and the Lakers in 2000. How much better could he have been before the injuries?

Well—at the risk of disrespecting a stand-up dude for the second time in the space of one column—let’s ask David Robinson, against whom Sabonis held his own when the Soviet Union nearly knocked off Team USA in the gold-medal game of the 1986 FIBA World Championship, and when the USSR did defeat the Americans in the semifinals of the 1988 Summer Olympics (despite Sabonis playing shortly after recovering from his first Achilles rupture):

Legendary big-man coach and talent evaluator Pete Newell told Sam Toperoff of The Atlantic Monthly in 1986 that he thought Sabonis “could conceivably become the greatest player in the game” and he would have taken the Lithuanian over Patrick Ewing in the 1985 draft if he had played for an American team. At 7-foot-3, the pre-injury Sabonis had the springs to tip-dunk all over “The Admiral” and swat shots from the weak side with reckless abandon, plus the touch to step out on the floor and drain NBA 3-pointers.

And the passing. My God, the passing:

As Bill Walton—who knew a thing or two about how big men could dominate while still playing a team-first game (and whom we’ll get to in a second!)—told Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams back in 2011, “[Sabonis] could do everything. He had the skills of Larry Bird and Pete Maravich. He had the athleticism of Kareem, and he could shoot the 3-point shot. He could pass and run the floor, dribble. We should have carried out a plan in the early 1980s to kidnap him and bring him back right then.”

Or, even better: popped him into a tricked-out DeLorean, sent him to 2020, and found out what it might look like if Kristaps Porzingis passed like White Chocolate, or if you pressed fast-forward on Nikola Jokic. (Or, for that matter, pushed the sliders all the way up on his son Domantas Sabonis, an excellent modern player and All-Star in his own right.)

“People don’t understand that when he was younger, Sabonis was a perimeter player and he played facing the basket,” longtime NBA coach George Karl, who had gotten an up-close look at him during two stints coaching in Europe, told Abrams. “He was a very athletic player. ... He could score, too, but you could run your whole offense through him, and his basketball IQ was off the charts for a 7-footer.”

Maybe the most exciting thing about the idea of bringing a young Sabonis to the present day is that we’d get to see what he would’ve looked like playing against elite opposition every night. Newell told The Atlantic that the one knock on Sabonis was that, “because the opposition Sabonis meets inside Russia is not challenging to him, he sometimes gets lazy. ... I’d like to see him in the NBA, just to see how great he’d be if he were pushed to the limit all the time.”

It’s possible that version of Sabonis wouldn’t be a generational sensation in the modern game. His old national teammate Sarunas Marciulionis emphasized in Basketball: A Love Story that Sabonis hadn’t yet fully developed his face-up game, his 3-point shot, or his court vision before playing in Spain following the ’88 Olympics, so a younger model wouldn’t necessarily have resembled a more explosive version of the finished product. Even so, the collection of skills at that size, with that flair, and with the athleticism to play like a point guard at 7-foot-3 would be intoxicating to watch now—a perfect fit for where the center position is, and where it could go from here.

Bill Walton

Career (468 games, 1974-87): 13.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.2 blocks per game, 52.1% FG, 66.0% FT

It feels kind of hard to divorce Walton from the era in which he played—following the Grateful Dead to protesting the Vietnam War to rolling with radical activists associated with the Symbionese Liberation Army. (As Jackie MacMullan wrote in When the Game Was Ours, Walton’s “one regret was that he never made Nixon’s ‘enemies list.’”) Some things about Big Red, though, would translate perfectly to the modern game. For one: Decades before “Shut up and dribble” became a sociopolitical flashpoint, Walton was telling The New York Times “In this society, they don’t expect an athlete to speak for himself or to be able to lead his own life. The only thing I’m supposed to know is how to put the ball through the hoop. Everything else is said for me or explained to me, right?” Seems like our man Bill would’ve made for an interesting podcast guest!

Years before the Kevin Garnetts and Kevin Durants of the world began lying about their heights to make themselves seem smaller, Walton was reported to be 7-foot-2 but “listed as 6-foot-11 [because] he didn’t like the stigma of being a 7-footer.” Walton didn’t want to be chained to the block and forced into the same old “dump it down and drop step” monotony; he wanted to be free to explore the outer limits of both his skills and those of his teammates. (OK, I agree: That was a very Bill Walton–ass thing to say.) He acted as a half-court offensive hub from the elbows and out of the post; as the last line of defense on the other end, he was an ace shot-blocker and defensive rebounder who looked for every opportunity to trigger a fast break and an easy bucket within the flow of the game.

In The Breaks of the Game—an all-time great sports book not about the triumphs of the 1976-77 Trail Blazers team that Walton led to a championship, but rather about how things fell apart, for Walton and for the organization—the great David Halberstam described a “truly great basketball player” as “not necessarily someone who scored a lot of points; a truly great basketball player is someone of exceptional talent and self-discipline who could make his teammates better. Basketball was a sport where under optimal conditions a great player with considerable ego disciplined himself and became unselfish.” (Walton had his share of ego too. In Loose Balls, Terry Pluto’s iconic oral history of the ABA, former ABA commissioner Mike Storen recalls that in negotiations over trying to get Walton to come to the counterculture league, Walton’s representative made it clear that the two wanted “Bill to be the highest-paid professional athlete in the history of mankind,” and “to be on a great team surrounded by a lot of talent so that the responsibility for winning and losing does not fall directly on Bill.” Again: He might fit in just fine today.)

By Halberstam’s measure, and any other, Walton when healthy was a truly great basketball player. At issue, of course, is how rarely he was healthy. Walton had a bulging medical file before he even reached college—he suffered multiple lower leg fractures and underwent knee surgery while still in high school—and struggled through broken bones in his spine and knee tendinitis at UCLA, resulting in another knee surgery before he joined the Blazers. Things didn’t improve in Portland, as ankle and foot injuries (along with two separate broken wrists) cost him 78 games over his first two seasons.

The lower body injuries turned catastrophic late in the 1977-78 season, when Walton, already dealing with right foot pain, suffered a sprained left ankle that sidelined him for weeks. He returned for the Blazers’ postseason opener, but despite a pain-killing injection before Game 2, he couldn’t continue past halftime; subsequent X-rays revealed a broken navicular bone. Walton, having lost all faith in Portland’s medical team, demanded a trade, sat out the entire 1978-79 season when one wasn’t granted, and left to sign with the San Diego Clippers. But the damage was done: He’d only play 169 games between 1979 and 1985. He played more than 70 games only once in 14 seasons—in the 1985-86 season, when he made 80 appearances as a reserve for the Celtics, winning Sixth Man of the Year on one of the greatest teams of all time.

The staggering array of injuries—which would require some three-dozen surgical procedures over the years—cost Walton three full seasons in what should have been his prime and kept him from ever experiencing the sort of professional success for which he seemed destined while starring for John Wooden. But when he was right … man, was he right:

At his peak—the 1976-77 season in which the Blazers won the title, and the 1977-78 campaign in which Portland was 50-10 when Walton broke his foot (he won MVP that year despite missing the final 22 games)—Walton averaged 24.9 points, 18.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 3.8 blocks per 100 possessions. A contemporary Walton would be free to act as the rising tide to lift all boats, to invert the offense and sling the ball around to the open man, and to hunt playmaking opportunities at least as often as he did his own shot. As the man himself put it in Basketball: A Love Story: “Basketball is a symphony, and we could take that ball and become artists ourselves.” It’d be cool to hear what kind of music he’d make today.

Those are my five, but there’s always room for more time travelers, so let’s hit a few honorable mentions:

Vlade Divac (1989-2005): Bigs who can pass, forever and ever, amen.

Divac was pretty spry for a giant, ably running the floor to create for others or to finish plays as the trailer, and he used his length and instincts to be a disruptive defender, averaging about 3.5 “stocks” (steals plus blocks) per 36 minutes during his Lakers tenure. Weirdly, though, I can see the older Vlade nestling snugly into the ecosystems of good present-day teams that emphasize passing and defend smartly—offering, say, a rough approximation of what Marc Gasol gave the Raptors last season?

I also think Steve Kerr would’ve done horrible, unspeakable things to get someone like Vlade operating in that Andrew Bogut/Anderson Varejao/David West playmaking pivot role as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson run all those split actions, flinging passes all over the place:

I don’t know. Maybe I just kind of miss perennial playoff performers who looked like they’d just smoked half a pack of Camel Wides before the start of the third.

Sam Perkins (1984-2001): Here’s that proto–stretch-5 you ordered:

“Big Smooth” could shoot from deep in the first part of his career—just ask the Bulls—but he rarely did, attempting only 352 triples during his first eight seasons and barely making a quarter of them. Once he hit the other side of 30, though—and once he got with George Karl, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, and the gang in Seattle—Perkins started more aggressively stretching his game out to the perimeter, becoming one of the first full-fledged floor-spacing bigs in the game. Between 1993 and 2001, he fired up 5.0 long balls per 36 minutes of floor time, and cashed them in at a cool 38.2 percent clip.

A steady vet who knows his role on defense, who’s good in the locker room, and whose heart won’t start racing in the postseason would make an awful lot of money sticking around these days. (I’m thinking of Channing Frye, but by all means, insert your preferred end-of-the-rotation stretch big here.) But a version of Perkins who starts spreading his wings a bit earlier, when he still had the athleticism to be a problem on the offensive glass and explode for tip dunks, and even the quickness to be a threat running off of pindown screens for catch-and-shoot looks, might have been more than a role player—and maybe even quite a bit more.

Mehmet Okur (2002-12): At the risk of veering too close to the territory of scraping-the-barrel Twitter highlight videos about how this player in 2004 WAS A PROBLEM, there was absolutely a minute there where the Turkish shooter was somebody you didn’t really want to see on the perimeter late in a tight game:

The 6-foot-11, 250-pound Okur was a perfect pick-and-pop partner for Deron Williams in Utah—a legitimate 3-point threat who could pull opposing centers away from the paint to create more room for D-Will drives, Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap post-ups, or whatever weird shit Andrei Kirilenko wanted to try. From 2005, when he became a full-time starter for Jerry Sloan, through 2010, when he suffered the ruptured left Achilles tendon that would effectively end his career, Okur shot 38.7 percent from 3-point range on 3.7 attempts per 36 minutes; put him alongside a pick-and-roll maestro point guard now, and he’d likely double that.

In his best year—the 2006-07 campaign, when he earned his first and only All-Star nod—Okur averaged 18 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, shooting 38.4 percent from 3-point range on 4.2 attempts per game. Over the past 10 seasons, the only center to match those averages on that combination of 3-point volume and accuracy is Karl-Anthony Towns. Now, I’m not saying that, if you plopped him into today’s NBA, Memo would suddenly become the sort of 7-foot Steph you could build an offense around. I do think, though, that he’d probably become an even more useful piece to deploy in a spread-it-out-and-bomb-away offense … and that, on occasion, yes, he might even be construed as ... A Problem.