Height has actually become a detriment in the NBA, as only nine players listed at 7-foot or above are projected to start next season.
Miami, Boston, Oklahoma City and San Antonio all advanced to the conference finals last year without a 7-footer on their roster.
The value of the center has significantly diminshed over the past 15 years.
Since the 1995-96, only one center, Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-00, was selected as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
During the same time span, eight centers were taken with the first overall pick but only two, Yao Ming and Dwight Howard, have ever appeared in an All-Star game. None of the eight players have been selected as the Rookie of the Year.
The way rosters are constructed has completely changed, with teams able to build title contending rosters around slashing point guards, such as Chicago has done with Derrick Rose, along with dominant wings and complimentary front court players.
In his last full season, Lopez did average 20.4 points per game, but grabbed only six rebounds on a nightly basis, and turned away just 1.5 shots per game.
Even though he stands 7-foot tall, Lopez posted 26 games without a block, a trend that isn’t only limited to the Nets franchise center.
Throughout the NBA, intimidating shot blockers are virtually non existent.
Over the past seven seasons, just five players posted a total of 250 blocks in a season, a superb shot blocking season, equating to just over three blocks per game in 82 contests.
The 250 block mark has been reached just once, by Marcus Camby in 2007-08, over the past eight seasons.
Twenty years ago, the mark was achieved routinely.
During each of the first seven years of his career, Robinson rejected at least 250 shots, but back and foot injuries forced him to miss all but six games in 1996-97 and prevented him from achieving the feat again.
For this generation, Howard has been the defensive standard, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award three times and leading the league in blocks twice.
While Howard has been an intimidating shot blocker, he’s never topped 231 blocks in a season, and during his eight year career, he’s never averaged three blocks per game and totaled more than 200 blocks just twice.
There are many reasons for the lack of blocked shots in the NBA, relaxed hand check rules enable easier paths to the basket, teams have implemented zone defense more than ever and teams have even focused on players taking charges rather than protecting the rim.
No matter what the reasons are, the blocked shot has become a lost art.
From the 1996-97 season to 1999-00, just a four year span, 13 players averaged over rejections per game.
Once the new millennium began, shot blockers in the NBA virtually evaporated. Since the 2000-01 season, there have only been 13 instances when a player averaged over three blocks per game.
For three years, from 2008-09 to 2010-11, no player reached the 250 total shot mark or averaged three blocks per game.
But last season, a dominant shot blocker finally emerged.
In 66 games, Serge Ibaka turned away 241 shot attempts, an average of 3.7 per game, the highest since Theo Ratliff in 2000-01.
Ibaka was simply the most intimidating shot blocking presence the league has seen in years, as his contemporaries weren’t able to keep up.
DeAndre Jordan ranked second in the league, blocking 135 shots. Five times he swatted five or more shots last season.
Ibaka totaled 26 games with five or more rejections, with five coming in the post season and three double-digit block efforts. There were just three games when Ibaka failed to turn back an opponents shot attempt last year.
The dominant shot blocker isn’t extinct in the NBA, but Ibaka proved he may be the last of a dying breed.