This has always been fun for me. Just to write nice things about my favorite basketball players. Center has been a position of weakness in the NBA, or at least the best centers haven’t always been a team’s best scorer. Centers are usually the glue to a team’s defense, though. The Golden State Warriors proved how important a great defensive center is last postseason when Andrew Bogut missed their First Round series against Los Angeles. DeAndre Jordan exposed Golden State’s front court on the glass. The NBA has shied away from back-to-the-basket centers, and have focused more on athletic, defensive-minded big man. There’s still a number of highly skilled centers in today’s NBA.
Just like I did with Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant, I’ve omitted Brook Lopez from this list. I just want to see how he bounces back from a serious injury. Al Horford, however, makes this list despite missing 50+ games, and Roy Hibbert is nowhere near this list.
10. Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks
18.6/8.4/2.6 1.5 (BPG)
Al Horford joined Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah as the only active players to average at least 10 rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal per game during the 2012-2013 season. Atlanta sorely missed Horford last season, and the Hawks position nicely as a top-6 East squad with a healthy Horford. Horford has battled injuries two of the last three years, but when healthy Horford is one of the better two-way centers. The high-low action with Horford and Paul Millsap was fun for the 29 games Horford played, so hopefully they can build on that once Horford gets back healthy.
9. Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons
13.5/13.2/ 1.2 (SPG)/1.6
Drummond finished 16th in the NBA in win shares. Drummond was the first player in this century to grab 400 offensive rebounds in a season last year. Watching Drummond play, and it’s hard to explain why seven teams passed on Drummond in the 2012 Draft. Anthony Davis is obviously better, and Damian Lillard has already made an All-Star team, but Cleveland could have solved so many problems if they had just taken Andre Drummond instead of Dion Waiters.
8. DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers
Jordan benefits from playing with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Doc Rivers doesn’t call plays for Jordan. DeAndre scores on put backs and offensive rebounds. The Clippers were +9 with Jordan on the court this year. He led the league in rebounds, and he has started each game in the last two years. (Only Monta Ellis, Lillard, Robin Lopez and Tristan Thompson have done that the last two years). Jordan finished third (behind Joakim Noah and Paul George) in defensive win shares.
7. Al Jefferson – Charlotte Hornets
Jefferson made an All-NBA team last season but only ranks No. 7 on the best centers in the NBA list. Jefferson put up great numbers for a playoff team, and Charlotte’s definitely a team on the rise, but there’s just so many talented big men. Jefferson played nearly 70 percent of his minutes as a center, which should increase this year since Charlotte added some nice power forward pieces. Jefferson’s probably the best low-post scoring center in the NBA. He has great post moves, and isn’t afraid to use his right hand on the left block. I think Charlotte has a real chance of building something special in the East, and Jefferson will be the one that has to lead them.
6. DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings
Every player to average at least 22 points, 11 rebounds, a block and a steal per game is a Hall of Famer (except Chris Webber), or will be a Hall of Famer (Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett). Cousins posted those stats last year at age 23. Cousins finished second in usage percentage behind Kevin Durant, and that just shows how much Sacramento relied on Cousins to give them offense. That’s definitely something the Kings need to address (spacing on offense). It’s hard when you have two ball dominant guys that aren’t guards (Rudy Gay and Cousins). Cousins is probably the most talented offensive center in the NBA, though.
5. Chris Bosh – Miami Heat
Bosh took a lesser role in Miami. It’s obvious simply by looking at his numbers. Bosh has to play center, and he’ll play it again this year. It’ll be an adjustment playing without the world’s best player, but Bosh has carried a team before, and his numbers will look similar to DeMarcus Cousins with a higher usage rate.
4. Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis wish they had Gasol for the entire season. Memphis would’ve been the fifth or sixth seed in the West. Marc Gasol was phenomenal against OKC last May. His stats during that series: 17.3/7.7/4.4/1.7/0.9. Marc’s one of the best passing big men, and either him or Joakim Noah is the best defensive center in the NBA.
3. Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs
I did shooting guards on Tuesday and point guards on Wednesday. Each ranking saw a Spur as the third best player at that position. That won’t happen for small forward or power forward, though. The Spurs just do it differently, which makes it tough to evaluate who is the better player when one guy is putting up 20+ points a night, and then a Spur is barely playing 20 minutes a night. Duncan put up real nice numbers, and finished fourth in the NBA in defensive rating, so he deserves the third spot.
2. Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls
He won defensive player of the year. Noah had 25 games with seven or more assists. He led all players in defensive rating. He carried a team whose second best player was either Taj Gibson, DJ Augustin or Jimmy Butler to a four seed.
1. Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets
Dwight’s the most talented center in the NBA, and Houston still has a legitimate shot at a title as long as Howard and James Harden (two of the best 10 players in the NBA) stay together. Howard averaged 26 and 13.7 in the postseason, but the Rockets just had no answer for LaMarcus Aldridge or Damian Lillard. Howard shouldn’t be covering power forwards away from the basket since his best skills on defense are rim protecting and rebounding. Howard finished 16th in defensive win shares, and posted a very solid 101 defensive rating.