Although the center position is not at the same level as in the 1990 and early 2000, there are a few up and coming centers that have a lot of skill and potential. Centers are no longer solely play the center position as in the past. Many switch between power forward and center.
1. Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets
Although the “Dwightmare” has ruined Howard’s reputation and has made him look puerile and foolish, Dwight is still by far the best all around center in the league. Although Dwight had a “down” year, Howard posted the best stats among all the centers in the league. Howard led the league in rebounding, 12.4, while averaging 17.1 points, 2.4 blocks, and 1.1 steals. Howard was able to post great numbers although he changed teams and schemes and had to play through a myriad of injuries. The drop in his scoring can be attributed to his fewer shot attempts and minutes. Howard shot a ridiculous 58% from the field because he only shoots from around the paint. If Howard can improve his free throw shooting percentage, 49%, to around 60%, he would score three or four more points per game. Howard has average a double double during every season of his nine year career. Dwight has even completed four seasons where he averaged more than 13.5 rebounds and 20.5 points. Besides for being a solid offensive player because of his athleticism, he is one of the best defensive players of this generation because he is dominant inside the paint. Howard has led the league in rebounds five of the last six seasons and has blocked more than 2 shots per game for each of the last six seasons. Howard led the league in defensive rating three times and defensive win shares four times. Most impressively, Dwight won three straight Defensive Player of the Year Awards and has been elected to four first defensive All-NBA teams.
2. Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies
The reigning DPOY has significantly improved during the last few seasons of his career. Marc is one of the most skilled all around players in the league because he can score, pass, rebound, and defend. Gasol recorded the most assists, 4.0, among centers, but he could have tallied many more because he has a great vision of the court like point guards. Gasol only averaged 14.1 points per game last season because he only shot 10.9 times per game. However, he is an efficient shooter from the field, 49%, and a great free throw shooter for a big man, 85%. Last year, he had an all around good year, averaging 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game. Gasol was the main reason why the Grizzlies took the next step and played in their first Western Conference Final. Although Gasol excels on the offensive side of the game, he is a great defensive wizard. He is extremely intelligent, long, lengthy, strong, and knows how to defend the rim without committing silly fouls. Gasol finished top five in both defensive rating and defensive win shares. Gasol is in the middle of his prime and should continue dominating the offensive and defensive side of the floor.
3. Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets
The offensive minded Brooklyn center is the best offensive center in the league. The All-Star center had a great offensive season for the Brooklyn Nets during their inaugural season. Lopez was able to have a great season, although he only played 5 games the previous season. Over the past three seasons, Lopez showed why he is the best offensive center by averaging more than 19 points per game and shooting over 49%. Last year, Lopez had his best season, averaging 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 52% shooting, and 76% from the free throw line. Lopez has a diverse set of moves including the sweep through which enables him to frequently head to the line to shoot two free throws. Although Lopez is frequently criticized because he does not rebound at a high level, many people do not watch the Nets’ games who are criticizing him. If they watched the game, they would realize that his job is to protect the rim and the power forward position is suppose to grab the rebounds. Although Lopez is slow and does not have great footwork, he is able to make up his mistakes with his length and size. Next year, I predict Lopez to make a leap forward because Garnett will help his defense and his offensive skills should only improve.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge – Portland Trailblazers
The former first round pick out of Texas has been one of the best big men in the league since his rookie season in 2006. Although his rookie season was underwhelming, he has significantly improved and has been one of the best scorers down in the post. The 6’11” star has a good set of moves around the basket and a nice jump shot, which makes him nearly impossible to defend. Over the past three seasons, LaMarcus has scored more than 21 points while shooting over 48% from the field. Along with posting great scoring numbers for a big man, Aldridge is a solid rebounder, over 8 rebounds per game. Although Aldridge puts up nice stats, he is not a top fifteen player in the league because he is a horrible defensive player. Aldridge shows little effort on defense, but could be a solid defensive player. He is strong and tall, which should enable him to stay in front and stop opposing offenders. Last season, Aldridge posted some of the worst defensive numbers in his career according to the defensive metrics. Last year, he had a defensive rating of 107 and a win share of 2.3, both are below average. Aldridge looks like he may be the next big star to be traded. Ironically, he wants to be traded to the Bulls, although he was originally drafted by them.
5. Roy Hibbert – Indiana Pacers
Indiana’s behemoth had a great postseason performance, which catapulted him into my top five centers in the league. Although he has not experienced a lot of success during the regular season, Hibbert has played his best basketball during the post season. During the postseason two years ago, Hibbert was a defensive menace, 11.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. Last season, Hibbert became more of a complete player, 17.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. Although he did not block as many shots last season, he altered every shot inside the paint and came away with one of the best blocks all season against Carmelo Anthony in a tight game six. During the regular season, Hibbert has constantly averaged around 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks. However, Hibbert should make a significant jump this season in the scoring department. Last season, he shot only 45% from the field, which is horrible for a man who only shoots from inside the paint. During the playoffs, he shot over 51%, which is what I expect him to shot next season. Although his offense will never be great, he will play a long time because he is a great defensive player. Hibbert finished top five in defensive rating, defensive win shares, block percentage, and blocks.
6. DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings
The young 22 year old center for the Kings is one of the most talented, but controversial players in the league. Over the last two seasons, Cousins has posted solid stats and has become one of the powerful center’s in the league. In terms of talent, Cousins may have the most talent among centers in the league. Cousins has the size, strength, and skill to score against any player on offense. Over the last two seasons, Cousins has averaged 17.5 points in only 30.5 minutes per game. His PER 36 minute are even more impressive, 20.7 points. Along with scoring a lot, Cousins is a superb rebounder. In 2012, he recorded 11 rebounds per game and almost recorded another double digit season last year, 9.9 rebounds. Last year, DeMarcus became a more efficient scorer, 44% versus 47%. Although he is extremely talented, Cousins routinely loses focus and his game consequently falters. Cousins’ defense is affected by his lack of effort because he frequently forgets to run back on defense and defend the post. Cousins’ horrible attitude causes the coach to have headaches and negatively affects his teammates. Cousins is unable to maintain his emotions, which causes him to rack up technical fouls and personal fouls. When Cousins learns how to focus and play with intensity, he will be a 20-10 man and a constant All-Star
7. Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls
Although Noah may not be the best player on the Bulls, he is the heart and soul of team and specifically the defense. On offense, Noah has one of the ugliest shots in the game, which makes me cringe every time he shoots. Although his shot is ugly, he is a career 50% shooter and shoots 73% from the free throw line. Noah is a tough player who does not need to shoot often to make an impact on the game. Over the last four seasons, Noah has averaged about 11 points per game. Although he does not score often, he is a good passer and has great vision of the court. Last year he was tied with Marc Gasol for most assists per game for a center, 4.0. Noah makes his money on the defensive side of the court. During his six year career, Noah has averaged at least 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in three different seasons. Last year, Noah had his best defensive year by setting a career high in rebounds, 11.1, blocks, 2.1, steals, 1.2, and defensive win shares, 4.7. Unlike most centers, Noah has the ability to grab rebounds and protect the rim. Noah has great footwork, dedication, and focus, which makes him a terror to compete against. Every team would love to have Noah because he is a proven winner and will make his teammates give their best efforts. Noah is the opposite of Cousins because he does not have the innate ability like DeMarcus, but plays extremely hard and will never give up on his teammates or coach.
8. Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks
Big Al is coming off the best season of his career at the age of 26. Al should continue posting solid statistical years as he continues into his prime. For the first time in his career, Al will be the main option on offense for the Hawks, after the departure of Josh Smith and Joe Johnson. After a subpar 2012 season because of injury, Al averaged a double double for the first time in his career. Horford has been one of the most efficient players among big men. Last year, Horford scored 17.4 points on 14.3 shots while shooting 54% from the field. Along with improving on his offensive numbers, Horford has improved his defensive. When Al entered the league, he was considered a below average defender. However, he has improved his footwork and ability to guard the pick and roll, which has made him a decent defender. Horford should and needs to improve as a player if the Hawks are going to make the playoffs again next season.
9. Chris Bosh – Miami Heat
The third piece of the ‘Big 3’ has been an extremely inconsistent player during his three years with the Miami Heat. Before signing with the Heat, Bosh was one of the most successful big men in the league, posting three seasons of at least 22.5 points and 10.0 rebounds. Although he was never the best rebounder, Chris tallied five straight season of at least 22.5 points before signing a max deal with the Heat. Last season, Bosh had his worst year since his rookie season. Bosh posted his second lowest scoring and lowest rebounding average of his career. Bosh’s 12.3 shots per game is the lowest since his rookie season and explains his decrease in scoring output. However, Bosh should be increasing his rebounding totals, since he is the tallest starter and the most adept at rebounding. Although Bosh is scoring fewer points, he had his most efficient season, 54% from the field. Although had a “down” year in terms of offense, Bosh blocked 1.4 shots and stole 0.9 balls per game, both career highs. According to the defensive metrics, Bosh is an average defensive player, although he can be a great rim protector when he active on defense. During the postseason, Bosh was a complete anomaly. Bosh had worse stats in the playoffs than the regular season, 12.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 45% shooting percentage. Bosh started to drift outside of the paint and shot about two threes per game. During his career, Bosh averaged about half a three per game.
10. Al Jefferson – Charlotte Hornets
The newest member of the new named Hornets received a big money deal this offseason because he is a consistent producer. Al has posted consistent scoring and rebounding number since he began starting in his third year. The integral part of the deal that sent Kevin Garnett to the Celtics has been so consistent that it is actually scary. Over the past four seasons, Jefferson has averaged around 18 points, 9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1 steal, and 49% shooting from the field. For a big man, Jefferson has a nice array of inside moves and touch on his jumper. Jefferson will provide the Hornets with a veteran presence that they did not have in previous seasons. Jefferson will allow the Hornets to have a go to scorer during crunch time, when they desperately need a bucket. Although Al has a nice offensive game, he is a not a good defensive player. Jefferson’s deficiencies will be obvious on the Hornets because Cody Zeller is not a good defender either. Last season, Jefferson posted poor defensive stats because he is not the most athletic player and does not give full effort on defense.
pics and stats from espn.com and basketballreference