This is the first ranking out of a total of 5 for the season.
Center has always been the anchor point of an NBA team. They are what determines a team’s defensive ability. Centers are what creates easy buckets down low, which takes away attention from the perimeter defense, allowing for long range shooting room. I only included players who spend most of their time at center. So Pau Gasol, Stoudemire, and Blake Griffin are all considered power forwards. Glen Davis is also a PF because that is where he got most of his playing time before the Howard scandal/ injury.
Note: I did not include players that have not played in at least half of their team’s games. Notable ones include Anderson Varejao, Al Horford, Andrew Bogut, and Brook Lopez
The Franchise Centers: These are the guys that have a huge impact on a team and their play directly affects the success of their team.
1.) Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Sure, point to the fallout in Orlando, his miserable attitude, and a decline in his defensive presence. He is still the best center in the NBA, and the only center I would deem as a franchise player (minus the attitude lately). He is an elite defender that shuts down opposing big men and protects the paint from driving guards. His offensive presence is also like no other. He may not be the tallest center but he plays like the biggest one. He is a dominating post player and can make the hardest shots look like layup lines. Not to mention he is the best rebounder in the NBA (don’t worry Kevin, I still have love for your rebounding skills). The only knock against him is his free throw shooting. That is the only thing between him and perfection.
2.) Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Is it safe to say he is everything that Dwight Howard is to a lesser extent? He is one of the greatest big men to ever touch a basketball. He created a dynasty and currently plays for the best team in the west. As much props as Parker deserves, Duncan is the defensive presence of the Spurs. He is the master of the glass. As much as stats will indicate Bynum is the better player, words cannot describe his defensive ability.
3.) Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
Andrew Bynum is sitting among the best centers in the NBA. He averages a double-double and has taken over the team when Kobe is out. He has the makings of a franchise player. And he is only 24 years old. However, he has always lived under the spotlight of Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. Wait a few years and few developments to his defensive game, and this promising player can be in future Hall of Fame talks.
4.) Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz
Speaking of centers as being the faces of their franchises, Al Jefferson has landed his team a playoff spot. Averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, he is arguably the next best offensive center after Dwight Howard. The same cannot be said for his defensive game. Opposing big men don’t exactly fear going up against Jefferson, which is partially why Utah is ranked 24th in points allowed per game.
5.) Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
Mr. Defense has revolutionized the New York Knicks. It shows you how much of a difference the center impacts the entire defensive game. Arguably the best on the ball and help defender in the league, Chandler never rests on D. He is also very efficient on offense, shooting 68%. He does not play much in the post, but that is because he plays with Carmelo Anthony. He operates more from the pick-and-roll and tends to only take open shots, but he will finish strong and create his own when he needs to. His rebounding is also extraordinary and under appreciated. Watch him play if you have not yet this season. He “whacks” the ball (for a lack of a better term) on loose balls on offense to get the possession back to his team. It does not get recorded as a rebound, but is an impressive maneuver that displays his high basketball IQ. Its surprising how a player can have a breakout season at 29 years of age. I guess the championship fueled his career.
6.) Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
Another tough worker past his prime years like Duncan, Garnett is still a top player. He is an elite defender like Chandler and Howard and has a versatile offensive game. He can shoot, he can post, he can finish strong. He is also great in ball movement. He is a big reason for Boston’s resurgence in the second half of the season. Center is not his natural position, but that won’t stop him from playing like a legend.
7.)Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Rounding out the franchise center category is Marc Gasol. While his brother Pau is often labeled as “soft” on defense, Marc could not be any different. While he may not have the flashy offensive abilities that Pau has, even though he has a great PPG average at 14.5, his defense has made Memphis a feared team to play. Paired with Zach Randolph and backed up by Mareese Spreights, the Grizzlie’s have one of the scariest back courts in the NBA and can be a sleeper in the West.
On the Cusp of Excellence: These guys are also very good. They are the type of centers you want with a superstar on your team already. They are guys that help a team to success, they just are not as essential to the team as the franchise centers. It is actually a very large group because there has been exceptional center-play this season. I could see many of these guys moving to the franchise category within a few years, especially for the younger ones.
8.) Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
There is nothing wrong with his game, its as simple as that. No holes. He is the best offensive rebounder in the NBA. He can keep up with the elite big men on defense. He can also score when asked to. He just is not dominant in one area. He won’t ever be a team leader, but this man is the definition of a team player. Great work ethic and a hard worker. I nearly put him as a franchise center, but you have to wonder how much of it has to do with the nearly flawless Bull’s system. They have 9 players that are starting-caliber on most teams (Rose, Deng, Noah, Boozer, Hamilton, Korver, Watson, and Gibson) where everyone contributes to the team. Nothing to detract from Noah’s game, though.
9.) Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
Also a great all-round player like Noah. He is a great centerpiece for Indiana’s elite defense. His 2 blocks per game, 13 PPG, and 9 RBP cannot begin to describe how essential Hibbert’s play is to the 3rd seeded-Pacers. He has improved as a player every year. At 25, I still don’t think Hibbert has reached his prime.
10.) Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
I don’t think anyone will question that Monroe will be an elite player. In his sophomore campaign, he has already put up amazing numbers, averaging over 15 points a game and about 10 rebounds per contest. Not many people have noticed but Detriot has surged in the 2nd half of the season. Detroit has a promising future with Monroe among other talented pieces.
11.) Marcin Gortat, Phoenix Suns
He followed up big after a breakout season. He is becoming a well-known name among centers. He plays well in Steve Nash’s offense. His rebounding is also noteworthy. He has become a double-double machine. His great play has also allowed Channing Frye to move over to PF, where he fits better.
12.) Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Since Love has been absent, Pekovic has truly shown brilliance. He has nearly averaged a double-double a game since he became a starter. He will always live in the shadow of Kevin Love as long as he stays in Minnesota. He still needs to make a few strides on defense to be elite, however.
13.) Nene, Washington Wizards
A year ago he would have been in my top 5. However, age and injuries have got the best of him. He is still a good scorer and defender, but will never be an elite rebounder. He would be a great addition to a contending team, but when he was “the guy” for Denver during the playoffs, things didn’t go to well.
14.) DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
When I started making this list, I couldn’t see how Jordan wouldn’t crack the top 10. But I am not taking away anything from him, I just was shocked when how many great centers there are. Jordan is a top defensive player in the league. He is a great rebounder and an underrated scorer, but Blake Griffin edges him out in those categories. He is a the type of center I would want going into the playoffs. He can harass the Howards, Bynums, and Duncans of the league. Things are looking bright for the 23-year-old.
15.) Chris Kaman, New Orleans Hornets
Go back three years ago and we are talking about one of the best players in the league. Injuries have forced him to sit more. He is trending downwards career wise, but he is still a great player. The Clippers felt confident in Jordan when they traded him, and it seems like they made the right move. I still think Kaman could be that missing piece for a championship-caliber team (I am looking at you, OKC).
The Starters: These are guys that aren’t amazing, but have a niche that contributes to their team. Note: Not all are starters, but those who deserve a starting spot.
16.) JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets
Yes, he isn’t the smartest basketball player ever, but he has shown offensive prowess. He will be essential to the Nuggets if they wish to make a playoff run.
17.) Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers
Believe me, I wanted to put him higher. There is a strong correlation between when Hawes was out and how poorly the Sixers performed. But the Sixers don’t feel the same way, since he has averaged under 23 minutes per game since his return from injury. Perhaps they are saving him for the postseason. Regardless, he is great in every category. He will shoot his way back to the top next season.
18.) Zaza Pachulia, Atlanta Hawks
He has really stepped up his game. He isn’t fancy on offense, but he does the dirty work for the Hawks. They must be really impressed by his play. They wanted to move Horford to PF but they didn’t think they would find a center good enough to start. I think they found him on the roster.
19.)Mareese Spreights, Memphis Grizzlies
Great pickup by Memphis. He should at least be in Sixth Man of the Year talks. He looked like Marc Gasol at times when Gasol was out and Spreights started instead. He is a luxury to have as a backup.
20.) Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Bobcats
This 19-year-old athletic freak will be in Defensive Player of the Year discussions one day. If the Bobcats do end up with Anthony Davis, they could actually win a decent amount of games with Biyombo, Davis, Walker and Magette.
The Rest: If your team is starting one of these guys, you should be looking to upgrade. These guys can be great backups/ role-players, but shouldn’t be expected to give a solid 30 minutes.
21.) Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio is grooming him to take over Tim Duncan’s spot when he retires. He is averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds a game in just under 20 minutes a game in his sophomore season in the NBA. I have full confidence he will be a starter one day.
22.) Udonis Haslem, Miami Heat
He is a PF playing center, simply because Miami doesn’t have the talent to start anyone else at center. He does rebound and is underrated on offense because the majority of the scoring belongs to James, Bosh, Wade, and Chalmers. His size can be an issue against top tier big men in the playoffs, however.
23.) Jason Thompson, Sacramento Kings
Really inconsistent play. He looks amazing one game and then disappears the next. He appears to be on an upswing lately, but something is to be said considering the Kings give up the most points per game.
24.) Marcus Camby, Houston Rockets
Rebounding specialist. He will provide an offensive spark once in a while, but that is a rarity. He is a great defensive player as well, but his offensive struggles should be a cause for concern. How much can be expected of a 38-year-old at this point?
25.)Samuel Dalambert, Houston Rockets
Simply a defensive specialist. Injuries have slowed his season, but that was expected when the Rockets brought him in.
26.) Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder
He is purely a defensive specialist. I honestly don’t know OKC’s offensive game plan, since it seems only 3 players on their team are allowed to shoot the ball. Perkins is the starting center but he is 3rd on his team in rebounds per game. Whatever the Thunder are doing is working, so I won’t complain too much.
27.) Byron Mullens, Charlotte Bobcats
He is useless on defense, but is a great offensive spark. Needs to improve on rebounding. I think Charlotte has many great pieces, they just need one or two stars (I know that is not easy to get but if they play this bad for a bit they are bound to end up with a few) to flourish.
28.) Kosta Koufos, Denver Nuggets
He averages 5 and 5 and a block a game with just 16 minutes per game on the season. He will never beat McGee out for the starting job but is productive with his minutes. I sense trade piece with him. Still is young.
29.) Omer Asik, Chicago Bulls
Does practically nothing on offense, but he does continue the flow with rebounding and defense when Noah is resting.
30.) Greg Stiemsma, Boston Celtics
This was a solid pickup for Boston. He has looked very good sometimes, but has yet to receive the consistency and minutes to show anything more than just a role player. However, 2 blocks per game and one steal per game in less than 20 minutes a contest in the months of March and April is a good indicator of what is to come.
Comment with your opinions or other players who deserve to be on this list!
About the Author
Written by A.M. Ghesani