Top 5 Centers in the League
Old 08-23-2009, 12:45 PM   #1 (permalink)
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In the fourth installment of HOOPSWORLD's series ranking the top five players at each position in the NBA, today we look at the center position. In today's NBA it is difficult to determine who is a center and who is a power forward. Is Tim Duncan a center or a power forward? How about Al Horford? Well, thankfully, Alex Raskin did all the work for me and the differentiation is right here.

Obviously Yao Ming is one name that would have been at, or at least near, the top of the list will be left off completely due to injury. But with the seven-time All-Star out for the season a spot opens up in what is a fairly thin group of NBA centers.

Without any further ado, let's get the ball rolling:

1. Dwight Howard, Orlando: It is impossible to ignore the rare combination of power and athleticism that Howard brings to the game. Howard came to the Magic straight out of high school as the first overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft and has exceeded expectations. Just 23 years old, Howard has already been named All-NBA First Team twice ('08 and '09) and was named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year last season. Howard led the Magic on a surprising run to the NBA Finals, he posted career highs in blocks (2.9) and steals (1.0) per game. As Howard continues to develop an offensive repertoire to go along with his game changing defensive ability he will become not only the best center in the game today, but will secure a spot among the greatest big men of all time.

2. Al Jefferson, Minnesota: The 24-year old Jefferson was in the midst of a career season before a ruptured ACL in his right knee ended the 2008-09 season for the Timberwolves center. You can say what you want about posting big numbers for a bad team, but Minnesota appeared to be making strides after an awful start to the season (4-23) by winning 13 of the team's final 23 games with Jefferson in the lineup, including wins over playoff-bound New Orleans and Chicago. Jefferson has a nice post game based on fundamentals more than athleticism so his knee injury shouldn't stunt his growth terribly and he will continue to become one of the best big men in the NBA.

3. Shaquille O'Neal, Cleveland: The perception of Shaq's game at his advanced age is less than accurate in my opinion. Is he still the dominant force that won three consecutive NBA Finals MVPs? Not at all. Is he still one of the best centers in the NBA? There is absolutely no doubt. Shaq saw his scoring jump over four points per game from '07-'08 to '08-'09 while shooting a career best .609 from the field. The 15-time All-Star helped the Suns win 46 games last season, narrowly missing the playoffs despite playing the final eight weeks of the season without fellow All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire. Shaq also played in at least 75 games for the first time since the 1999-2000 season and only the fifth time in his career last season. With LeBron James and Mo Williams around to keep defenses from keying on him, Shaq figures to remain a highly efficient and productive player in 2010.

4. Emeka Okafor, New Orleans: Okafor has been one of the league's best kept secrets over the last couple of seasons while being stashed on one of the NBA's worst teams in Charlotte. The former University of Connecticut star has averaged a double-double in each of his five NBA seasons. Durability became a question mark surrounding Okafor early in his career, but the 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year has played in all 82 games in each of the last two seasons, starting all but one, and posted a career high .561 field goal percentage last year. While his career numbers aren't eye-popping (14 points and 10.7 rebounds per game), he has turned into one of the game's most steady big men. With a new team in New Orleans playing alongside Chris Paul, expect to see Okafor's scoring improve dramatically this season.

5. Andris Biedrins, Golden State: One of the most under-appreciated players in the NBA, Biedrins isn't the most polished offensive player on this list but the 23-year old Latvian posted career-highs in five statistical categories last season while averaging a double-double (11.9 points, 11.2 rebounds per game) for the first time in his career. At 6'11", 240 lbs., Biedrins has been in the top three in the NBA in field goal percentage each of the last three years, leading the league (.626) in 2007-08. On a Golden State squad with so many capable scorers (Corey Maggette, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, etc.) Biedrins might not register huge offensive numbers, but his impact on both ends of the floor is simply too much to be ignored.

Honorable Mention: Mehmet Okur, Utah; Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee; Brook Lopez, New Jersey; Nene, Denver; Al Horford, Atlanta

I left some people off of this list that it was really difficult to omit. Marcus Camby has been such a presence on the defensive end of the floor for so long but he is 35, oft-injured and saw his assists, rebounds and blocks drop off precipitously last season. Chris Kaman can't seem to stay out of the training room and on the court. Ditto for Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden - if those two stay healthy they will definitely move on up the ladder.

Memo Okur is something of an enigma, doing the majority of his damage from the perimeter, shooting nearly 45 percent from three-point range last season. He isn't a traditional center but has played a big role for perennial playoff contenders.

Former number one overall selection Andrew Bogut averaged a double-double for the first time in his career last season, shooting a career high .577 from the floor but playing only 36 games. The Bucks were in playoff contention prior to Bogut's season coming to an end due to a stress fracture in his lower back.

Brook Lopez was thrust into the starting lineup early in his rookie season when Josh Boone was injured and Lopez never looked back. The former Stanford star showed immediately that he is a force on the defensive end and his offense improved steadily as the season moved on.

After several seasons in which injury kept Nene from reaching the potential that made him the seventh overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, Nene seems to have turned the corner after a career year in 2008-09. The Brazilian posted career-highs in seven statistical categories last season while becoming one of the game's top defensive centers.

While his numbers don't jump off the page at you, Al Horford has quietly averaged 10.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during his two seasons in Atlanta. Horford is an unassuming, team-first guy who is playing out of position because the Hawks need him at the center.
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Agree on it except Okafor shouldn't be there.
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Old 08-23-2009, 01:07 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Andrea plays as well as he does the second half of last season, Shaq regresses, and Andrea could easily be in the top five.
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Old 08-23-2009, 02:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
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im pretty sure that okafor plays pf and Bargnani is better than him
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Old 08-23-2009, 03:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Okafur, Jefferson, and Bargs are all actually PF's. Center is their secondary position.
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Old 08-23-2009, 03:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Wow...it's funny (or not) that in the mid to late 90's the NBA had C's like Olajuwan/Shaq/Ewing/Robinson/Mourning/Mutombo etc. Times have really changed.
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Old 08-23-2009, 03:18 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Apparently Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden are supposed to bring the big man back to basket game back into the NBA for Centers.
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:37 PM   #7 (permalink)
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wtf no yao ming maybe is cuase hes out for next season but still no mention watsever thats just wack
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Old 08-23-2009, 07:06 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Definatley not sold on Oden (even coming out of college) I doubt we see much from Oden this year either. My guess is he'll made some improvements in his 3rd year, but we'll see. Portland should invest in a big man coach ie Abdul Jabbar/Ewing. Bynum put up some solid numbers for a stretch, but has been regulated to mostly rebounding/blocking shots/defense. IMO if he played on a team w/o Kobe/Gasol his PPG would increase. It would be nice if both could become the C's they were predicted to be.
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Old 08-23-2009, 07:19 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I would take Perkins over Biedrins and Okafor...might even take him over Jefferson....
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Old 08-23-2009, 08:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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wtf no yao ming maybe is cuase hes out for next season but still no mention watsever thats just wack
Well I doubt he'll be one of the best centers next year. Maybe it's because he won't play!
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:26 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by 007nites View Post
Okafur, Jefferson, and Bargs are all actually PF's. Center is their secondary position.
I don't know about you, but I am pretty sure that PF and C's are like the same type of games. Big, and play close to the basket. They rebound a lot as well. The only odd cases would be when the team plays a different style, like Lewis in Orlando. You couldn't classify him as a center, but you could classify someone like Jefferson and Okafor as centers.
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:34 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I don't agree.

Top 5 centers (not power forwards that play center) imo

1. Dwight
2. Shaq
3. Yao
4. Lopez (Brook)
5. Darko
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Old 08-23-2009, 10:20 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I would take Perkins over Biedrins and Okafor...might even take him over Jefferson....
it seems like your deep throating the celts way too much, pierce over lebron? no way even tho I hate both and perkins over okafor is alrite. Over biedrins is debatable even tho both are offensively limited and biedrins is more energetic and a better defender/rebounder...perkins just has the size, but perkins over al jefferson? wtf? is someone a little butt hurt that hes not a celtic anymore?
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Old 08-23-2009, 10:26 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by DuCa00795 View Post
I don't know about you, but I am pretty sure that PF and C's are like the same type of games. Big, and play close to the basket. They rebound a lot as well. The only odd cases would be when the team plays a different style, like Lewis in Orlando. You couldn't classify him as a center, but you could classify someone like Jefferson and Okafor as centers.
Well then why isn't Timmy D on that list? He played C for a while, no?
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Old 08-23-2009, 10:56 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I don't know why Duncan isn't on the list...He played 55 percent of the teams mintues at center and only 7 percent of their PF mintues....I think your arguing that PF and C don't have a lot of the same classification would be a bit far.
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Old 08-24-2009, 12:07 AM   #16 (permalink)
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it seems like your deep throating the celts way too much, pierce over lebron? no way even tho I hate both and perkins over okafor is alrite. Over biedrins is debatable even tho both are offensively limited and biedrins is more energetic and a better defender/rebounder...perkins just has the size, but perkins over al jefferson? wtf? is someone a little butt hurt that hes not a celtic anymore?
Pierce over Lebron is suppose to be a joke...
what exactly has Jefferson accomplished? besides getting hurt....
Perkins has proven himself to be one of the better centers in the league...hes helped the Celtics win a championship....and why would i be bitter about Jefferson leaving when Celtics got KG in return?...
Without Perkins the Celtics would have been eliminated in the first round this years, instead he helped they almost get past Orlando...and gave the best center in the league a lot of trouble...
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Old 08-24-2009, 12:12 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Well then why isn't Timmy D on that list? He played C for a while, no?
exactly...thats why lets not go there...because Duncan is a PF/C...and so is Al Jefferson...and so is Okafor....but what makes them different from normal PF is their build and post moves....i like to look at them as a PF's because they are kinda undersized to be a center....
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Old 08-24-2009, 01:23 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Pierce over Lebron is suppose to be a joke...
what exactly has Jefferson accomplished? besides getting hurt....
Perkins has proven himself to be one of the better centers in the league...hes helped the Celtics win a championship....and why would i be bitter about Jefferson leaving when Celtics got KG in return?...
Without Perkins the Celtics would have been eliminated in the first round this years, instead he helped they almost get past Orlando...and gave the best center in the league a lot of trouble...
oh ok I dont get the joke tho, ad jeffersons put up allstar like numbers on boston and minestoa, getting hurt is apart of the game you cant fault him for that, and perkins didnt lead them to the 2nd round, that was all rondo stepping his game up even tho hes still shit and madly overrated
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Old 08-24-2009, 08:14 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Yao Ming is the best centre in the league when healthy.
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Old 08-24-2009, 08:25 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Rankings are goofy exercises, and this one takes the cake.
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