Power Rankings: Centers
Plus, of course, the 10 best games of the week.
by Doobie Okon / @doobieSLAM
It’s a position that used to key the great teams. Dwindling in importance in recent years, the monster in the middle often decided which franchises got the rings at the end of the season. From the likes of Wilt, Russell, Kareem, Shaq, Hakeem, Robinson, Ewing and others…any squad with a great center had a chance.
Now, there’s just one truly great center in the NBA, and it’s been like that for a while. MJ transformed the League into a much more guard-oriented, high-scoring, outside- shooting game, and now the center position seems much less valuable. However, it’s still an important part of the game for those that utilize their big man, especially athletic ones who can run with their guards. And because there’s such a lack of wondrous centers these days, the effective few are high commodities.
With that, my top ten centers as of right now:
Last year, the former Florida Gator star would’ve easily cracked the top five. However, his numbers (7.1 pts/8.2 boards), and more importantly his minutes (26.6), have seriously declined since his 2010-11 campaign where he posted 11.7 points and 10.4 rebounds in 32.8 minutes per contest. Luckily, Noah is not a numbers guy, and nobody can ever question his defense, hustle, leadership and daily effort. Still very young at 26, Noah remains an extremely significant part of the 13-3 Bulls and the fact that he’s grabbed 12 boards three times in his last four games is a great sign.
It’s tough to gauge just how good this 21-year-old is. The numbers speak volumes as Monroe averages 16.1 points and 9.4 rebounds in his sophomore stint, and was leading all centers with a 24.52 PER until Dwight dropped 24/25 Wednesday night. However, he’s on a very, very bad team in Detroit and isn’t the greatest defender, especially against quicker or thicker centers. With a polished offensive game (that includes a knack for passing) and youth on his side, the future seems very bright for Monroe.
I’m a big believer in defense, which is why it’s tough for me to include Brook in the top ten as he’s an atrocious stopper. His blocks are only a result of his length as he can’t guard a middle-schooler and his lack of mobility on defense is really puzzling given such an amazing offensive game. Lopez is out until February with a foot injury, so nobody knows what he’ll provide New Jersey with this season. Last year he posted less than six rebounds a game, which is just putrid for a seven-footer as he looked wholly awful on the entire defensive side. But, as you can clearly see, Brook sits in my top ten so he must be doing something right. To his credit, he’s played every game of his career until this current foot injury and his shooting game from the floor (career 50.4%) and the stripe (career 80.1%) is his ultimate strength. It also doesn’t help that he’s led the Nets to squat in his first few years, but for now, I’ll leave Brook alone. And to any Bargnani fans: I don’t want to hear it!
Ever since Amar’e left Phoenix, the Suns have become somewhat of a forgotten team. Well, take notice, because they have one of the most underrated players in the League lurking in the middle. I particularly like Gortat because he’s very solid on both ends of the floor, and it’s really showing up his first 14 games of the season. He demonstrates very good position when defending the post and rebounds among the best. Ever since the Suns gave him the playing time that Orlando never did, the Polish monster has responded with 9.3 boards in 29.8 minutes over the last two seasons. Gortat can also move fairly well in Steve Nash’s half-court set and has a nice jumper in his arsenal. Keep an eye on Phoenix’s big man if you haven’t already.
Big Al seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s only 27 and leading one of the most surprising teams in the League in the 9-5 Utah Jazz. Jefferson should never really average less than 20/10, but I’ll take the 18.2/9.2 and 1.7 blocks that he’s providing for Utah right now. Jefferson also has fellow big man Paul Millsap to take some of the load off, and at 6-10, Al is a tad undersized for the center position. This fact and his problems on defense prove that he’s probably more suited for the 4, but I’m sure the Jazz don’t mind having this problem on their front-court given the talent of both.