Baller Mind Frame

2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Top 10 Centers

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10. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
The fight for the tenth and final spot was ultimately determined by certainty: Larry Sanders is only now beginning to play a pivotal role for his team and has plenty left to prove, whereas Cousins has been a regular starter since the day he arrived. Boogie is an incredible talent and, despite his well-documented attitude struggles, above all else needs to work on his defense; his effort on that end is miserable enough to railroad an otherwise very promising career.

9. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats
Jefferson clings to his place as younger and more athletically-gifted centers (Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond) are seizing the NBA. Jefferson is presumably at the tail-end of his prime after a remarkably consistent run, but he can be credited for still regularly drawing double teams, a rarity for big men in today’s game.

8. Chris Bosh, Miami Hear
With regards to Greg Monroe, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer, and all the other power forwards who have been wedged out of position by the small ball revolution, Bosh is the unquestioned king of this role, serving as the primary center for consecutive championship teams and successfully battling, not only dramatic size disadvantages, but also unreasonable expectations from fans.

7. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
With a rare offensive focus in what has become a predominantly-defensive position, Lopez’s place on the list is hampered primarily by a stunning inability to pull down rebounds. While low output in one stat alone shouldn’t define a player, a starting center’s weak rebounding affects his team’s entire approach to lineups, and only when Lopez addresses this inadequacy can he move up the list.

6. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Poor Horford has been one of the NBA’s best centers since his second season and now has had to watch Danny Ferry deconstruct the roster, transforming the Atlanta Hawks from a dangerous playoff squad to an easy first-round out. Horford is just entering his prime and is undoubtedly one of the NBA’s very best two-way centers.

5. Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
In recent years, Chandler’s offensive efficiency has come to match his defensive prowess, making him one of the NBA’s best. Chandler at times appeared to be erring a bit close to over-the-hill territory in 2013, but he’s earned the benefit of the doubt after capturing NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2012 and steering a championship-level defense in 2011.

4. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
Hibbert unexpectedly rose this high after anchoring the NBA’s best defense last season and damn near leading an upset over the defending champs in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Miami Heat finally solved their Hibbert problem in Game 7, but next time they might not be so lucky.

3. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Howard dominated these lists for most of his career, but after two below-his-standards seasons, only a reactionary could leave Howard at #1, back injury or not. If he returns to even 75 percent of his former capacity he should climb right back up in 2013-14.

2. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Noah ekes out the silver after clearly demonstrating, in the absence of Derrick Rose, that he has the chops and the leadership to guide a formidable playoff squad.

1. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Gasol’s ascendancy to the top spot is not solely due to the apparent slide of long-time titleholder Dwight Howard, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Now the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Gasol has served as a linchpin in an impressive two-year run by the Grizzlies, and with an advanced skill set and barely 400 games on his NBA odometer, is the center most franchises would choose to build around.



  1. Philip J

    October 23, 2013 at 7:25 am

    To put Demarcus Cousins and Chris Bosh over the Centers who simply outplayed them and half the league (See Marcin Gortat, and Nikola Vucevic) shows you clearly missed a few games. Gortat’s maintained a double double average since moving into a starting role even on a team with as little going for it as Phoenix currently does. Vucevic was in a battle for rebounding champion last year, showed consistent offense, and was simply dominant, especially for a 2nd year guy. And against Bosh? Vucevic set an Orlando Magic record for rebounds (Over Shaq) and generally tore Miami apart every meeting. In part, the only reason Miami even survived those meetings was a MASSIVE imbalance in free throws given by the referees. (Wade and LeBron each got to shoot more FTs than the entire Orlando Magic squad.)

    • Stephen Oby Jr.

      October 23, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Thanks for the feedback. There were several names I would have liked to have included… this is the challenge with a Top 10 list. Have to whittle it down. From a stat-based perspective, there’s just very little doubt that Cousins surpasses the two names you mentioned:

      Gortat: 13 points and 9.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, 15.4 PER
      Vucevic: 14.2 and 12.9 per 36, 17.8 PER
      Cousins: 20.1 and 11.7 per 36, 20.2 PER

      This doesn’t account for how much better a passer Cousins is, either, although the other two admittedly get him on shot blocking. I have little doubt Vucevic will break onto this list soon (Gortat I just don’t see), but I just didn’t think he was there yet. To really be considered one of the NBA’s best centers, don’t you need to have had more than one strong season on a lottery team?

      As for Bosh, I wanted to acknowledge the importance of the small-ball center, and what a terrific job Bosh in particular has done in that role. I won’t get into your comments about the Miami-Orlando series, but from my perspective, playing out of position for consecutive title teams is a greater accomplishment than Gortat’s almost double double in Phoenix.

      • Philip J

        November 14, 2013 at 7:41 am

        Giving Bosh credit as a “Small Ball Center” is just pulling a rebranding in my book. He’s a PF trying to play C. Any time he runs into a team with an actual C, he gets demolished. As an Anti-Heat supporter, it brings a little tear to my eye every time. It’s not just Bosh in the wrong category that I dispute. (I would also lean towards bumping Horford from this list as well. He’s another PF playing as a C right now. When Atlanta had a true C worth using in Zaza, Horford saw the PF spot and did well.) If you’re going to do a list fo the PF/C crossover guys, that’d be different. In which case you’re looking at guys like Duncan, Love, A Davis, Ibaka, Aldridge, P Gasol. The game is more than just stats. If you can’t keep your attitude in check during the game, and in the locker room, you won’t do well on a team sport. L. James learned that lesson the hard way in Cleveland and his first year in Miami. That’s also a part of why Dwight has slid to #3. His attitude damaged team chemistry in Orlando, and it was never present in LA.
        This year, Vucevic has been averaging 16 pts, 12 boards, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block in 35 minutes. Gortat’s just getting into his new home in Washington and is already 13/10/1/1/2 in 33 minutes. Cousins has been strong with 22/10/1/2/1 30. Bosh has been a lame duck for the job he’s needed 17/6/1/0.4/2 30. But that’s still looking only by the direct stats. It ignores whether or not they help their team in other ways. In Orlando, Afflalo (SG) has been having a breakout year, in part through some much improved screen setting by Vucevic.
        (Time for class, I’ll add more later)

        • Stephen Oby Jr.

          November 14, 2013 at 8:03 am

          Whatever it is in your book, when you look at the Miami Heat depth chart, Bosh is listed at center. When they announce the team at the start of games, Bosh is the center. It’s not even something he switches back and forth with at this point (ala Horford)… check the frequent 5-man lineups and he’s always at center. Were we supposed to include a full-time center on the power forward list?!

          Fans’ perception of what a “true” center is (or any other position for that matter) is not only becoming obsolete, but at this point frankly IS obsolete, which is part of what’s so exciting about the modern NBA and a large part of the reason why Bosh was included. It felt appropriate to honor that transformation on this list.

          You say stats aren’t the most important thing, and then ridicule Bosh for his stats. Not really sure about that argument. If we’re giving credit for intangibles, Bosh played out of position for consecutive championship teams, and took his lumps like a pro in the process. I have no qualms at all about including him here.

          Lastly: Gortat was never making this list. Be real. I wonder whether he’d even make a Top 20.

          • Philip J

            November 16, 2013 at 5:24 pm

            Taking a break from studying to respond again. (Yes, this is my idea of a break from Pathology.) To call any position obsolete is a mistake in my opinion. There’s multiple ways to play the game, and the “small-ball” game has been around for a while. The biggest key change is Miami spent 60+ million getting 3 big names to do it. And while they’ve been a surprisingly dominant team, even they have tried to acquire a true C. Birdman, Oden, even Pittman were all attempts to have a proper C inside. The fact that you wrote this list at all shows that the classic C is still alive and well. And of your top 5, the only non-conventional C of the group is Noah. For a proper C, in rough order of rank, Howard, M. Gasol, Hibbert, Cousins, B Lopez, Vucevic, Noah, Pekovic, Chandler, Gortat, D Jordan, McGee, S Hawes, Asik. (This isn’t everybody, but the clusters work in a way. 1-3, 5-10, onward.) Those are the 2 big clusters where if you go by the combos of stats, and the harder intangibles, you get groupings of guys. If you want to go by stats alone, looking at Gortat’s this year, and the past few years, I wonder how you find 20 Centers above him in rank.
            (As a note, aside from a slight dip last year, PPG/RPG/BPG on Gortat, 15.4/10/1.5, and as he came off the bench in Orlando before eventually seeing the start in Phx 10.2/7.9/1.1. I think the reason you don;t think much of him is because he hasn’t been on a decent team since his earliest years as the backup to Dwight in Orlando. I’ll be very interested to see this year where this “Not even top 20” guy will stand against a couple of the names you have listed here now that he’s on a decent “ish” team in Washington.

  2. Philip J

    November 29, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    As a note, roughly 17 games into the season, Gortat and Vucevic’s numbers virtually across the board beat Bosh, Jefferson, Noah, and Chandler’s. (Though I will give Chandler a break, since he was just getting warmed up it seemed when he was injured.) At the moment, those two have been rather useful guys anchoring my fantasy team. 😀

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