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NBA Season Preview: Top 10 Centers

2014-15 NBA SEASON PREVIEW CONTENT LIST

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Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Well NBA fans, the time is almost upon us. With preseason across the league in full swing, it’s a good time to rank the 10 best players of certain positions in the NBA. In this article, we will focus on the top 10 centers entering the 2014-15 season. Let’s get started.

Honorable Mentions: Marcin Gortat, Nerlens Noel, Nikola Pekovic, Tiago Splitter, JaVale McGee, Tyson Chandler, Omer Asik, Jonas Valanciunas, Anderson Varejao, Robin Lopez, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan.

10. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
2013-14 Stats: 17 GP, 31.4 MPG, 20.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG, .563 FG, .817 FT, 25.5 PER

Brook Lopez checks in at number 10 and it’s quite a shame considering he’s much more talented. When healthy, Lopez is arguably the most dynamic scorer at his position and perhaps Brooklyn’s go-to guy. He does have his Achilles heel when it comes to rebounding as there are shooting guards and small forwards that can out-rebound him. He can also stand to improve his shot blocking, but the biggest issue with Brook has been his health. He’s already had several foot injuries that cost him a couple of years in his career. If he can stay healthy, don’t be surprise if he puts together another All-Star season.

9. Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors
2013-14 Stats: 67 GP, 26.4 MPG, 7.3PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.7 APG, .627 FG, .344 FT, 17.1 PER

Andrew Bogut isn’t what he used to be in his days as a Milwaukee Buck. Like Lopez, Bogut has had his fair share of run-ins with the injury bug in recent years. He’s also been pretty limited on the offensive end of the floor, but he understands his role. That said, Bogut is still one of the best defensive centers in the league, posting the second best defensive rating at 96.3. One can’t help but wonder what if he was healthy for the Golden State Warriors heading into the playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers. Andrew Bogut won’t log in 82 games this season, but if he can stay healthy for the Dubs down the stretch, they’ll be one fierce opponent to face.

8. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Stats: 81 GP, 32.3 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.2 SPG, .623 FG, .418 FT, 22.6 PER

Andre Drummond, in two seasons, is already one of the league’s young star big men. He has his limitations on offense as he gets his points mostly on putbacks, alley oops, and his occasional Magic Johnson moment when he steals the ball and goes coast to coast for an easy deuce. It’s also fair to mention that if he got into a free-throw shooting contest with Air Bud, he’d probably lose by a fair margin. All of that aside, Drummond has the tools, and the coaching staff (Detroit hired former Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy) to finally begin making his mark in the NBA.

7. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
2013-14 Stats: 57 GP, 31.8 MPG, 14.2 PPG, 11.0 RPG, .507 FG, .766 FT, 18.8 PER

Nikola Vucevic was an unknown following the big 2012 four team trade in which he replaced a former super star big man in Orlando. Two seasons later, Vucevic has emerged as a top rebounder at the center position and a consistent performer. His defense and rim protection leaves a lot to be desired as he allowed opponents to convert 56.3% at the rim. He may not be a defensive juggernaut his predecessor was, his rebounding and offensive repertoire makes up for it. At just 24 years old, Vucevic has the talent to vault himself as one of the top centers in the eastern conference. Whether he does or not remains to be seen.

6. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
2013-14 Stats: 29 GP, 33.0 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.5 BPG, .567 FG, .364 3PT, .682 FT, 22.0 PER

Here at number six we have Al Horford, one of the NBA’s talented and productive stretch fives. For the most part, Horford has been healthy for the Atlanta Hawks, but he was hit with a freak pectoral injury that cost him the season, as well as almost costing the Hawks their ticket into the playoffs and nearly ending their seven year playoff streak. When healthy, Horford makes the Hawks one of the top three teams in the east. Luckily for the Hawks, pectoral injuries aren’t as dangerous to a big man as a foot injury so Horford should be primed to return to form this season. With Paul Millsap who is considered one of the league’s underrated players in the frontcourt, as well as Jeff Teague emerging as one of the more talented young point guards in the east, Al Horford should be able to play more freely and perhaps return to his All-Star form.

5. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
2013-14 Stats: 71 GP, 34.2 MPG, 22.7 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.5 BPG, .496 FG, .726 FT, 26.1 PER

DeMarcus Cousins lands at the fifth spot of my rankings. This past season he had a career year; posting career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, and field goal percentage. Cousins arguably has the talent to be the best center in the league. His talent is undeniable, although his defense could use improvement. That said, he always seems to shoot himself in the foot. Whether it’s arguing with the referees, or barking at his teammates or coaches, the mental parts of Cousins’ game seems to hold him back. He did take a step in the right direction this summer as he was one of Team USA’s consistent players and was a modeled citizen aside from one incident where, understandably, was an impulse away from giving Jonas Valanciunas what for. If he can get the mental part of the game under control, I don’t see anything that can stop Cousins from becoming an All-Star.

4. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
2013-14 Stats: 59 GP, 33.4 MPG, 14.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.0 SPG, .473 FG, .768 FT, 18.2 PER

Marc Gasol would probably in the top three if it weren’t for the MCL sprain he suffered against the Orlando Magic last season which caused him to miss 23 games. He may not be a great rebounder, but that doesn’t have much merit when you remember that he’s a year removed from winning Defensive Player of the Year. Using his size and technical skills in a system that makes its bread and butter by putting teams in an offensive nightmare gauntlet, Gasol makes life for interior players miserable. He is also very capable of running an offense at the elbow; whether it be swinging the ball, driving to the basket, posting up, finding cutters, or knocking down jumpers from the elbow.

3. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Hornets
2013-14 Stats: 73 GP, 35.0 MPG, 21.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, .509 FG, .690 FT, 22.7 PER

Some may disagree with this and probably for good reason. However, the Charlotte Bobcats – now Hornets – went from the joke of the NBA to one of the surprise up-and-comers, and Al Jefferson had a lot to do with it. Already known as one of the best post scorers in the NBA, Big Al became arguably the best post scorer in the east under first year head coach Steve Clifford, leading Charlotte to its first playoff berth since 2010.  Heading into his second year with a new, emerging backcourt in Kemba Walker and a new teammate in Lance Stephenson, Jefferson looks to lead the new Charlotte Hornets back on another playoff run.

2. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
2013-14 Stat: 80 GP, 35.3 MPG, 12.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.2 SPG, .475 FG, .737 FT, 20.0 PER

You could argue that Joakim Noah was practically the best center last year. With the loss of Nate Robinson to free agency, Derrick Rose to a freak season-ending injury, and Loul Deng via trade, many expected the Chicago Bulls to bottom and bring in another hometown hero in Jabari Parker. Luckily, Joakim Noah was there to say otherwise. Noah went on to the lead an undermanned Bulls team to 48 wins, all the while leading the NBA in defensive rating (95.8), and defensive win shares (6.6). I should also mention that Joakim Noah is probably the most versatile center in the NBA. When he wasn’t defending out of his mind, he was running the offense as evidence of his team leading 5.4 assists per game. His numbers may take a hit with Derrick Rose returning, and Pau Gasol joining him in the frontcourt, but I’m sure Noah will be fine overall.

1. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
2013-14 Stats: 71 GP, 33.7 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 12.RPG, 1.8 BPG, .591 FG, .547 FT, 21.4 PER

Dwight Howard comes in at number one and for good reason.  In his first year as a Houston Rocket, Howard seemed to gain back some of his explosiveness and play more freely. Now by no means does this mean he’ll return to his 2011 form at which he was a serious MVP candidate. That ship has sailed, but you cannot deny the fact that he took a weak Rockets defense to 13th best in the league in defensive rating. Howard is still a game-changer on defense and is still capable of putting the team on his back offensively, as he did in the playoffs where he averaged 26.0 points and 13.7 rebounds. He’s not as athletic as he was during his days as Superman of the Orlando Magic, but he’s back to taking more post game lessons from Houston Rocket great, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon now. Dwight has the tools to reclaim the throne as the best center in the NBA. All he has to do is take it.

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