Top 10 Centers in the NBA

Nikhil BaradwajSenior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2012

Top 10 Centers in the NBA

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    The center is an incredibly important position in the NBA, as this player usually needs to be proficient on both ends of the floor.

    Many of the greatest teams in NBA history had an anchor on the low-block, as evident from the Lakers of the 1980s and 2000s, both of which had elite centers in Shaquille O'Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who carried both teams to championships.

    Even last year, Dallas' Tyson Chandler was an X-factor in the Finals and helped lead the Mavericks to the NBA title.

    With that in mind, here are the top 10 centers in the league.

No. 10: Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons)

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    Greg Monroe has the potential to be a top-three center in the league for years to come while he anchors the Detroit Pistons' frontcourt.

    Monroe has averaged 14.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while being one of the top passing big men in the league. The offense goes through Monroe at times, and he takes on the role when he is called upon.

    However, he has not been consistent all year and only has averaged double-digit rebounds three times in 10 games. In the near future, look for Monroe to steadily climb this list.

No. 9: Al Jefferson (Utah Jazz)

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    Don't get me wrong: Al Jefferson is a fantasy gem and is one of the best offensive big men in the game currently.

    In fact, Jefferson is averaging 19.6 points and 8.9 rebounds for a young Jazz team and has been their anchor for the better part of this season.

    However, he will never sniff the top three-to-five of these rankings because of his horrendous defense, a trend evident throughout his career.

    The Jazz have a bevy of big men and might be inclined to trade Jefferson while his value is high.

No. 8: Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)

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    Joakim Noah is having a statistically worse season compared to his previous two monster years, but he is still a key cog of the Chicago Bulls.

    Noah's modest 7.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game can be attributed to the fact that he is playing a meager 26.5 minutes per game. In addition, the Bulls have many offensive weapons in Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton.

    If Noah can improve his rebound rate slightly and his shot-blocking drastically, the Bulls might actually be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

No. 7: Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks)

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    While I do realize that Tyson Chandler had his career season last year and played his way to a mega-contract with the Knicks, I completely agree that he's overhyped.

    However, I do buy into the results.

    Chandler is averaging 12.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for the Knicks while being the defensive presence they sorely needed. New York has the top frontcourt in the NBA when pairing Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony with Chandler.

    The jury is still out on him, considering that Chandler only reached his potential in his tenth year. Can he sustain this success for the next four years?

No. 6: Andrew Bogut (Milwaukee Bucks)

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    Andrew Bogut is very talented. I mean, the guy was the first overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft. However, injuries have continuously derailed his progress in the league.

    Currently, Bogut is averaging 14.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in four games of work and continues to be one of the more underrated defenders in the league. 

    If he can stay healthy for a full season while improving his chemistry with Brandon Jennings, the Bucks could easily find themselves in the playoffs in the shallow Eastern Conference.

    That "if" is a huge "if," as Bogut has not played in 70-plus games in over three years.

No. 5: Brook Lopez (New Jersey Nets)

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    I was really looking forward to Brook Lopez this year, as he seemed to have improved his rebounding over the offseason, while becoming much tougher on the glass.

    Alas, Lopez broke his foot in preseason action, and we will likely not see him for an extended period of time. Last year, he averaged 20.4 points and 6.0 rebounds as a Net.

    Lopez has been rumored in trade talks for the greater part of the offseason, and the Magic would love to still get a top-five center in return for Dwight Howard.

    If Lopez can return and average at least eight rebounds, the Magic might be content with him as the centerpiece of a trade package for Howard.

No. 4: Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks)

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    Al Horford is an elite center, who is not even playing the right position. In reality, he is better suited at the power forward and is slightly undersized at the 5.

    Even with this major disadvantage, Horford is averaging 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds, with a career average of 13 points and 10 rebounds. He is a solid defender, who is able to use his athleticism to his advantage against slower opponents.

    The three players higher than him are legitimate centers, and this is the most likely reason for him not cracking the top three.

    The Hawks need to consider acquiring a seven-footer to play alongside Horford, creating a lethal frontcourt.

No. 3: Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)

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    After the Memphis Grizzlies matched a four-year, $55 million deal made by the Rockets for Marc Gasol, they were expecting their center to play up to his contract. 

    To his credit, Gasol has been exceptional all year. He has averaged 13.3 points and 10.8 rebounds, while being an absolute beast in the paint.

    What is the most scary about Gasol is that he has improved every single year, and that he is only 26 years old.

    Gasol is a very good player, but he's not on the level of the top two players on this list. I do not see him being any higher on this list, especially with a bunch of top big men coming into the league in the next few years.

No. 2: Andrew Bynum (Los Angeles Lakers)

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    Andrew Bynum has been dominant this year, finally showing flashes of the brilliance that we expected when he came into the league.

    Bynum is averaging 17.9 points and 14.6 rebounds per game, while grabbing double-digit rebounds in six out of the seven contests he has appeared in. Bynum is also becoming a better defender, as he has 12 blocks so far.

    Bynum needs to do two things for Los Angeles: stay healthy and turn the ball over less. Staying healthy is far more important, as the Lakers could fall in the first round of the playoffs without him.

No. 1: Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic)

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    Is there even a debate? Dwight Howard is far and away the best center in the league. There are no ways around it.

    Howard is averaging 18.6 points and 14.6 rebounds per game, even with Ryan Anderson getting 18.0 points from the power forward position. He is even the top defender in the game, winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards.

    As it looks, Howard has six to seven years left to dominate the league, as he has missed only seven games in his seven-year career. He will probably be wearing a different uniform next season, because he seems discontent with his situation in Orlando.