The center position is very notoriously lacking in 2012.
Perhaps the best center in the NBA, Dwight Howard, has been nothing short of dominant this year, while seemingly being uninterested. In other words, competition at the center position isn't what it used to be.
However, with all that being said, there are more good centers in the NBA than many people realize.
While compiling this list, it was not easy to whittle the list down to only 15 guys. Some very good centers had to be left off the list. Sorry, Chris Kaman and Kendrick Perkins.
A couple of clarifications before starting. First, these are only guys listed as a center by ESPN.com. If their position designation is good enough for the "World Wide Leader," then it is good enough for me. This means no Amare Stoudemire, no Chris Bosh and no Pau Gasol.
Secondly, this list also does not include guys out with serious injuries. So, Brooke Lopez, Al Horford and Andrew Bogut are all left out in the cold.
Finally, all stats are complied from ESPN.com and are up to date as of February 1st.
8.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 19.95 PER
Samuel Dalembert is playing as well as he has in his entire career. The Rockets, who many expected to be down this year, are sitting at 12-10, and Dalembert is a big part of it.
Dalembert seems to have found a home in Houston playing alongside Luis Scola and Kevin Martin. He is close to putting up a double-double and is fifth in the NBA in blocks.
Dalembert is finally realizing some of his potential. If he continues to improve, he could be a very good inside presence offensively and defensively.
8.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.9 bpg, 16.86 PER
Is DeAndre Jordan as good as the attention he has been getting? Hard to say.
In the offseason after the Chris Paul trade, all two weeks of it, Jordan was often mentioned as the "other guy" with Blake Griffin and CP3.
Jordan can jump. That is for sure. He is second in the league in blocks and is second on his team in rim-rattling dunks.
DeAndre Jordan is a great shot blocker, a fantastic leaper and a good rebounder. A medium range jumper would make him even better.
The rumor is that Kenyon Martin is joining Lob City. If that is the case, Jordan may benefit from the attention paid to K-Mart and Blake Griffin and could shoot up this list.
11.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 19.45 PER
Javale McGee is the best center in the league ... or so he and his mother think.
McGee is a freak of an athlete. He can score and rebound with some of the best centers in the league, and he leads the NBA with three blocks per game. Yet he seems to be not using his talent as well as he could.
McGee might mature into one of the best centers in the league. His jumping ability is already near the top of the league. The mystery about McGee is: Will he ever be a good player on a contending team? The Wizards are a bad NBA team. Sometimes bad teams make players look better, because they are asked to do more.
McGee has all the talent in the world. In five years, he could be one of the best centers in the league, or still toiling away in Washington, not getting the national attention someone with his talents should be getting.
(8.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 17.52 PER)
Joakim Noah is a hard guy for me to write about. I hate the Bulls. I dislike Noah. I don't mind his intensity; in fact, I admire it.
However, you can't have a guy like Noah on your team, and then get on a team (the Pacers) for celebrating a big victory in their locker room. The emotion is just fine—just don't have a double standard about it.
Now that that is off my chest, as for Noah himself, he is a bit of an enigma.
He is far better and more effective than many expected when he entered the league. He plays great defense and is a definite glue guy who will do anything to help the team.
Is he as good as Bulls fans think? No. He is an important piece of the Bulls quest for a title, but I felt the same way about Kurt Thomas last year. He wasn't getting the praise that Noah gets.
Noah is good. If the Bulls win a title, he will have a lot to do with it. Let's just not get carried away and think he is a top-10 center in the league.
15.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 21.81 PER
Since coming to Phoenix, Gortat has continued to become more comfortable as the man inside. Obviously, if Steve Nash leaves town, like many think could happen, Gortat could take a big hit to his numbers.
Nash makes everybody better. Gortat is playing second fiddle to Nash right now. Without Nash, how will Gortat perform? Will his numbers remain as impressive as they are right now?
We may find out very soon.
11.0 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 20.10 PER
Tyson Chandler is a guy who cannot be properly measured by statistics.
He is still putting up a double-double in New York, but his on-court leadership and ability to make a team's defense much better are not measurable.
Chandler has championship experience and has achieved a level of maturity that allows him to play to his own skills. He isn't going to consistently hit a 15-foot jumper and he knows that.
But he will give you maximum effort on the defensive end, and get 10 or 11 points a game on dunks and putbacks.
The Knicks aren't complaining about Chandler.
15.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 0.5 bpg, 23.38 PER
The Detroit Pistons are really bad, but Greg Monroe is really good.
Monroe's numbers are impressive. His PER is fantastic. Getting almost 16 and 10 from a mobile center who can run the court is an incredible luxury in the NBA today.
Detroit isn't going anywhere this season, but Monroe is a very nice building block. He has quickly developed into one of the best young centers in the league.
12.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 18.89 PER
Tim Duncan is not what he used to be five or ten years ago—that is no secret. But due to the fact that most NBA fans got bored with the Spurs about seven years ago, we have forgotten how good Tim Duncan can be.
Duncan is still putting up almost 13 points a game. (As I said in the intro, these stats are up to date as of Feb 1st; since then Duncan has had two big games of 25 and 19 points.)
In his prime, Duncan was an automatic double-double. Now, he is a little less than that, but he can come through whenever he is needed.
Just because he isn't what he used to be, he is still Tim Duncan. The Spurs continue to win games. Duncan remains the savvy leader he has always been.
He may not be the best in the league anymore, but I would still take him.
14.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 18.05 PER
Nene was one of the biggest free agents on the market this summer. No offense to Nene, but that says something about the 2011 free agent class.
Nene is a very good center, but he is not in the top six.
The Nuggets are playing fantastic basketball, led by a balanced attack. Nene leads the team in rebounding, but Danilo Gallinari leads the team in scoring and Kenneth Farid leads the team in blocks. As I said, they are a balanced team.
If the Nuggets make a playoff run, Nene will be a huge part of it, but he's not as crucial to his team as some other centers.
17.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 21.41 PER
The Utah Jazz are 12-9. Not many people saw this start coming. The strong play of Al Jefferson is a big reason for this.
Jefferson is a monster inside. His numbers speak for themselves. His 21.41 PER is one of the highest for any center. He plays great defense and uses his big body to get easy shots.
Throughout his career, Al Jefferson has always been in less than ideal situations. It seemed like in Utah, with Deron Williams, he would shine. Now it appears that he didn't need Williams to shine.
14.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 20.92 PER
Call me biased because I am a Pacers fan—I don't care. Roy Hibbert has turned into a top-five center in the NBA.
Roy's numbers are impressive, but not nearly as impressive as they potentially could be if he were not on such a balanced team. The Pacers seemingly have a different leading scorer every night, or at least did until Danny Granger found his stroke in the last week.
Hibbert has both benefited and been hindered by that balance. He is asked to do less than he would on other teams, which has helped his growth and ability to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble. But his numbers take a hit.
Numbers aside, Hibbert is a force down low. He has been the Pacers go-to guy in a couple of big fourth quarters this season, most notably a week and a half ago in Los Angeles against the Lakers. Hibbert broke his nose and still outplayed Andrew Bynum.
Last week, the Pacers and Big Roy did not work out an extension, but if the season continues in Indiana like it has started, Hibbert may be in for a big pay day.
23.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 22.48 PER
Believe it. Andrea Bargnani is leading all centers in scoring.
Toronto is not a good basketball team. Nobody watches their games due to that fact. Having to play in Canada isn't doing them any favors either.
If people were watching, they would realize how good Bargnani has been.
Defensively, he could use some work. His rebounding and shot blocking could be better. But the guy can fill it up.
If Bargnani either gets some help in Toronto or signs with a team in the States in the near future, he will start to get the respect he deserves.
14.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 19.95 PER
Which Gasol brother is better on February 3rd, 2012? Did you ever think this would be a question? I sure didn't.
Marc Gasol has weathered Memphis's early struggles and the injury of Zach Randolph to have the Grizzlies still two games over .500.
Gasol isn't doing it by himself by any means. O.J. Mayo has been great down the stretch lately, as has Rudy Gay.
However, Gasol has not had much help inside. With the injuries to Randolph and Darrell Arthur, the paint has been Gasol's to patrol.
The Grizzlies were the surprise team last season in the playoffs with the 1-2 punch of Gasol and Randolph. If Z-Bo comes back healthy, they could be even better this year due to the steady improvement of Marc Gasol.
16.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 21.63 PER
Andrew Bynum is still a bit of an unknown. That may sound strange since this is his seventh year in the league, but besides his sophomore season, in which he played all 82 games, he has not exceeded 65 in a season.
Bynum has all the potential in the world, and having seen him in person, I can attest to the fact that he is one of those players whose size is not represented properly on TV. He is a massive man.
Bynum is starting the All-Star game this year, as well he should. The question on NBA fans' minds is: How long can he play at an All-Star level? I don't necessarily mean for his career, which is a whole different argument—I mean this season.
Can Bynum handle the rugged lockout-shortened schedule and have anything left in the tank for the playoffs? Hard to say.
The only certainty is that when he is healthy, he is a monster, second only to...
20.0 ppg, 15.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 24.02 PPR
Dwight Howard is the best center in the league. He singlehandedly has the Magic in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps the most impressive part is the way he has played despite not wanting to be in Orlando.
Howard leads all centers in PER and the entire NBA in rebounding by almost two whole rebounds. He is also, almost undoubtedly, the best defensive player in the league.
Dwight Howard may not be in Orlando for long, and he may be hurting his reputation just a little (whining about every call aside) by dragging out his trade request and seemingly adding the successful team of the week to his "list." But he remains the best center in the world right now.
Wherever he lands this season or next, that team will have a big advantage inside over every other team in the NBA.