NBA Free Agents 2012: Underrated Centers Still on the Market

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NBA Free Agents 2012: Underrated Centers Still on the Market
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Dwight Howard isn't the only center worth pursuing this summer. It won't be the end of the world for teams like the Nets or the Mavericks if they fail to land Superman via trade.

Though none of these guys are going to knock anybody's socks off with their defensive prowess, there are plenty of solid options for backup centers on the free-agent market this year. Even better, teams won't have to give up half of their rosters in order to get them, and these players aren't going to cost much at all.

Here's a look at some of the free-agent centers still available who can make an unexpected impact off the bench in 2012-13.  

Ronny Turiaf

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When he opted out of his contract with the Heat following this year's championship run, Turiaf essentially signaled the end of his short stint with Miami. The Heat went with Dexter Pittman rather than Turiaf, leaving him to explore the free-agent market, where he could find some success.

The seven-year vet isn't going to start for anyone, but he could be a solid bench option who can log over 15 minutes per game and make his presence known on the boards. Plus, he's smart with his shot selection; he's never attempted a three-pointer in his career, which is always a plus for a backup center.

Teams looking for a cheap, experienced defensive post presence off the bench could find their guy in Turiaf, and according to his agent, Mark Bartelstein, the calls are already rolling in: Bartelstein told the Sun Sentinel's Shandel Richardson that he has received "a lot of interest" from teams.

Hasheem Thabeet

This is someone whose NBA career has all but officially been declared a bust. Since he was selected by the Grizzlies with the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, he's played for three teams and has had little success with any of them, never averaging more than 13 minutes or 3.6 rebounds per game.

But it may be too early to close the book on Thabeet, and a team willing to give him a shot could be pleasantly surprised. He's an extremely low-risk signing at this point, and if he ever lives up to his potential, he still has time to develop into a decent NBA center.

It takes a long time to develop big men in this league, and Thabeet only has three years of experience under his belt. Furthermore, he's never been with one team long enough to truly begin to get a feel for any system, and no team has been willing to expend the time and patience necessary to nurture him. 

Thabeet is only 25 years old; there's still hope for him.

If you needed a backup center, whom would you go for?

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Greg Stiemsma

The Celtics were notoriously soft in the middle this season until Kevin Garnett transitioned into a role as a center, but Stiemsma wasn't a terrible option to spell him off the bench.

Despite the fact that he only has one year of NBA experience (and 50 games worth of D-league experience), he established a decent defensive presence for Boston, logging 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just 13.9 minutes per game. He's only 26 years old, so he still has room to develop.

As a restricted free agent, he doesn't have the same freedom to explore the market as some of the other available centers, but he's still managed to draw interest from the Timberwolves, who hosted the center over the weekend. If the Celtics decline to match any offers he receives, he will be a solid pickup as a backup.

Tony Battie

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Even at 36, Tony Battie still has it. He may have averaged less than two points per game in 2011-12, and his per-game points and rebounds totals may have been perilously bad over the last four years, but he offers a young team a veteran presence up front who can still log around 15 minutes per game.

The Sixers are in the midst of a rebuilding process and don't have any use for an aging center, but as free agency winds down, Battie could be a solid pickup for a team that still needs a backup.

There are plenty of teams that could still use a cheap, 6'11" veteran up front to help nurture the younger, inexperienced players. 

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