Ranking Chris Kaman Among the 5 Best Centers Dirk Nowitzki Has Ever Played With

Ross Bentley@@imrossbentleySenior Analyst ISeptember 2, 2012

Ranking Chris Kaman Among the 5 Best Centers Dirk Nowitzki Has Ever Played With

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    Over the course of his storied career with the Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki has rarely had the privilege of playing alongside many great centers.

    Although he has played with All-Star players like Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd for whatever reason, the centers in the Cuban/Nowitzki era have been consistently below average. 

    However, Nowitzki has been able to play with at least a few capable big men, as he will this year when former All-Star Chris Kaman comes to town, along with Elton Brand (who I am considering a power forward for this article).  

    Including Kaman, here is a list of the top five centers that have played alongside Dirk Nowitzki in his career. 

5. Christian Laettner

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    Christian Laettner oftentimes gets the reputation as a bust in the NBA. This may be true, especially when you compare his college and pro careers. 

    However, Laettner actually had a few decent NBA seasons, especially early on. In his rookie year for Minnesota, Laettner averaged over 18 points a game and was named to the NBA's First Team All-Rookie squad.

    In 1997 when playing for the Atlanta Hawks, Laettner was an All-Star for the only time in his career.

    By the time he got to Dallas in 2000 his game was on the decline. However, he still manages to crack the top five centers who have played with Dirk Nowitzki.

    In his one season as a Mav, Laettner averaged 7.5 points and 4.0 rebounds while playing only 53 total games. 

4. Erick Dampier

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    Fifteen-year veteran Erick Dampier spent six of his years in the NBA playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki with the Dallas Mavericks.

    Dampier was never a great scoring center in his career. In fact, he never averaged more than 12.3 PPG and failed to average double figures with the Mavericks. 

    However, Dampier was the starting center on several of Dallas' greatest teams, including the 2006 season in which they reached the NBA finals.

    Although Dampier was often an easy target due to his lack of offensive skill, he brought a defensive intensity that the Mavs were mostly lacking during the mid 2000's. 

    Dampier was also a solid rebounder, never averaging less than seven per game in his Dallas career. 

3. Raef LaFrentz

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    Raef LaFrentz spent a year-and-a-half of his nine-year career playing in Dallas, in between the two teams people remember him the most for, the Nuggets and the Celtics.

    LaFrentz was traded to the Mavs in February 2002, in the middle of his most successful season as a pro.

    That year, LaFrentz averaged 14.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG and led the Western Conference in blocked shots with 213, finishing only behind Ben Wallace for the league lead. 

    LaFrentz struggled in his only full season with Dallas in 2002-2003, playing in only 43 games while averaging 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. 

    Still, LaFrentz ranks right among the best centers to play with Nowitzki when you look at his career as a whole.

    LaFrentz was always a consistent threat to score down low, and although he never carried a team, he was a solid big man during his prime, including his time in Dallas. 

2. Chris Kaman

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    Although he may not receive the media attention of some other big men, Chris Kaman has been consistently one of the top centers in the NBA for the last several seasons.

    Kaman played with the Clippers until last year when he joined the New Orleans Hornets. He has averaged double figures in points, as well as at least seven rebounds per contest each of the last six seasons. 

    In the 2009-2010 season, Kaman made his first All-Star team and averaged a career best 18.5 PPG. This season, Kaman will join forces with German national teammate Dirk Nowitzki to form a formidable frontcourt combination out west.

    Kaman narrowly misses out on being the best center Dirk has played with, but he's a drastic improvement over what Nowitzki had last season, and for the most part every season he has been a Maverick. 

1. Tyson Chandler

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    Although Tyson Chandler may not have the stats that some other players on this list have, he has easily had the biggest impact on his time with the Mavericks and with Dirk Nowitzki.

    Chandler is a defense-first kind of player, and with him leading the charge on defense and Nowitzki doing the same on offense, the Mavericks captured their first ever NBA championship in 2011.

    Chandler has been up and down his entire career, but at his best, his hard-nosed defensive style as well as his rebounding and finishing ability make him one of the top centers in the league.

    Chandler is the only player on this list who won a title with the Mavericks, and he was instrumental in that championship season. Therefore, he takes the title of best center that has ever played with Dirk Nowitzki.