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Spotlighting and Breaking Down Washington Wizards' Center Position

Veteran center Emeka Okafor led the Wizards on defense last year, and ended up finishing first on the team in blocks and rebounds per game.
Veteran center Emeka Okafor led the Wizards on defense last year, and ended up finishing first on the team in blocks and rebounds per game.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Jonathan MunshawCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2013

When most non-Washington Wizards fans think of the Wizards, they think of point guard John Wall, followed by shooting guard Bradley Beal.

What they often don't think about is the center position, consisting mainly of Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin. 

While the Wizards weren't a very good offensive team last season, they did finish the season as the eighth-best defense in the NBA, mainly due to their big men at the center and power forward positions. 

However, there are some question marks surrounding the center position in the 2013-2014 season.

Okafor will turn 31 this season and is on the last year of his contract with the Wizards. There's a possibility that the veteran center is packaged with small forward Trevor Ariza in a trade to unload two of the largest contracts on Washington's payroll. 

But, assuming Okafor spends the whole season with the Wizards, he will bring a different dimension to the roster that they would surely miss if they lost him.

The 6'10" former UConn Huskie had his worst offensive year last season, finishing with a career-low in points per game. But Okafor led Washington in blocks and rebounds per game, and shot 57 percent from the charity stripe, his best average since the 2008-09 season.

His field-goal percentage was a career-low, but he was an exceptional low-post shooter, putting away 57 percent of the shots he took from less than eight feet, according to NBA.com stats.

When Beal or Wall would miss jumpers, Okafor always seemed to be there for the put-back and was able to grind out some late minutes. 

His shelf life is going to expire soon, so his value isn't going to get any higher than it is now—that is why a trade is a distinct possibility, especially considering he'll be making $14.5 million this year. 

If Okafor is traded, Seraphin would be the likely heir to the throne. Seraphin is an underrated young player on Washington's roster, who could grow around the other young players. 

Although he only started eight games, Seraphin split playing time with Okafor, appearing in about 21 minutes per game. 

In five less minutes than Okafor, Seraphin averaged about the same amount of points and pulled down four rebounds per game, three of them on defense.

When John Wall missed the first part of the season, Seraphin became more of an offensive threat, putting up double-digit point totals in eight games during the first month of the season.

Washington does have more offensive weapons now than it did when Wall was injured—if given the opportunity—Seraphin can score, especially below the basket. Out of all the shots he took last season, 48 percent of them were under the basket from inside eight feet, according to NBA.com stats. 

While Seraphin and Okafor were the two main centers to get playing time in the 2012-13 season, power forward Nenê could also see some time at center.

Now that the Wizards have signed veteran power forward Al Harrington, there could be points in games where coach Randy Wittman could decide to keep both Harrington and Nenê on the floor. Harrington to stretch out the floor, and Nenê to pick up rebounds and score from down low. 

Nenê will spend most of his time (if he can stay healthy) starting at power forward, but mixing up the lineup to get Harrington and Nenê on the floor at the same time could be a good change of pace.

The center position is the most under-valued on the Wizards, especially with all the hype in Washington surrounding Wall's new contract and the recently drafted Otto Porter.

If the centers produce and once again make the Wizards a defense-first team, there's no doubt they'll be looking at a playoff spot.

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