In a league where there are very few dominant centers, a good center can completely change the complexion of a game. He can be a go to scorer on the offensive end and a shut down defender on the defensive end. However this is a rare combination. There are very few great centers in the NBA today, but here are the five closest.
1. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard is by far the most dominant center in the NBA today. However, he still has much room for improvement. Howard is 6'11" and one big huge muscle that dominates the lane defensively. He has yet to demand the ball offensively in order to show that he can take over a game and seems to lack a large repertoire of go to post moves.
Howard is still averaging 17.9 points per game and shooting a solid 60 percent from the field, and if the Magic could get him more touches, then he could truly assert his dominance. Howard is snagging 13.4 rebounds and blocking 2.8 shots per game, which shows that he can completely change the game without even getting the ball down low. If Howard can develop a solid set of post moves, he could become one of the greatest centers to ever play.
2. David Lee
Lee is averaging 20 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, which are far better numbers than that of all star Al Horford. Look for David Lee to come back out fired up because this situation is the epitome of an all star snub. David Lee has done nothing but get better over the course of his NBA career, and I'd be willing to bet that he will continue to get better.
Lee gets out and runs the fast break well and can also catch and finish incredibly well. He has a decent back to the basket game and also a pretty good face up jump shot. If Lee continues to improve over the next few years, look for him to get voted into the all star game sooner rather than later.
3. Andrew Bynum
Andrew Bynum has as much upside as any player in the NBA. Bynum is 22 and in his fourth year in the NBA—you can tell by the ups and downs his game takes. Bynum is averaging 15.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this year, which are some of the best numbers of his career. Bynum is playing along a star studded group of players that include Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, which takes a large load off of him, so we'll have to see what he does without two stars on his team.
Bynum's biggest problem is his inconsistency. One night he'll show up and score 20 points and have 12 boards, and the next night he'll show up and have eight points. If Bynum will learn some of Gasol's go to post moves, he could slowly but surely become a better player and one of the game's elite players at any position.
4. Brook Lopez
Lopez has turned into the lone bright spot of the Nets' season, other than the fact that they could draft John Wall in the 2010 NBA draft. Lopez is averaging 19 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game, which are great stats for the second year player out of Stanford.
Brook, who enjoys reading comics with his twin brother Robin, also enjoys dominating other centers in the NBA. Lopez is one of the smartest players in the league and is averaging 2.3 assists per game, which is great for a center. He is athletic and possibly one of the hardest working players in the league, and it shows in his improvement between year one and year two.
If Lopez continues to improve his game, we will be seeing him in the all star game within the next three years. However, imagine this possibility John Wall and Brook Lopez on the same team.
5. Al Jefferson
Like Lopez, Jefferson is a bright spot for an absolutely terrible team. Al Jefferson is nearly averaging a double-double, putting up 17.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, and a little over a block per game. Jefferson, at 6'10" and 255 pounds, isn't afraid to get down in the paint and bang bodies with the other big men. He also has a couple great back to the basket moves.
Jefferson is the only guy shooting below 50 percent for the season, but that is somewhat explainable because he is playing for one of the worst teams in the NBA. Jefferson is a very consistent player but never comes out and drops 30 in a night (his high is 25), but he'll also always come out and play well. Jefferson is a consistent player who any team in the NBA would absolutely love to have simply because he comes to play on a nightly basis.
Honorable Mention: Marc Gasol, Al Horford