NBA Power Rankings: Dwight Howard, Kendrick Perkins and All 30 Starting Centers

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: Dwight Howard, Kendrick Perkins and All 30 Starting Centers

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    Dwight Howard is quietly having the best season of his career.

    He may not be in Orlando for much longer, but right now, his dominance is keeping the Magic near the top of the Eastern Conference.

    A truly elite center is hard to come by in today's NBA. With that in mind, any team Howard plays for has to be considered a contender.

    He's the best center in the league, and has been for a while. 

    Before this season started, I ranked all 30 players who were projected to be their team's starting center.

    We're now two-thirds of the way through this season. Let's see how much those rankings have changed...

30: Erick Dampier

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    The Dallas Mavericks are my team. With that in mind, Erick Dampier was probably my least favorite player from 2004 to 2010.

    He's had one truly productive season in his 15-year career, and that year earned him millions.

    His ineptitude has been a big part of Miami's recent struggles, and Erik Spoelstra should be reprimanded for starting him. 

    The Heat are 2-5 in Dampier's starts, and the wins came against Sacramento and Washington.

29: Ronny Turiaf

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    Ronny Turiaf has been mediocre at best throughout his NBA career. And this season has probably been his worst (at least statistically).

    New York got worse (at least in the short term) when they traded for Carmelo Anthony. If they can find a legitimate center to play alongside Amar'e Stoudemire, they could be a lot better next year.

28: Robin Lopez

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    Considering the way Marcin Gortat has played this year, it's getting more difficult to understand why Robin Lopez starts (as if it wasn't difficult enough to understand last year).

    Maybe it's the fact that he runs around with that scowl on his face, and huffs and puffs like he's going to blow someone's house down.

    Maybe Alvin Gentry thinks he's a good enforcer?

27: Darko Milicic

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    Milicic is having the best year of his career, averaging nine points, five rebounds and two blocks per game. 

    What does that mediocre production tell you about the rest of his career?

    At 25 years old, and most of the way through his eighth NBA season, even Minnesota fans have to admit that he'll probably never develop into a good player in this league.

26: Kwame Brown

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    Kwame Brown's career has shown signs of life this year.

    He's averaging around seven points and seven rebounds per game.

    Unfortunately for the Bobcats' Michael Jordan (who selected Kwame with the top overall pick in 2001), he's still one of the biggest busts in NBA Draft history.

25: DeAndre Jordan

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    DeAndre Jordan is talked about in a way that would lead me to believe he's a lot better than he is.

    He's very athletic and having an all-right year, but he has a long way to go before he's a good NBA center. 

    He's one of the worst free-throw shooters I've ever seen (40 percent for his career), and has almost no post moves to speak of.

    There is a decent amount of potential there, though.

24: Andris Biedrins

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    Just a couple years ago, people were starting to talk about Andris Biedrins becoming a very good center. 

    During the 2008-09 season, he averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds a game. The year before, he led the NBA in field goal percentage at 63.

    Since then, he's dealt with injuries and had his field-goal attempts cut in half. Right now, it's hard to imagine him ever returning to that old form (at least not on this team). 

    Golden State has already drafted his replacement in Ekpe Udoh.

23: Spencer Hawes

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    Hawes has actually been fairly productive in the limited amount of time he gets in Philadelphia.

    He's averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes.

    He doesn't spend as much time on the floor as he may deserve because 76ers coach Doug Collins uses a lot of smaller lineups with Elton Brand playing center.

22: Chuck Hayes

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    Chuck Hayes is the shortest starting center in the NBA.  

    At 6'6", he's actually an inch shorter than me (and I've never played center, not even in high school).

    His success at that position is quite impressive. Even if his career numbers don't jump off the stat sheet, the way he competes against guys who are usually about a half-foot taller than him says a lot.

    He's having the best year of his career (by far), with averages of seven points and seven rebounds per game.

21: JaVale McGee

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    McGee is extremely athletic for a seven footer (as evidenced by his stellar performance in this year's dunk contest).

    He still has a lot of fundamental big-man skills that he needs to develop.

20: Nenad Krstic

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    I have friend who is a die-hard Celtics fan. He was thoroughly disappointed when news of the Kendrick Perkins trade broke.

    I'm not a Celtics fan, and the same news made me fear Boston a lot more than I did before the deadline.  I tried to explain why that trade made the C's better, and after five games, my friend may be coming around.

    Boston is 5-0 since they dealt Perkins (who hadn't played much in Boston this year anyway), and the center they got in return is playing quite well.

    As a Celtic, Krstic is averaging 12 points per game on 57 percent shooting. He's also pitching in five rebounds a game.

    Offensively, he's been more effective than anyone Boston's started at center this season.

19: J.J. Hickson

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    Hickson was thought to be the great, young talent that Cleveland could possibly build around following the departure of LeBron James.

    He's had a few statistical outbursts this season, but he's also been horribly inconsistent. He's scoring about 13 points a game on 45 percent shooting (not a good percentage for a center).

    He's also undersized for the position, but necessity has forced him into that role for now.

18: Greg Monroe

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers are suffering from the loss of their "king" and have the fewest wins of any team in the league. However, they're not the most dysfunctional squad in the NBA.

    That would be the Detroit Pistons. 

    One of the lone bright spots for this team has been rookie center Greg Monroe.

    He's only averaging eight points and seven rebounds per game, but his numbers have been rising steadily along with his minutes.

    In the new year, he's averaging around 12 points and nine rebounds a game.

17: Roy Hibbert

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    Hibbert got off to a great start this season.

    He was one of the most productive centers in the league during October and November, but his production has tapered off significantly in the last few months.

    He's 7'2" and has the potential to be a great big man, but he has a lot that he still needs to work on. 

    He can definitely improve his rebounding and shooting percentage.

16: Marc Gasol

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    After his solid sophomore campaign, I thought Marc Gasol might be on the verge of becoming a great center.

    But this year has been something of a step back for Gasol, posting career lows in points and rebounds per game.

    It's kind of hard to understand why his production's taken such a hit this year. With O.J. Mayo in the doghouse on most nights and completely out of the rotation on others, you'd think Gasol would have gotten more opportunities to score this year.

    That simply hasn't happened.

    I still think he can become a solid center, but he's running out of time. He's in his third season in the league, but he's already 26.  

    Makes me wonder if he's already hit his ceiling.

15: Kendrick Perkins

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    I've thought of Kendrick Perkins as the most overrated big man in the league for several years now.

    With that scowl and general "I'm trying to look tougher than I actually am" attitude, he's always come off as more bark than bite.

    Since the "Big Three" came to Boston, he's had some decent years in terms of field goal percentage. But that was due to the fact that defenses paid him no mind and focused all their attention on Rondo, Allen, Pierce and Garnett.

    The one thing he does do fairly well is defend. And that talent will be put to good use in Oklahoma City.

    Perkins and power forward Serge Ibaka may come together and form the best defensive frontcourt in the league.

14: DeMarcus Cousins

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    Cousins is already being called the most immature rookie in NBA history by some experts, but he does have a lot of raw talent.

    He's averaging 14 points and eight rebounds a game this year, and those numbers are climbing. In the new year, he's averaging nearly 16 points a game.

    The big question with Cousins is whether any coach can keep him from ruining his own career with bad decisions and a terrible attitude.

13: Marcus Camby

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    Long gone are the days of Marcus Camby dominating the boards every time he stepped onto the floor. Age and injuries have caught up to the once-dominant defensive big man.

    He's still averaging a very solid 11 rebounds per game, but his 5.7 points per game is the worst scoring average of his career.

    He still provides solid defense and excellent leadership for a fairly young Portland team.

12: DeJuan Blair

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    Blair is four inches shorter than his frontcourt mate Tim Duncan, but he's still listed as the Spurs' center.  His wide body and intense style of play help him overcome his lack of a traditional center's body.

    When Gregg Popovich actually has him on the floor, Blair is an extremely productive big man. He averages 8.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in just 22 minutes per game.

    That works out to an average of about 14 points and 12 rebounds per 36 minutes.

11: Andrea Bargnani

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    He's seven feet tall, but Andrea Bargnani may be the least like a prototypical center of anyone on this list.

    A lot of people compare him to fellow jump-shooting big man Dirk Nowitzki, but he plays even smaller than that. He averages fewer than five rebounds per game for his career.

    His shooting does make him a very difficult matchup, though. He would probably be much better suited as a power forward (or even small forward), with a legitimate center in the lineup with him.

    This year, he's averaging a career-high 22.1 points per game.

10: Emeka Okafor

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    Okafor may be one of the most underrated players in the league. 

    He's averaging 10.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this year. If he pulls that rebounding average up over 10, he'll have a double-double average for the sixth time in seven years.

    He's undersized for a center, but his strength helps him overcome that disadvantage. He's one of the best interior defenders in the league.

    If the Hornets lose Chris Paul in the near future, they'll likely kick off a full-scale rebuilding. Okafor would be a great addition to several contending teams.

9: Nene

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    He may get away with traveling more than anyone in the league (LeBron included), but there are some legal aspects of Nene's game that are pretty tough to stop as well.

    He has a great mix of size, strength and athleticism. He generally muscles (travels) his way to the hoop, but on occasion he'll go over guys to get there. And he finishes pretty well at the rim.

    This year, he's averaging a career high in points with 15 per game. He's also averaging 7.3 rebounds per game, and shooting 63 percent from the field.

8: Brook Lopez

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    Brook Lopez is an extremely talented young center.  He's a legitimate seven-footer, and has a decent repertoire of offensive moves down low. He's used his solid offensive game to put up just under 20 points per game this season.  

    He's also a decent defender, averaging nearly two blocks per game for his career.

    But he can't be considered elite until he corrects a glaring weakness that has plagued him all season. In his first two seasons in the NBA, he averaged well over eight rebounds per game.  This year, he's down to six.

    Rebounding is all about desire, and the arrival of Deron Williams may have jump started Lopez's. In the five games since D-Will came to New Jersey, Lopez has averaged over eight rebounds a game.

    He may never put up huge numbers on the glass while playing next to a great rebounder like Kris Humphries, but he can certainly do better than six. 

7: Al Jefferson

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    Al Jefferson has been a beast since Deron Williams got shipped off to New Jersey. He's scored 30 a few times, and had a 19-rebound game against Boston. Just last night, he posted 36 and 12 in a loss to the New York Knicks.

    Jefferson is playing out of position (he's definitely more of a power forward), but he's found a way to be very effective as an undersized center.

    This year, he's averaging 18 points and nine rebounds per game.

    Prior to this year, his defense left a little something to be desired. But as a member of the Jazz, he's been pretty solid, averaging two blocks per game and playing hard on that end of the floor.

6: Andrew Bynum

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    Bynum's numbers may not be as lofty as some of the other guys on this list, but you have to consider the situation he's in.

    Playing in Los Angeles, alongside three players who average over 10 field goal attempts per game, Bynum puts up less than eight shots a night.

    When he's healthy, just his presence makes the Lakers one of the toughest teams in the league.

    On the season, he's averaging 11 points and eight rebounds per game. But those numbers are skewed by Bynum's first few games back from injury, when he was playing very limited minutes.

    In three games this month, he's averaging 14 rebounds per game. 

5: Joakim Noah

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    The Chicago Bulls have recently emerged as legitimate Eastern Conference contenders, and Joakim Noah's return from injury is a big reason why.

    In 31 games this year, he's averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds per game. And in terms of centers, he's one of the best on-ball defenders in the league.

    His offensive game is anything but polished, but his effort and attitude more than make up for whatever he lacks on both ends of the floor.

4: Tyson Chandler

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    Tyson Chandler replacing Erick Dampier in Dallas was the most significant positional upgrade of this past offseason (and I'm including LeBron James replacing Quentin Richardson).

    I could never understand why Dampier started in Dallas, but they were clearly a much worse team when he was on the floor. The exact opposite is true of Chandler.

    When he's in the game, the Mavericks take on an entirely different style. He does all the "little things" extremely well, and he does them with an infectious intensity that fires up the rest of the team.

    His averages of 10.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game may look small on the surface, but he plays on a very deep team whose coach spreads the minutes among 10 or 11 players.

    He averages 13 points and 12 rebounds per 36 minutes.

3: Andrew Bogut

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    I'm starting to wonder if Bogut will ever be fully healthy again, but when he is, he's arguably the most skilled center in the league.

    He possesses every big man's skill in abundance. He has a deep repertoire of old- and new-school post moves.  He rebounds and defends extremely well. And he's a great passer for a center.

    He plays on a team with a lot of gunners, which is why he doesn't get as many shots as he should. But he still averages 13 points a game.

    He also puts up 12 rebounds and a league-leading 2.8 blocks per game.

2: Al Horford

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    Al Horford has gotten better every year he's been in the league. Now in his fourth year, he's an All-Star and one of the very best centers in the NBA.

    He's a little undersized for the position and actually played power forward when he was in the same lineup with Joakim Noah at Florida. But he's adjusted beautifully to his role with the Hawks.

    This year, he's averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and almost four assists per game. He's also shooting 57 percent from the field.

1: Dwight Howard

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    Howard's numbers have been outrageous this season.  

    He's averaging a career-high 23.1 points per game. He's shooting 60 percent from the field and blocking 2.3 shots a game. And this has been his second-best season in terms of rebounding at 13.9 a game.

    Even with his huge production, he's almost flying under the radar this year. Everyone is talking about Orlando's Southeast Division rival, the Miami Heat. Even when the Magic beat the Heat (like they did recently), Miami gets all the headlines.

    Howard had 14 points and 18 rebounds that game, but all we heard about was the turmoil surrounding the media darlings from South Beach. Even their tears are big news these days.

    If the Heat continue to falter (and with their upcoming schedule, it looks like they might), Dwight Howard and the Magic may be able to win yet another division title.

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