NBA Playoffs 2011: Power Ranking Dwight Howard and Each Team's Center
The first-round matchups are set, and 16 NBA teams have punched their tickets to the postseason.
Success in the playoffs often depends on how each team's best big man performs.
Here are the rankings of the starting center for each playoff team. In the pursuit of objectivity, I created a new statistic—Center Power Rating.
Center Power Rating is a weighted average of each player's points, rebounds and blocks per game. Each statistic is weighted differently and then summed.
Blocks and rebounds receive a higher weighting because a good center does more than just score points—he controls the paint.
Each center has been ranked by his Center Power Rating for games played through April 11.
Here is the formula:
Points per game x 1.0
+ Rebounds per game x 1.5
+ Blocks per game x 4.0
= Center Power Rating
16. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Miami Heat
Center Power Rating: 14.1
Season stats: 4.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.8 bpg
The Miami Heat have three centers who split minutes, but Zydrunas Ilgauskas is expected to start in the playoffs.
Ilgauskas averaged career lows in points and rebounds but is still a dangerous threat.
He is a perfect fit with the Heat. Big Z's shooting range not only pulls centers away from the basket but also forces defenders to stay on him.
The only memory I have of Ilgauskas' season is his fight with rookie John Wall. Not a good sign if that is the most memorable moment of your year.
15. Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers
Center Power Rating: 19.5
Season stats: 7.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.9 bpg
After winning only 27 games last season, the Sixers were the surprise team of the year. They earned the No. 6 seed in the East without having a true star on their team.
Spencer Hawes played only 21 minutes per game but still played a pivotal role in the team's success.
He may not be the most impressive center in the NBA, but he is certainly one of the most reliable. In his first season with the Sixers, Hawes only missed one game.
Philadelphia won only four of its last 11 games and is limping into the playoffs.
For the Sixers to upset the Miami Heat, Hawes will have to dominate the slower, less mobile Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
14. Shaquille O’Neal, Boston Celtics
Center Power Rating: 20.8
Season stats: 9.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Some may find it sad that Shaq ranks in the bottom three, but what can you expect from the oldest active player in the NBA?
He averaged career lows in every major category, but he can still dominate the game in spurts.
Since Kendrick Perkins was dealt to Oklahoma City, the Celtics have looked like a different team. Many have questioned their ability to win this year.
The Celtics' chances for another championship may rest on the health and success of O'Neal.
No one is pulling more for the Big Shamrock than GM Danny Ainge—the man who might have traded away a shot at the title when he traded away Perkins.
13. Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder
Center Power Rating: 21.7
Season stats: 6.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 0.9 bpg
While Kendrick Perkins ranks low at No. 13, he may be the most feared center in the playoffs. He is one of the best low-post defenders and has a mean streak that can intimidate opponents.
The addition of Perkins allows the Thunder to match up with the Lakers' big men and automatically makes them a legitimate championship contender.
He is a vast improvement over Nenad Krstic and could be the piece that gets Oklahoma City over the top.
Perkins had an injury-plagued season but appears to have regained his health for the postseason.
12. Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks
Center Power Rating: 28.7
Season stats: 10.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Tyson Chandler just completed his best season since 2008. He is one of the main reasons why the Dallas Mavericks finished with the No. 3 seed in the West.
Despite only playing 28 minutes per game, Chandler nearly averaged a double-double.
He shot a career-high 65 percent from the field, and while it isn't saying much, Chandler is the best defender on the Mavericks.
If the Mavs want to shed their "soft" label and avoid getting upset by the Trail Blazers, Chandler will have to step up his game.
11. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Center Power Rating: 29.1
Season stats: 11.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg
Marc Gasol was originally considered a throw-in for the Grizzlies when the Kwame Brown/Pau Gasol trade took place in 2008.
Since the deal, Marc has emerged from the shadows of his older brother and established himself as a solid NBA center.
His points and rebounds are down this season, but that has more to do with Zach Randolph sharing the paint than a regression in his game.
Marc missed only one game for the Grizzlies and has been a key component of the team's success.
10. Nene Hilario, Denver Nuggets
Center Power Rating: 29.9
Season stats: 14.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg
George Karl somehow managed to pull his team together, guiding it to the No. 5 spot in the West.
The Nuggets have shown that a lot of good pieces can sometimes be better than one great piece.
Nene is one of those good pieces and is a key reason the team has been so successful. He had a career high in field-goal percentage and just completed one of his best seasons.
The Nuggets match up with the Thunder in the first round. Nene will have to prove that he is the best big man in the series for his team to continue its impressive run.
9. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
Center Power Rating: 31.4
Season stats: 12.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg
Roy Hibbert started the season at an incredible pace. He entered December averaging 16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 2.1 bpg before cooling off over the next few months.
Hibbert recently found his game and was instrumental in the Pacers' chase for the No. 8 seed.
Despite taking a step back during the winter months, Hibbert averaged career highs in points, rebounds and blocks.
The Pacers are set to face a talented Chicago Bulls team. If they are to have any chance at winning, Hibbert will need to play out-of-his-mind basketball and dominate Joakim Noah.
8. Emeka Okafor, New Orleans Hornets
Center Power Rating: 32.0
Season stats: 10.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg
While Emeka Okafor has not improved much from his 2005 Rookie of the Year campaign, he continues to be a consistent and serviceable center.
Okafor's season statistics were in line with his career numbers. He is a consistent 10-10-2 guy and anchors the Hornets' defense.
With David West injured and out for the postseason, Okafor becomes even more vital to his team's success in the playoffs.
7. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Center Power Rating: 33.5
Season stats: 11.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg
Joakim Noah is one of those guys you love to have on your team but hate playing against. He is pesky, persistent and in your face.
In his fourth season with the Chicago Bulls, Noah averaged a career high in points per game. His season was slightly derailed when he underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb.
After sitting out for over two months, Noah returned to action in late February.
His numbers are slightly down since coming back, but Noah always plays hard and remains one of the scrappiest and most effective centers in the league.
Noah deserves a lot of credit for helping the Bulls earn the No. 1 seed in the East.
6. Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
Center Power Rating: 33.8
Season stats: 11.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg
Andrew Bynum just finished another Bynum-type season. Some games he looked like a 20-10 guy, and others he just looked lost.
You know the playoffs are near when concerns of a Bynum knee injury are lurking.
With the exception of an ugly five-game losing streak, the Lakers were unstoppable after the All-Star break. Bynum played his best basketball during that stretch, and his health will be key to his team's postseason success.
If the Lakers want to secure the three-peat, they will need their center on the court.
As Bynum goes, so go the Lakers.
5. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Center Power Rating: 34.0
Season stats: 15.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Al Horford has continued to improve in each of his four NBA seasons. Horford has increased his points per game, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage every year he has played in the pros.
Of all the rankings on this list, Horford's came as the biggest surprise. He may be the most overlooked and underrated center in the NBA.
Few people think the Atlanta Hawks can make it very far in the playoffs.
4. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Center Power Rating: 34.4
Season stats: 13.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg
In 2009, Tim Duncan averaged 19.3 ppg and 10.7 rpg.
This season, he averaged 13.4 ppg and 8.9 rpg.
Duncan has clearly lost a step but still remains one of the best big men in the NBA.
Duncan is the leader of a savvy San Antonio Spurs team that finished with the best record in the Western Conference.
Each season the Spurs are overlooked by NBA fans who focus more on talented and younger teams.
Each season the Spurs go about their business and prove that they can still contend for a title.
Spurs fans are hoping that Tim Duncan can elevate his game for the playoffs. If he does, the Spurs could find themselves back in the Finals for the first time since 2007.
2011 is an odd year, right?
3. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
Center Power Rating: 39.7
Season stats: 21.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg
LaMarcus Aldridge is listed as a power forward but essentially plays the center position for the Trail Blazers.
While few consider him as a leading candidate for the Most Improved Player of the Year, he deserves to be in the mix.
From 2008-2010, Aldridge averaged about 18.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
This season, Aldridge posted almost 22.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
The Most Improved Player of the Year award usually goes to an average player who became good. Rarely does it go to a good player who became great.
It is much tougher to go from good to great, but LaMarcus Aldridge has done just that.
He is the biggest All-Star snub of the season and the leader of a red-hot Blazers team that has a very strong chance of upsetting the Dallas Mavericks.
2. Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
Center Power Rating: 45.3
Season stats: 25.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Like Aldridge, Amar'e Stoudemire isn't a true center, but he is the closest thing to one in the New York Knicks rotation.
Stoudemire gets a lot of credit for leading the Knicks back to the playoffs for the first time since George W. Bush's first presidential term.
He had his second-best season in terms of points per game and nearly doubled his blocks per game from last season.
While Stoudemire may have had a career year in some areas, there are other parts of his game that draw concern. His field-goal percentage was the worst since 2004, and he averaged a career high in turnovers per game.
Despite his shortcomings, the Knicks would not be in the playoffs without Stoudemire. Carmelo Anthony might get a lot of attention, but this is still Amar'e's team.
New York faces Boston in the first round. If Amar'e plays his game, they could knock off the vulnerable Celtics. Doing so would earn even more love from a Knicks fanbase that is desperately waiting to cheer on a winner.
1. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Center Power Rating: 53.8
Season stats: 23.0 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg
It should come as no surprise that Dwight Howard ranks No. 1. He is clearly the best center in the playoffs and the NBA.
He finished the season with more rebounds and blocks per game than any center on this list and was No. 2 in points per game.
Howard had a career high in points per game, and his rebounding average was just shy of his career high.
A week before Christmas, the Orlando Magic underwent a huge transformation.
They traded Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus for Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu.
Despite the dramatic changes, Howard ensured that his team stayed on track, guiding it to the No. 4 seed in the East.
In 2009, Dwight Howard led the Magic to the NBA Finals. He is going to have to play like Superman if they want to return in 2011.