NBA Player Rankings 2011: Ranking the League's Top 5 Centers

Max Minsker@@MaxMinskerCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2011

NBA Player Rankings 2011: Ranking the League's Top 5 Centers

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    These days there aren't many great NBA centers left. For whatever reason, elite big men have become a rarity, and once you have one, you can't let them go. 

    A team with a great center always has a huge advantage, because many teams just can't find one.

    With that said, here is a list of the five best centers in the game today based on their overall skill on both ends of the floor. I won't factor in durability because if I did it would be impossible to assemble an accurate list of which players are the best.

Honorable Mentions

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    Al Jefferson:

    Some would consider him a PF, but there is no doubting his low post scoring. His lack of mobility and terrible defense keep him out of the top-5.

    Andrew Bynum:

    One of the league's best when healthy, but playing on the Lakers certainly doesn't hurt. He's solid on both ends of the floor, but not quite good enough.

    Emeka Okafor:

    Great on defense and also a solid rebounder. He isn't really much of an offensive threat but he gets the job done.

    Nene Hilario:

    He's the toughest cut I had to make, but overall his 7.6 rpg wasn't enough to get him into the top-5


    There are many players who almost made the list of guys that almost are in the top-5 (the next tier), I couldn't include everyone. Here are some of those guys in no particular order:

    Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez, Andrea Bargnani, Kendrick Perkins, Chris Kaman, David Lee, Roy Hibbert, Marcin Gortat, and not Kwame Brown or Darko.

    The league clearly has many average centers, but the elite ones are really hard to find. Here are the top-5. 

5. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

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    Joakim Noah is one of the nastiest centers in the game today. Many people thought he would always be too small to play center, but he has really worked hard and showed he is one of the game's best.

    Noah was one of only three centers to average double digit rebounds, while also adding 12 points and 1.5 blocks per game in 33 minutes.

    Noah is definitely arguable here, as many centers are close to him, but he played really well this season when he wasn't hurt and he should be considered one of the five best centers because of his rebounding skills and solid post defense. 

4. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

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    There is a lot of debate as to whether or not Horford is a center or more of a power forward, but for the purposes of this list, he's a center. 

    Horford averaged 15 points and 9 boards a game this year for the Hawks while shooting 56 percent from the field and nearly 80 percent from the line, pretty impressive for a big man. Horford's PER was also extremely high at 20.79, good enough for 23rd in the league and 3rd among centers.  

    This season, Horford was named to the All-NBA third team for his performance, and was really valuable for the Hawks. Considering they play with a smaller lineup most of the time, Horford needed to be at his best, and he performed well. 

    The difference between the Florida teammates, Noah and Horford, is very slim. I went with Horford for three reasons. First, Horford has a much higher PER Second, because of Horford's better scoring ability. And third, because Horford had to do it all for the Hawks in the frontcourt. Say what you want about Boozer, but he's a better power forward than Josh Smith will ever be.

3. Tyson Chandler, FA

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    Chandler is honestly a really hard guy to place in terms of this list. He's an excellent player, but it's hard to tell exactly how good he is because most of his value goes beyond the box score. 

    For most of his career, Chandler has been considered a quality player and defender, but when he emerged as the defensive star for Dallas in the finals we have to think about him with a different perspective. 

    Last season, he averaged 10 points and 9.4 rebounds a game while adding just over a block in just 27.8 minutes a game. He also shot 65 percent from the field, and 73 percent from the line. The thing about Chandler, is he doesn't hurt your team. He only takes the shots he can make, and he plays to his limitations.

    Chandler certainly got a huge boost from being on the Mavericks, but if I could have one center that wasn't one of the next two guys, I think it would have to be Tyson Chandler. He is a monster on defense, and if he played Al Horford's minutes, his numbers would be much more impressive. He only plays 80 percent of the minutes Horford does, yet he's so much more valuable.

    I know Chandler may be a little bit of a stretch here for some of you, but what he brings to the table is definitely more than his numbers suggest. He will be a great addition for any team if the Mavericks can't resign him when the new CBA is signed.

2. Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks

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    I believe Andrew Bogut is the second best center in the league by far. He definitely has some separation from the rest of the pack, and if he wasn't injury prone, he would be one of the league's best overall players.

    When he played last year, he was very good. However, I believe the injuries he has sustained over the years have impacted his scoring averages. If he can stay healthy, those numbers could increase substantially. Anyway, he put up 13 points and 11 rebounds a game while also adding a league leading 2.6 blocks per game.

    Bogut is one of the league's best individual post defenders, and when healthy, also one of it's better low post scorers. He simply gets it done on both ends of the floor.

    One of the things that held Bogut back last season was his free throw percentage. He shot an absolutely pathetic 44 percent from the line, but I expect him to improve on this next season as he continues to move towards being completely healthy. Over his career he is a 57 percent shooter. 

    Although Bogut's production has been held back lately, I believe he is primed for a break out season next year (if there is one). He is the league's second most talented overall center.

1. Dwight Howard, Magic

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    Is anyone going to argue this? Do I need to explain this any further? Ok, I guess I will.

    Last season Howard put up 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game while winning his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award and making his fourth straight All-NBA first team. He also finished second in PER, just behind LeBron. 

    Dwight Howard is the league's most dominant defensive player. He protects the paint, and swats shots into the stands routinely. No one wants to challenge Dwight Howard.

    Not only is Howard the league's best defensive presence, he is also the best low post scorer at his position. In the playoffs, he scored 27 points per game shooting 63 percent from the field. If not for his eight-point performance in Game Five, he would have averaged 31 ppg for the series. 

    Dwight Howard is a physical specimen who uses his athleticism to dominate opponents. If he can learn to shoot free throws, develop a mid-range game, and refine his moves on the block, you could make a case for him as the league's best overall player. I don't think he's there yet, though. 

    Dwight Howard is clearly the best in the game today. As of right now, he doesn't really have much competition. At some point someone will challenge him, but as of right now, he is easily the league's top center.


    Feel free to make a case for your favorite center below. I will try answer all comments and defend my rankings.  

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