NBA Free Agents 2012: Ranking the Best Centers Still on the Market

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2012

NBA Free Agents 2012: Ranking the Best Centers Still on the Market

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    Roy Hibbert may not be available for much longer, and he may not be an Indiana Pacer after that. 

    Given that skilled seven-footers are such a precious commodity, some organizations waste no time sorting through the free-agent market. Count the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets among those teams.

    The two clubs have extended offer sheets to Hibbert and Chicago's Omer Asik (respectively). 

    Though both Hibbert and Asik are restricted free agents, there's a very legitimate hope that the offers on the table are so rich that the Pacers and Chicago Bulls will balk at the asking prices and let their big men walk.

    Until free agents can sign away their futures on July 11, here are the 10 best centers on the market.

10. Robin Lopez

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    Brook's brother Robin Lopez is nearly the scorer, but he's a legitimate seven-footer with a solid frame. 

    While he can defend the post, he's not mobile enough to patrol the paint in today's NBA. He remains an effective specialist against some imposing big men of the Andrew Bynum variety, but that won't earn him more than a few spot minutes on most teams.

    Given that he'd be an inexpensive pick-up, it shouldn't be too hard for Lopez to find a home—maybe with the Suns once again.

9. Ian Mahinmi

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    With Tyson Chandler in New York, Ian Mahinmi got consistent minutes for the first time in his four-year career.

    Needless to say, it wasn't too hard to beat out Brendan Haywood for time as the season progressed.

    Mahinmi moves well and can finish around the rim, but that's pretty much where his skill set ends. He's prone to fouling on the defensive end, and he can't hit the broad side of a barn from outside the painted area.

    Still, his athleticism and youth alone should get him a contract somewhere.

8. Jordan Hill

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    Jordan Hill has the strength and athletic ability that he can guard centers and power forwards alike. That kind of versatility will sell well, as will his explosiveness and improving post-game in the paint.

    But the best part about Hill is that he's still just 24 and hasn't logged that many miles on his legs.

    He could be in store for a breakout season either with the Los Angeles Lakers (who acquired him in a mid-season trade with Houston) or perhaps the Minnesota Timberwolves. Hill has already met with the Timberwolves, and he could be looking for more playing time.

7. Omer Asik

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    There's a lot to like about Omer Asik's game, just not $8 million a year worth of things to like.

    Asik has agreed to an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets that would average out to exactly that over the course of three seasons.

    Chances are slim that the Chicago Bulls will match the offer in order to retain their restricted free agent, but they would love to hold on to him in a perfect world. In a world where he's backing up Joakim Noah, that's a tall price to pay.

    Asik will bring good quickness and defensive ability to the Rockets' paint, along with a high-octane motor that loves hunting down rebounds.

6. Marcus Camby

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    The Houston Rockets could still hold on to Marcus Camby, but he also has interest from the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics.

    The 38-year-old shot-blocker is a perfect fit for any one of those teams, and he's proven he can still attack the glass as well as just about anyone—especially when you assess his per-minute production.

    Camby won't get you many points, and he can struggle to keep up with pick-and-roll action, but he still fills an important role for teams in need of some interior intimidation. Given the contenders on his list of suitors, it shouldn't be hard to find a match.

5. Spencer Hawes

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    Spencer Hawes had his best all-around season yet, racking up a player efficiency rating of over 18, which stacks up pretty well against other centers.

    Hawes is by no means a bruiser. He's at his best from the mid-range and facilitating action for his teammates. But he's a much-improved rebounder and can hold his own on the defensive end.

    Even better, he's only 24. Given how well he performed this season, there's a good chance whoever wins his services will see a steady improvement as Hawes reaches his prime in the next two or three years.

4. Chris Kaman

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    The nice thing about Chris Kaman is that he's an unrestricted free agent without much hype to his name. That could make him a far more affordable option than guys like Roy Hibbert or Brook Lopez, and the Indiana Pacers may agree.

    Kaman and the Pacers have reportedly met already, indicating he may be the Plan B in a world where Indiana opts to pass on matching Roy Hibbert's max-offer from the Portland Trail Blazers. Kaman doesn't have Hibbert's upside, but he's a tough guy inside, and he has a solid mid-range shot to boot.

3. Brook Lopez

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    Brook Lopez has become a perimeter-oriented scorer of late, so he won't give you the kind of rebounding you'd like to see from a center. He's better on the offensive glass, but he's not going to get too many rebounds if he's not in the paint.

    That said, Lopez is an excellent scorer, and he'll block some shots, too.

    The seven-footer could be in store from some pretty good money, and it's hard to imagine him not returning to the Nets as either their center of the future or trade bait for Dwight Howard.

2. JaVale McGee

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    Don't laugh.

    JaVale McGee struggled at times with the Washington Wizards, but it's absolutely perplexing that the organization gave up on him so quickly. He's big and deceptively talented.

    You won't find many seven-footers with this combination of athletic ability and finesse. He still has lots of work to do, but he proved in a couple of postseason games against the Los Angeles Lakers that he can show up when it counts—even against Andrew Bynum.

    The Denver Nuggets appear to already be talking about an extension with McGee, so don't expect him to remain on the market for too long.

1. Roy Hibbert

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    The Portland Trail Blazers have already made a maximum offer to restricted free agent Roy Hibbert, meaning the Indiana Pacers would have until July 14 to match the offer if Hibbert signs on July 11.

    The first-time All-Star has improved dramatically across the board, but that doesn't mean he's worth that kind of money. Nevertheless, when a 7'2" 25-year-old is playing at such a high level, teams are willing to overpay simply by virtue of the fact that another one won't come along for some time.

    Worth it or not, Hibbert is still one heck of a big man.

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