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2010-2011 NBA Season Marks the Return of Many Elite Big Men

Ryan VirginCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2010

This Article Courtesy Of Rip City Report

Yao Ming, Blake Griffin, Joel Przybilla, Greg Oden, Andrew Bogut, Mehmet Okur,Kendrick Perkins, and Andrew Bynum will all be returning to action after having major surgery and missing part of the 2010 NBA season.

Yao broke his foot, requiring a complex surgical procedure to correct it. But even after being cleared to play basketball, there are still questions revolving around Yao's NBA future; his health is a major concern.

Blake Griffin will make his NBA debut in October after fracturing his left kneecap in the Clippers final exhibition match last season. A surgical procedure put him on track to return to basketball activities before the start of training camp.

Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden, both centers for the Portland Trail Blazers, had season ending knee injuries less than a month apart. Joel ruptured his patellar tendon in December and then re-ruptured it in March after slipping in the shower, requiring yet another surgical procedure. Greg fractured his kneecap just days before Joel's injury. This injury required surgery, but it is probable that he will be cleared to play basketball before training camp.

Andrew Bogut's suffered a gruesome injury in April when he went up for a dunk, tried to hang on the rim and let the traffic clear, but instead slipped and fell on his back with his arm underneath him. He dislocated his elbow completely and the former first overall pick is still rehabbing.

Mehmet Okur ruptured his achilles tendon during the first round of the playoffs after trying to play through achilles pain and inflammation. Okur will continue to rehab into training camp.

Kendrick Perkins and Andrew Bynum both played in the NBA Finals, but each suffered injuries. Perkins tore his MCL and PCL in his left knee, forcing him to miss game seven of the finals and get surgery to fix the tears. Bynum was active for game seven of the finals, but was injured and wasn't able to play at full strength. The torn meniscus in his knee required surgery after the season was over.

Six of those eight players averaged double digit numbers in a statistical category in their last full season.

Seven of those eight players were recently starters in their careers.

And four of those eight players were first overall selections in the NBA Draft.

Go figure.

The return of many of these centers will bolster the Western Conference, making them a formidable big man conference.

That is, if each player comes back healthy and gets back to their pre-injury form.

Yao Ming, Mehmet Okur, Greg Oden, and Andrew Bynum will all be All-star candidates and I wouldn't be surprised to see at least one of them get selected to represent their team.

Blake Griffin's return will provide a huge boost for the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that is looking to provide their fan base with a playoff birth for the first time in who-knows-how-long.

The return of these NBA big men make the Western Conference that much deeper.

If the Clippers and Rockets are in contention for a playoff spot, then the Western Conference could be twelve deep in terms of viable playoff candidates.

The Eastern Conference may be the most top heavy conference, but it lacks depth. Many teams out east teams have snuck into the playoffs with dismal records in past seasons.

Whether the eighth spot is occupied by a team with a below .500 record, or a team that has inched above that threshold, weak bottom four playoff seeds in the eastern conference are always the case.

The Western Conference, with the return of their elite big men, is still the better conference.

Each one of the centers that are set to return will end up making a huge impact on the teams they play for. Last season, come April, many were talking about the lack of old school, true centers in the league.

And while there may not be as many true centers left in the league, a large portion of those that are left will be returning to NBA action next season.

Heading into October and November, and then even into January and February, look for the Western Conference to sustain their image as the better big man conference.

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