Greg Oden, Joakim Noah and More: Ranking the Best NBA Centers of the Next Decade

Darko MihajlovskiCorrespondent IIIDecember 24, 2010

Greg Oden, Joakim Noah and More: Ranking the Best NBA Centers of the Next Decade

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    The NBA has been always been a game of the centers and it may still be now.  

    These giants can mean so much and are so valuable.  It's an undeniable fact.

    These walking beasts can single handedly turn a franchise from an average team into a title contender with their ability to dominate in the paint on both ends, clean the glass and attract double teams.

    There are good center pieces to build on.  One of the biggest dynasties ever, the Boston Celtics of the '60s, had Bill Russell, who led the team to 11 championships in 13 years.  The '72 Lakers, who ended the season on a 33 game winning streak, had Wilt Chamberlain.

    Then the Showtime LA of the 80's had Kareem, the Houston Rockets had Hakeem, New York had W. Reed and then Ewing, and so on.  Even the championship teams from the past 20 years had at least one awesome giant like O'Neal (three years, LA) and Tim Duncan.

    This adds volumes to their value and finding a big man of the caliber from the mentioned here (minus Timmy, he's no center, but is a great big man) means gold for a franchise.  However, in the '00s, there have not been many good centers at all.

    Part of it is the fact that they put on so much weight to maintain their strength and usually their knees can't hold out.  That is one of the biggest reasons for having hard time staying on the court, along with mediocre skills and lack of translation from the dominance of college into the pros.

    However, now there's a young group of outstanding big men led by Dwight Howard himself, who are ready once again to take control of the league and, in short, they will.  And limiting injuries will only help.  

    Without further ado, here are the most promising talents from the center position for the next decade!

Javale McGee

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    One of the most athletic players in the NBA as of now, Javale McGee makes this list as a very good center.

    He's an athletic freak who's got a high vertical jump for a big man, long hands that give him the largest frame in the league and a willingness to improve.  He has the tools to become a great center and a whole lot of talent.

    McGee is an artist who, when he gets a good chance, dunks the ball extremely well.  He's a real highlight machine.  He's terrific in matching up with his opponents in the air, as he can get up there and has those huge arms, so finishing around him is very difficult.

    However, his post game needs a little work, which I am sure he will develop in the future by putting work into it.  Asking for some lessons isn't embarrassing, as many of these players have already done that.

    Overall, McGee looks to be a phenomenal seven footer, and I think he will achieve much.  He came from college with good averages and maintained that in the league.  He was top five in blocked shots among all rookies and the leader in blocks per game.

    He's now among the league leaders in blocked shots (top five) and field goal percentage (top 10) with 9.6 points per game, along side 8.2 boards and 2.5 blocked shots.  Overall, he's been phenomenal.  

    Career highs:

    Points:25

    Rebounds:18

    Blocks:7

    Career game: 24 points, 18 boards, 4 blocks

Al Horford

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 11:  Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks against Solomon Jones #44 of the Indiana Pacers at Philips Arena on December 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or us
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Al Horford is one of the most promising centers for the next decade and is one of the best right now.

    He's an excellent low post scorer despite his size (6'10), he has a nice jump shot, a nice post up game, is a terrific presence on the glass and is one of the better defensive centers as well.  He's fitting in nicely with the Hawks.

    Last season, he was an All-Star reserve and played pretty well.  He's now averaging nearly 17 points, 10 boards, a block and steal in a deep Hawks team, which is impressive.  He's playing at a good level and will continue to develop in the coming seasons.

    He will continue to be one of the best low post scorers, a nice presence on both ends and in a very short time will average high numbers.  He's excellent right now and will continue to be even more efficient and effective.

    He's going to contend for the rebounding title, highest rebound percentage and double-doubles in a single season.  He's just getting better and better.  This season, he looks ten times better and more deserving to be an All-Star than last year.

    He came from college as a successful player and top prospect who won two NCAA Division I championships.  In his rookie year, he led all rookies in rebounding (9.7) and double-doubles (25), who finished 6th in scoring too. 

    Career highs:

    Points: 31

    Rebounds: 22

    Defensive Rebounds: 16

    Offensive Rebounds: 7

    Blocked shots: 3

    Best game of career: 16 points, 16 boards, 8 assists

    Prediction: He will average 22 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal on at least 55% from field.

Joakim Noah

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 10: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls boxes out Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers at the United Center on December 10, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Lakers 88-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    A phenomenal prospect from college who won two NCAA Division I championships as the starter for the Florida Gators in consecutive seasons, Joakim Noah is simply one of the best centers right now and will only get better in the future.

    Part of his success is the fact that he plays with bigger passion than anyone and with so much energy.  He is a great presence on both ends of the floor and is one of top defensive players in the game in the past two or three years.

    And he is rising fast.

    He's a clutch player in big games and is capable of making nice plays due to the winning experience that he has from college.  He is a rebounding machine with averages that are in the top five.  He ripped down a ton of boards in the playoffs in the clutch, with 18, 16 and 15 boards in some games.

    Even though he's a defensive minded player, he has improved his post game and showed great ability to hit the hook shot with either hand.  He's also got some decent moves inside.  Now that he plays with Boozer, however, his production will be down a little bit.

    Noah is a terrific impact player for Chicago.  It's true that they have Rose to close out and dominate and Carlos to grab boards and score inside, but Noah's presence on defense compliments these two.  He can defend bigger guys well and can out-passion anyone.

    His future looks to be bright.  He will improve himself and is slowly turning into a Wes Unseld type of center.  This means he will be consistent on the boards, a better interior defender, a presence on defense, a good passer and a better overall player.

    Career highs:

    Points: 26

    Rebounds: 21 (three times)

    Offensive rebounds: 8

    Defensive rebounds: 15

    Blocks: 8

    Career game: 18 points, 19 boards, 8 assists

Demarcus Cousins

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings shoots over Derrick Caracter #45 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center on December 3, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Kings
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Drafted at No. 5 out of Kentucky, Demarcus Cousins is hanging nicely with the pros and has such a nice future.  He has already shown excellent play and is going to be one of the best centers in the future of the NBA.

    He's got the size (6'11), skills and potential to become the next great big man.  He has already shown that he has nice post up game, good touch from mid range and attracts lots of double teams.  He's got terrific passing and rebounding abilities and is doing well on defense.

    He's already averaging around 12 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block per game, with an assist as well in just 25 minutes of action per game.  Spread those numbers to 36 minutes per game and he produces about 17 points, 11 boards, 2 dimes and 1 block, making him a top prospect.

    He is ranked third in points and rebounds and sixth in blocked shots, which are all signs that he's a phenomenal young center who's ready to dominate in the years ahead of him.

    Career highs:

    Points: 20

    Rebounds: 16

    Offensive rebounds: 5

    Defensive rebounds: 11

    Blocks: 4

    Career game: 19 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists

Roy Hibbert

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 11:  Roy Hibbert #55 of the Indiana Pacers against Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or usin
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Coming out Georgetown, Indiana's Roy Hibbert has proven himself to be a great center and one of the leaders in the race for the Most Improved Player of the Year award.

    He struggled a little bit in his rookie year and, despite all the good things that he showed, it wasn't what he and the fans expected it would be.

    After working it out in the summer with Hall Of Famer Bill Walton, his overall game has improved.  His new ability to be a fantastic presence will bring his career in a positive direction.  He will be a big factor in the Pacers' success.

    He's a huge player who stands at 7'2", has long hands that give him a large frame and a nice arsenal of post moves and an effective hook shot.  He is an athletic interior stopper who knows how to use his frame to block shots in one on one situations.

    His ability to stretch the opponent's defense is a brilliant call in the Pacers offensive game plan and he has a nice jumper from 16-18 feet.  This might make Roy the most complete 7-footer not named Pau Gasol right now.

    He's one of the better defenders, but playing for the team that he is right now, he won't really attract attention like the other members of this list will.  He's got superb upside.  Oh yeah, and he's just going to get better and better.

    He could work on his aggressiveness and awareness.  It will make him a better center for the fast and promising Pacers.  He could develop his passing skills as well, in order to help to stretch the defense.

    Career highs:

    Points: 29

    Rebounds: 15

    Defensive Rebounds: 12

    Offensive Rebounds: 7

    Assists: 7

    Blocks: 6

    Career game: 26 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists

Greg Oden

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    Greg Oden is a very talented basketball player who often draws comparisons to such all time great big men as Bill Russell, Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing.  He is an extremely raw seven footer.

    He comes from a stellar single season with the Ohio State Buckeyes—despite not being 100 percent healthy, he took them to the championship game and he put 24 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks in a losing effort.

    He played well during his rookie year and led all in offensive rebound percent, ranking third in rebounding and blocking.  He had the most double-double figures (18).  He worked hard enough in the off-season with former Blazers legend, Lucas (RIP) and positive results came from it.

    Oden dominated on both ends, scoring at will, controlling the glass and establishing himself as a presence in the interior, lifting Portland to another level.  He was arguably the best defensive player and presence in the league for that time.

    Only Dwight could challenge him, but he failed at that time.  Oden was one of the most productive players as well, showing brilliance by leading all in blocked shots (in average), field goal percentage and dozens of PER stats.

    He improved so quickly with his post up game, nice hook shots and by being a monster on the boards.  He is an awesome shot blocker and attracts tons of double-teams.  He can establish himself as a strong and great presence.

    There's only one knock in all of that and that's the injuries.  They are stopping him and so far have dominated his career, which is a shame.  

    He recorded 24/12/2 against the Bulls, 13/20/4 against the Heat and 7/12/5 against the Rockets this season.

    It's a sad story when such an incredible player like Greg Oden can't play and it's time to put that behind us and simply leave it in the past.  He's still young and has the all the time in the world to leave it behind him.  

    And he will.

    Oden is an All-Star caliber big man who's the key player for the Blazers and can turn them into a championship team.  He's a winner.  He averaged 11.7 points, 8.7 boards, 2.3 blocks in just 24 minutes.  Nice...

    He needs to end that damn curse that has caught Portland's giants and continue as the key producer for the Blazers' future championship runs.  He really needs to battle it out with the other peaks from his position, Howard and Bynum.

    He has the tools and will slowly begin to live up to his hype and potential.

    Career highs:

    Points: 24

    Rebounds: 20

    Offensive Rebounds: 11

    Defensive Rebounds: 11

    Blocks: 6

    Career game: 24 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks

Andrew Bynum

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives through Kendrick Perkins #43 and Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics in the first period of Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 15, 2010 in Los Angeles,
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    A healthy and durable Andrew Bynum is the difference between a great Lakers team and championship contender, period.

    He's back now and is producing nicely in the limited playing time he's getting, but when given a chance to prove himself, he always does well.  If you are a fan of LA, you remember his 42 points, 17 boards and 3 denied shots in his contract year.

    An extremely raw big man, like his peers at the position (Oden, Howard), he's got the perfect size (7'2"), a solid footwork, terrific skills and an improved and tougher presence in the interior.  He's got such a nice post game and attracts a lot of double-teams.

    Bynum has improved as a shot blocker and has the toughness that the Lakers need inside thanks to his big frame and his improvement on that end of the court.  He's prolific on the boards and for a short period he even led everyone in that category.

    Yeah, Bynum can play basketball.  His career success is excellent and features two championships in the gold and purple uniform.  And he was the key factor to each of them.  No offense to the other fine players, but as a strong inside presence, Andrew Bynum played big role on those teams.

    He averaged 22 points and 11.3 rebounds with 1.6 blocks, challenges Howard for the title of the best C in the game at that moment.  Arguments can be made that he had topped everything and everyone at that moment.

    He's got all the tools and time in the world like his rival Greg and if they stay healthy—and keep the hearts of LA and Portland fans whole—they can each turn their teams into championship contenders.

    Bynum will need to develop his passing skills, play with more intensity and it will just place him higher.  He's got the finest back to the basket game, as of now, of any true seven footer.  He's a huge difference maker for his team.

    The torch is passed on this guy, as this franchise wants to see another in the line of the great big men that have worn the uniform, like Shaquille, Kareem, Wilt and Mikan.  

Dwight Howard

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 18:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic attempts to block the shot of Marreese Speights #16 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the game at Amway Arena on December 18, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Unquestionably best center in today's NBA, Dwight "Superman" Howard is also the leading big man of the next generation of giants and is the golden standard these days.  With his new and much improved offense, he will be the most complete big man as well.

    Very few took him in one on one in the previous years, despite the lack of a good game with his back to the rim.  But now, after working hard in the summer with the Houston legend Olajuwon, his post moves are very much improved and he has developed an excellent post game.

    Now it will take more double-teams to stop him and he is going to be a bigger threat on offense, where he wasn't brilliant until this year.  Times have changed and he has improved.  If he can keep his head up on the double teams, he will become a good passer too.

    We already all know who Dwight Howard is on the defensive end and how does his job there.  He has already established himself as a known presence in the middle for Orlando and if he's not denying shots, he's effecting them in some way.  Players lose their minds when they attack the basket and Superman's around.

    He's a strong presence and has been the top shot blocker for more then two years.  He's got fantastic, out-of-your-mind hoops down to an art and can get up high.  He's got nice skills and sense.  His athleticism adds so nicely too.

    He has already won two Defensive Player of the Year awards, two or three block titles and has captured the rebound titles at least three times, while leading five times in total rebounds.  He holds dozens of franchise and NBA records in all of those categories.

    His biggest rivals at the center position are Lakers' Andrew Bynum and Blazers' Oden, who are all, in a way of their own, the gold standard for defense (Greg), offense (Andrew), overall (Dwight).  It will be great to see them battle it out in the future.

    This is a good chance for Howard to win the Most Valuable Player and to try to go for a three-peat for the Defensive Player of the Year award.  In other words, he's got the finest career in here and is the best of all of these big men.

    Career highs:

    Points: 45

    Rebounds: 26

    Offensive Rebounds: 11

    Defensive Rebounds: 20

    Blocks: 10

    Assists: 7

    Career game: 30 points, 19 rebounds, 10 blocks (a triple double)

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