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College, High School, NBA / Jul 31, 2009 / 2:38 pm

Top 10 centers of the ’08-09 season

Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal

Saving the biggest for last. As I’ve covered before, this isn’t a typical “best players” ranking. If you see a high school kid listed higher than an NBA All-Star here, nobody’s saying the prep is better than the pro. Instead, I’m looking at the whole picture: Who had an overall better season? Pound-for-pound, who made the biggest impact on their level? Who made the biggest mark on the entire game of basketball? Who made this season his own? So here are my Top 10 — not “10 best” — centers from the ’08-09 season…

10. Marcin Gortat
You know how people will say their life is like a movie? Gortat’s life this year was like an infomercial: “In just 10 minutes a night, you too can earn 34 MILLION dollars!” Off the strength of exactly one standout playoff game (11 pts, 15 rebs vs. Philly) and no more than a handful of others in the regular season, Gortat was one of the most sought-after free agents on the ’09 market, with Dallas and Orlando fighting for the right to overpay him.

9. Derrick Favors
John Wall and Lance Stephenson got most of the attention, but quiet-as-kept big man Favors gave them a run for their money as arguably the best high school player in the country. The USA Today and PARADE national Player of the Year, Gatorade state P.O.Y. in Georgia (South Atlanta H.S.) and McDonald’s All-American Game MVP put up 27 points, 13 boards and five blocks a night, and will take his Baby Dwight Howard (Superboy?) game to Georgia Tech.

8. Nene / Birdman Andersen
I really couldn’t put one over the other; Nene (14.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Birdman (6.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.5 bpg) were equally vital in Denver becoming a real championship contender. If you could put Nene’s offense and Birdman’s defense into the same player, you’d have a perennial All-Star, and the funniest-looking one-name athlete ever.

7. DeJuan Blair
And this is the last time you’ll ever see him on a list of centers. Blair’s 6-7 frame won’t allow him to play the five in the pros, but in college, he was a beast in the middle. A first team All-American and Big East co-Player of the Year, Blair (15.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg) anchored a Pitt team that was ranked No. 1 in the country for a couple of weeks, and went into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed, where they made the Elite Eight. Had he not slipped well into the second round of the NBA Draft, it would have been an all-around banner year for Blair.

6. Brook Lopez
The most surprisingly solid rookie of the ’08 class took over the starting job in New Jersey in mid-November and never gave it back. The Good Lopez averaged 13 points and 8.1 boards and got some serious Rookie of the Year talk, eventually finishing third in the voting. He could be a 20-and-10 staple down the line.

Hasheem Thabeet

Hasheem Thabeet

5. Yao Ming
Of course he’d be higher if he hadn’t broken his foot again, putting himself out for next season and possibly ending his career. But before all that, Yao finally got the Rockets past the first round of the playoffs, averaging 19.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.

4. Al Jefferson
Before a knee injury in February sidelined him for the rest of the year, Big Al was on his way to a breakout season. Had he stayed healthy long enough to qualify, he likely would have finished in the NBA’s Top 10 in scoring (23.1 ppg), rebounding (11 rpg) and blocks (1.7 bpg), and was easily this year’s biggest All-Star snub. Jefferson owned Yao in their head-to-head matchups (35 ppg, 17.5 rpg), hit the champion Lakers for 27 and 13 per game, gave Shaq 25 points and 14.5 boards in two meetings, averaged 29 and 11 against the Spurs, and averaged 27 points in two games against KG and his former team, the Celtics.

3. Hasheem Thabeet
If he never reaches his Dikembe Mutombo potential in the pros, Thabeet was at least a Deke copycat in the NCAA. He copped national Defensive Player of the Year, Big East DPOY and Big East co-Player of the Year, putting up 13.6 points, 10.8 boards and 4.2 blocks (second in the country). Along the way he had a triple-double when he slapped 15, 11 and 10 blocks on Providence. After taking UConn to the Final Four, Thabeet was picked No. 2 in the draft.

2. Shaquille O’Neal
Just when you thought he was done, he pushed the old Caddy into the station and put some more gas in the tank. Shaq (17.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg) missed the playoffs for the first time since his rookie year, but he managed some vintage performances — 45 points vs. Toronto and 33 against the Lakers in back-to-back games — in the process, and won All-Star Game co-MVP. Off the court, like always, he knew what buttons to push to keep himself in the international headlines even when he wasn’t dominating on the court.

1. Dwight Howard
He’s gonna hold this spot for a while. Everybody knew he had it in him to lead the NBA in rebounds (13.8 rpg) and blocks (2.9 bpg) and pick up Defensive Player of the Year, but Dwight (20.6 ppg) went beyond expectations in the postseason. He carried Orlando to the NBA Finals, posting four 20-rebound games in the playoffs and four 30-point games. In the Eastern Conference Finals clincher, Dwight put it all together when he dumped 40 points and 14 boards on the Cavs. The unofficial record for players-dunked-on in a career would be in danger if guys didn’t get smart this year and start moving out of Dwight’s way.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
5. Randolph Morris — Yeah, he’s actually still in the NBA. In what was supposed to be a chance to prove himself on his hometown Hawks, Morris was glued to the bench, playing just 89 minutes all season.
4. Hamed Haddadi — How did somebody not get a camera crew up to Bismarck, North Dakota, to film the locals’ reactions to seeing a 7-foot Iranian walking around town? Even worse, Haddadi had to do those stints in the D-League because he couldn’t find minutes behind Darko.
3. Robin Lopez — If this is what the Suns were gonna do with a first-round pick, maybe they should be selling them every year.
2. Jerome James — This section should be named after him.
1. Eddy Curry — He got more playing time with “Dave” than with the Knicks.

* Top 10 Point Guards
* Top 10 Shooting Guards
* Top 10 Small Forwards
* Top 10 Power Forwards

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  • Mr.Wang

    xD ………c’mon Dave, touch it

  • dat dood

    man, you guys love that dave story…

  • http://www.f-the-refs.net Chicagorilla

    1. Eddy Curry — He got more playing time with “Dave” than with the Knicks.

    LOLasdfklajfdkljaslfjasdladfjlasd LMAO akasfjdklasjdflkjasdlfjkasd LMAO afkajsdfjkalskasjdfjasdLOL

  • BRUCE

    Where is Bynum?

  • kushmaster

    are u serious Brook Lopez is better than Bynum your on crack

  • Kevin

    Gortat made $34 million without breaking a sweat! I’d call that a great season.

    @kushmaster — If after five of these Top10 posts you still don’t understand the concept, I don’t know what to tell you. Go read the intro again dummy.

  • Steph

    It’s official, I am not renewing my free DIME mag subscription. Dime mag writers are morons.

  • isotope

    I know this is opinion but how did Al Jefferson have a better season than Yao? You said he scored more head to head vs Yao AND Shaq. Yet you put Shaq as #2 because of a couple good games and being in the headlines. Yet, Yao had very comparable stats, better in some cases, AND took his team to the playoffs.

    I think #1 is the only rank I agree with.

  • http://www.ragingspaniard.com Xavier

    Haddadi played well for his limited minutes, I think hell be a pleasant surprise soon :)

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    The Jerome James Award. Has a nice ring to it.

    Thabeet will be on the bottom 5 next year. He has bust written all over him. I hope he pans out though.

    Bynum was rightfully kept off both the top and bottom lists. He didn’t do anything noteworthy but wasn’t a complete failure.

  • Celts Fan

    @Kush – that’s not what the list is about, but yes, Brook Lopez is better than Andrew Bynum. It’s relatively close when both are fully healthy, but he’s gotta get his shit back on track for it to even be a discussion. He def could this year if he stays healthy, but til then, give me Brook Lopez all day.

  • GoEasy

    “Eddy Curry — He got more playing time with “Dave” than with the Knicks.”

    -brilliant

  • the cynic

    way to play it safe Austin. I guess I would too if I took the thrashing you took yesterday

  • James

    No Mehmet Okur? What the hell?

    He averaged 17ppg, 8rpg last season, uhh.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    When I was like 6 or 7, a Canadian goose bit me on the finger. That was a thrashing.

  • http://www.imeem.com/dialogs/standaloneplaylist/?p=ztKqfEZj smoove chips

    one thing for sure.if i seriously start to lose a step i’m moving to phoenix.Either they got something in the water or the trainers up there take more classes than the average.

    Considering all the baggage that came with shaq,he had a monster season.So did amare coming offa microfracture surgery as well.I also suspect they had a
    hand in Grant Hills ‘cocoon’ season.

    BTW Emimen is on some shyt.His diss to nick cannon n m.carey is fiyah.the dont want it with EM.the don’t.peep this.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzHnNPLWsDQ

    hope hova comes correct.this is how you make a diss song.you make it where people don’t event wanna talk back at you.

  • http://www.imeem.com/dialogs/standaloneplaylist/?p=ztKqfEZj smoove chips
  • http://dimemag.com Big Freeze

    Yao Ming at number 5?

    You’re an idiot for this one Austin.

  • JJ

    worst post everrrr! derrick favors??? better than bynum??? jajajajajaja what a joke!!!!!

  • utahJZZ

    it wasnt cool about wat u said about haddadi, i found it racist and unprofessional

  • David_Brandon

    is it true the knicks just picked up jason williams off the wire?? i wasnt sure if all 30 teams agreed to reinstate him yet…

  • http://www.ajc.com/hawks Ariose

    Blasphemy!!!! AL Horford????

  • doc

    Looks good to me AB.

  • Glenn

    Nothing on Starbury’s Gospel antics yet?

    Dude’s gone crazy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2QEcadC_Rk&feature=related

  • dave

    ppl seem retarded wen they say jajaja instead of hahahha

  • weezy f

    man how is yao on there? dude has the worst seasoin!!! his career might be over!! thats pretty bad

  • Scarface

    wow.. no Al Horford, Andrew Bynum, Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor, and perhaps Tyson Chandler, Andrew Bogut, and Al Jefferson is a PF

  • Glenn

    @dave,

    Jaja is the hispanic form of laughing, money.

  • jzsmoove

    @ 15, you deserved it.

  • sh!tfaced

    Oh yeah. Chris Anderson is the best Birdman since Koko B. Ware, baby!!!

  • Kevin

    @Scarface
    1. Kaman, Bogut and Chandler’s seasons were defined by injuries.
    2. Jefferson is the C, Kevin Love is the PF.
    3. Bynum didn’t do shit to stand out. If anything, he’d be on the Bottom Five.
    4. I’ll give you Okafor, but 13-10 for a Lottery team isn’t all that. Horford maybe deserved a spot.

  • ctc24

    SHAQ IS A BEAST I DONT CARE WIT NO ONE SAY

  • Buffalo Brave

    1. Eddy Curry — He got more playing time with “Dave” than with the Knicks.

    BWWWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!!!

    NIIICE!

  • http://www.LakersNation.com Lakers Nation

    you guys don’t really have an editor or anything, huh? Bynum, Chris Andersen, Marcus Camby, Big Z, Dalembert all deserve to be above a lot of these guys. . . . . is this a f-in intern writing this article? how old is she? tell them to go get coffee, shut up and sit in the corner!

  • Kevin

    @Lakers Nation — I think you’re the intern. Did you even watch the NBA this year?

    * Dalembert averaged 6 points and 8 boards and didn’t do shit in the playoffs. He would be traded right now cause Philly don’t want him, but nobody else wants him either.
    * Bynum played 50 games and was a total bust in the playoffs.
    * Camby averaged 10 points, 11 boards in 60 games for a shitty team.
    * Big Z averaged 12 and 7 and got destroyed by Dwight in the ECF.
    * Birdman is already on the list. Check #8

    You should get NBA League Pass cause you obviously ain’t watching the games.

  • Cameron

    I don’t get this list. Your “Top 10″ includes guys not even in the NBA (Derrick Favors).
    But the “Bottom Five” only includes NBA players who are obviously better than the five worst college players.
    Is this an NBA list or NBA and college?

  • QQ

    I guess people can’t read correctly anymore. This isn’t a list based on how good a player is, it’s a list on how well they did this year. And if any of you have seen Derrick Favors, you know he’s a complete beast, he’ll be a top 5 pick next year and is very similar to Dwight Howard. This is a list about centers in general, no matter what age or league.

  • http://www.twitter.com/TheDiesel Powerslave

    Dwight “I Can Dunk It And Sometimes Go Right” Howard sucks.

  • JesusChrist

    Where the hell is Emeka Okafor?

  • http://allthatjazzbasketball.blogspot.com/ Amar

    I guess Mehmet Okur is only going to have to hit more game winning three’s to make dime’s list . . .

  • Mack Brownee

    Andris Biedrins is a snub but I can’t justify putting him on this list above anybody else considering the warriors didn’t make the playoffs and he’s already got his big contract. A-B is a beast though and was a fantasy player’s dream last year with blocks, rebounds and fg%

  • D A

    Where’s Bargnani?

  • http://Konin KoninPolska

    Marcin Gortat Najlepszy moim zdaniem powiniem być na 6 miejscu! Polska!!!

  • Jeremy

    kendrick oerkins and marc gasol should be in that list