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NBA / Feb 10, 2011 / 10:00 am

The NBA’s Top 10 Centers

Andrew Bynum (photo. Jeff Forney)

The easy comparison has always been that point guards are like quarterbacks. But looking at the NBA and NFL trends over the last few years, and you could say that the closest hardwood relative to the QB is actually the center.

Quality quarterbacks are hard to come by in the NFL, and franchise QB’s are priceless. The same goes for centers in the NBA. Most quarterbacks need time to effectively learn play the pro game (e.g., reading coverages), while a lot of centers need a similarly generous learning curve (e.g., staying out of foul trouble). And between C’s and QB’s, no position has been more ravaged by injuries lately.

So who is the NBA’s answer to Aaron Rodgers? Meet him and the rest of the Top 10:

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1. DWIGHT HOWARD, Magic — He was already far and away the best center in the League before he expanded his offensive repertoire this season. Now that Dwight (22.5 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg) is hitting bankers at obtuse angles and throwing up more hooks than Candyman at a University of Texas pep rally, he is arguably the most valuable commodity in the League.

2. AL HORFORD, Hawks — You don’t have to be flawless when you understand your strengths and weaknesses and simply stay within your limits. This season Horford has been the most efficient big man in the League, averaging 16.2 points and 9.9 boards while shooting 56.9% from the field, 82% from the line (both career highs) and committing career-lows in fouls and turnovers. And this isn’t even supposed to be his natural position.

3. ANDREW BOGUT, Bucks — Still looking for that first All-Star nod, which may never happen as long as Howard and Horford are in the East. Bogut (13.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.9 bpg) could become this generation’s Rik Smits, who made one All-Star Game in his career despite cranking out 4-5 All-Star caliber seasons.

4. AL JEFFERSON, Jazz — His talent was never in question, but earlier this season it looked like Jefferson had become one of those guys who was labeled underrated for so long that he’d actually become overrated. Recently, however, Jefferson (17.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg) has grasped the Utah system and quietly started to dominate. So far in February he’s averaging 23.6 points on 57.7% shooting from the field.

5. JOAKIM NOAH, Bulls — The Kevin Garnett of the five position. Noah (14.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg) excels on the defensive end, where his communication is just as effective as his shot-blocking; he rebounds like each one is worth a bonus check; he is the emotional leader of his team; and everybody who doesn’t play with him or cheer for his team hates his guts.

6. EMEKA OKAFOR, Hornets — Understated and underrated. Okafor has averaged a double-double for his career and was just starting to get recognition this year (I had him in the running for Defensive Player of the Year) when he got injured a couple weeks ago.

7. NENE, Nuggets — When he wants to, Nene (15.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is a beast that few big men in the League can stop. But how often does he want it?

8. BROOK LOPEZ, Nets — The closest to an NFL quarterback in that he can carry your offense (19.4 ppg) but gives you nothing on defense. Lopez’a rebounding woes (5.6 rpg) have been well documented, so much that it overshadows his status as one of the most offensively talented bigs in the League.

9. ANDREW BYNUM, Lakers — If you want to know the value of a (potential) franchise center, consider that the Lakers reportedly wouldn’t trade Bynum (11.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg) for Carmelo Anthony. They won’t even trade him when Kobe Bryant says to trade him. Never mind that Bynum has a history of injuries and still hasn’t lived up to his monster contract. He’s young, he’s tall, and he’s good. That makes him more valuable than one of the five (or so) best players in the world.

10. ANDREA BARGNANI, Raptors — He’s not a conventional center, but Bargnani (21.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) gets buckets and is the best shooting center in the League.

Honorable mentionTyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins, Shaquille O’Neal

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  • WinDelRoj

    1. Dwight 2. Nene

    Thats the ranking of guys who get the worst calls from refs. Andrew Bynum has no heart

  • http://www.curtpalme.com/forum/files/you_re_a_homo_767.jpg JAY

    I can’t argue putting Bargnani up there but DAMN. He’s the opposite of what I want my center to be. The center position needs to be the defensive anchor. Defense, IMO, should be the meat of a center’s game. Offensive output is just gravy.

    Bargnani is the league’s Anti-center.

  • A.R.

    It’s so sad that the center position is that thin. And what the hell is up with these 7 footers handing in 5 rebounds a game? Uhm excuse me? These guys need there asses beat. They get more than enough minutes to grab at least 3 more. Bill Russell is somewhere cringing.

  • http://www.curtpalme.com/forum/files/you_re_a_homo_767.jpg JAY

    Now that I’m looking at the honorable mentions, Chandler/Hibbert > Bargnani.

  • FreeSkita

    How can you include Shaq and Boogie Cousins in the honorabe mention and not give any reps to JaVale McGee? The Wizards may be struggling but the man is putting in work down in the Capital.

  • pipdaddyy

    Pretty good list, but Bargnani is about as much a center as Dirk is. BTW Duncan should be included here and not at PF, since really is a center since the Admiral retired despite being listed as PF.

  • axel

    Hibbert is a far better center than Bargnani

  • http://dynastybball.wordpress.com/ sean.dynastybball

    The Lakers “reportedly” won’t trade Bynum because that is a rumor floated by the Nuggets to boost Cancer Anthony’s trade value. You guys are the biggest nut huggers of Bynum around… why is his picture there when he’s ranked 9th?

  • srb

    Haha Bynum nut huggers – that’s a new accusation I think.

    We’ve just heard Lebron, Iverson, Rondo, Kobe, etc. before.

  • LMNOP

    The Center position is kind of messed up these days. Duncan, Amare and Gasol are all better Centers than most players on the list and Guys like Horford, Jefferson, Bargnani should all be playing at the 4.

  • celticsdada

    How can anyone respect this dude Burton’s list? Okafor, Lopez, Bargnani??? We’re talking about the Center position, it is guy who bangs, hustles, gets rebounds…none of those guys above do that. Are they better than Tyson Chandler, Perkins and Marc Gasol?? Are u effing kidding me?

  • ctkennedy

    no way in hell lopez is top 10….pau gasol n tim duncan should be on the center list

  • LMNOP

    That wasnt a knock on the list btw, just sayin, alot of players are playing out of position because of the lack of quality bigs around.

  • TR

    I’d take Tyson this year over Jefferson/Nene/Okafor/Bynum/Bargnani/Lopez. Hands down.

  • ctkennedy

    why is people so sold on holford bein better at the 4…his quickness n few perimeter skills wouldnt be as value ….barganai too what makes him special is he stretchs the court at the 5 his value would go down too

  • whatwhat

    What is an “All-Strar cliber” season? Sounds fancy.

  • yoda

    @1
    why you say andrew doesn’t have heart? guy played finals on one leg, had his knee drained two or three time, barely walked yet he decided to play against boston goons? that guy is most talented of all on that list, unfortunately he was injured so much in his career. plus, what i like about him, he’s not afraid to give hard foul and bangs and he doesn’t backs out. i guess it has something with being thought by kareem

  • sh!tfaced

    Top ten centers?! lol. just shows the lack of true big men today.

    Guys like Rik Smits, Rony Seikaly, Kevin Duckworth, etc must be rolling in their graves…

  • nizzio

    I remember at the beginning of the season everyone was overhyping Brook Lopez and they put him on top of the center charts. Now he isn’t even a top 5 guy

  • raffi

    alot of these guys are centers in box score position only… if that makes sense. id say only dwight, bogut, noah, nene, lopez and bynum are real centers

  • mo.B.bad

    1. DWIGHT HOWARD, Magic — He was already far and away the best center in the League before he expanded his offensive repertoire this season. Now that Dwight (22.5 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg) is hitting bankers at obtuse angles and throwing up more hooks than Candyman at a University of Texas pep rally, he is arguably the most valuable commodity in the League.

    ———————————-

    absolutely god damn right.

    if he starts hitting his FT’s at 60-70% consistently, he’s gotta be the MVP. seriously.

  • Ian

    brook lopez gtfoh 5 boards a game. btw howard wasnt the best center by far 2 seasons ago it was between him and yao.

  • Ian

    pipdaddy
    i think hes been the center since rasho left not after the admiral.

    btw the centers today are pathetic

    lets move this fuckers to the 90s
    robinson shaq hakeem mourning deke and even the overrated and pathetic ewing is better than howard.

  • Chaos

    Wtf?! Who said Okafor aint top ten right now? Dude is averaging a double and alters a lot of shots during the game. The difference between these guys and older centers is the offensive game. We won’t have another generation where guys were bother offensively and defensively talented. Most offense goes thru the 4 down in the low post. There won’t be another era that had Olajuwan, Robinson, Ewing, O’neal, Mourning, Smits, Smits and even throw in Seikly.

    I think Hibbert having a new coach will be top 10 over Bargs. And while u wanna mention it, in the future look out for deandre jordan and greg oden (not giving up yet).

    Howard
    Horford
    Bogut
    Noah
    Jefferson
    Nene
    Okafor
    Chandler
    Hibbert
    Lopez
    Bynum
    Gasol and Perkins

    If u wanna add duncan and pau at Cs instead of PFs, they go at 2 and 3 after Howard

  • Diego

    Absolutely nothing new about somewhat undersized finesse-type guys playing center. Guys like Jack Sikma, Dan Issel, Laimbeer back in the day all got the vast bulk of their buckets from midrange to long jumpers (with Laimbeer relying heavily on 3s). (Sonics had a traditional center in Marvin Webster, then traded him and moved Sikma over to center the next season and won the title.)

    What is different these days is guys like Duncan (particularly Duncan), Pau and Amare claiming not to be centers, when that is clearly the role they play for their team.

    Nice list by AB. Marc Gasol, if he stays healthy should creep on next year.

  • Ian

    diego
    shit forgot about marc hes top ten easy now imo

  • John

    I’d honestly put Bargs as one of the worse starting centers in the league. He’s one of the few players in the league that has a negative EWA can’t get much crappier than that

  • celticsdada

    It’s a crime Perkins is not on top 10 REAL centers !!