Times have changed at the center position in today’s NBA. It wasn’t long ago that the best players in the NBA were the centers. Between Olajuwon, Ewing, David Robinson and Shaq, the center position was easily the best position in the league for much of the last 20-25 years. In today’s game, one could argue it’s the least talented position.
Traditional centers are a dying breed in our game now and it’s not necessarily their fault. There are still a handful of traditional centers out there, but with the way the game is changing, it’s difficult for them to thrive as they used to. It’s a guard’s game. Teams are no longer willing to play slow down basketball and give their center 25 to 30 touches a game.
Earlier this season, Dwight Howard became frustrated that he wasn’t getting enough touches. This is a primary example of how the game has changed. The best center in the NBA shouldn’t have to beg for the basketball.
With a handful of the league’s best centers suffering injuries this season it was an off year for some who typically make this list. Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bogut all missed significant time this year. With all that said, here is our list of the top 10 players this season at the center position.
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JaVale McGee: 9.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 bpg
Greg Monroe: 16.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 0.7 bpg
J.J. Hickson: 12.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 0.6 bpg
10. NIKOLA VUCEVIC: 13.1 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg
Nikola Vucevic was the breakout player of the year at the center position. Even though he played for the worst team in the league, Vucevic had his fair share of standout moments, especially in the two games against Miami, putting up 20 and 29 in the first meeting and 25 and 21 the second time around. Going into next season, there’s no question Vucevic will be a player to watch out for at the center spot. His motor is unbelievable and he’s shown what he’s capable of doing. Before this season, Vucevic didn’t see many minutes as a rookie in Philadelphia. Now that he has an opportunity in Orlando, he’s showing he can grow into one of the best foreign centers the league has seen in a long time. Keep an eye out for him.
9. DeMARCUS COUSINS: 17.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.7 bpg
Cousins is one of the most talented centers in the NBA but he’s still allowing his immaturities to hold him back. He’s consistently proven that he’s capable of putting up monster numbers (just look at his averages on the season). Yet he won’t fulfill his potential until he just buys in and becomes fully coachable. Cousins has arguably more potential than any other center in the league. He has the necessary talent and skill-set to be a franchise player, but he doesn’t have the mentality. Losing has been in the air in Sacramento for a while and it’s up to him to turn that around. Cousins has to realize that for the Kings to become a winning team he must be the guy.
If he can turn this around for himself and start to build a winning culture in Sacramento (or dare I say Seattle), he’ll become an All-Star. If not, he’ll continue to be a decent player on a losing team for the rest of his career.