NBA Sunday: Top-Five Free Agent Centers
Nate Wolters - VIDEO OF THE DAY
After being one of the most productive players in college basketball over the last four years at South Dakota State, Nate Wolters is out to achieve his ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.Watch More Video Here
Ranking the Top-5 Free Agent Centers
The Miami HEAT are the 2013 NBA champions, which means 29 other teams are going back to the drawing board hoping to finish next season on top. Even though it’s been taken off of the All-Star ballot, the center position is still an emphasis heading into the offseason.
Teams like the HEAT, with a Big Three that dominates opponents on a nightly basis, may not need a presence at center, but every team (including Miami) is looking to upgrade this summer. With arguably the best free agent available along with a few budding superstars, the center position is ripe with talent for teams geared up to spend this July.
That being said, let’s take a look at the top free agent centers heading in the summer of 2013:
5. Samuel Dalembert, Milwaukee Bucks (Unrestricted)
2013 Salary: $6,698,565
The 11-year vet has flown under the radar over the past few years following his exit from the Philadelphia 76ers after the 2009-10 season. Career averages of eight points and eight boards per game suggest that Dalembert will still have value this summer for a team looking for help at center on the cheap.
This past year in Milwaukee, Dalembert started just 23 games but finished with the second-highest field goal percentage of his career (54.2 percent) while helping the Bucks to a playoff berth. Even at 32 years old, expect there to be plenty of interest in Dalembert this summer, especially after the bigger names at the center position get snatched up.
4. Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz (Unrestricted)
2013 Salary: $15 million
One of the most consistent players at his position over the course of his nine-year career, Jefferson heads into free agency as one of the best centers available in the summer of 2013. After three years in Utah, all indications suggest Jefferson will likely be in a different uniform next season.
Jefferson is still on the right side of 30 at 28 years old and is coming off of a 2013 campaign in which he led the Jazz in both points (17.8) and rebounds (9.2) per contest. After striking out with the top-three centers in free agency, prospective teams looking for help down low will get a nice consolation prize with Jefferson.
3. Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers (Unrestricted)
2013 Salary: $16,889,000
Despite not playing a single second in an NBA game over the course of 2012-13, Bynum must still be considered a top option at center this offseason. The 25-year-old center has proven over the course his brief career that he possesses the talent to be the best at his position.
Bynum has the size, athleticism and skill to, if he remains healthy, someday be remembered as one of the best to ever play the center position; he’s that talented. The goal for Bynum and his agent heading into the summer will be to find a team willing to take a risk on the oft-injured big man and unlock his full potential.
It’s easy to forget but with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-12, Bynum averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest. Even with the off-the-court issues, Bynum has the be considered one of the top free agents at center this summer.
2. Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves (Restricted)
2013 Salary: $8,603,633
2014 Qualifying Offer: $6,046,500
Pekovic flew under the radar with the banged-up T-Wolves this past season, but showcased a mountain of potential in just his third NBA season. Kevin Love was on the shelf for most of the year, which allowed Pekovic to make his way into the spotlight, averaging team-highs in both points (16.3) and rebounds (8.8) per game among qualified players.
At nearly seven-feet tall and built like an NFL defensive end, Pekovic’s brute force along with a nice post game combined to confirm his elite-level center coming-out party. Even though Minnesota will likely make him a restricted free agent this summer, plenty of teams will be contemplating offers for the budding star.
1. Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers (Unrestricted)
2013 Salary: $19,536,360
An obvious choice for number one, the best center in basketball continued his dominance at the position even at less than 100 percent in 2013. Howard finished among the league’s elite at center once again this past year, asserting his case for being the top big man in today’s NBA.
Many of his numbers dipped this past season in Los Angeles as he recovered from back surgery and tried to integrate himself into one of the most dysfunctional teams in the league. Still, teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets are going to pull out all the stops this summer in an attempt to lure the superstar away from L.A.
Zaza Pachulia, Atlanta Hawks (Unrestricted)
2013 Salary: $5,248,750
While he might not be a starter in the NBA anymore, the 29-year-old former Hawks reserve is still solid as a backup option at the center position. Career averages of 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds suggest he’ll find a landing spot this summer on a team desperate for help at the post position.
Chris Kaman, Dallas Mavericks (Unrestricted)
2013 Salary: $8 million
A disappointing 2013 campaign won’t derail Kaman’s value as a potential starting center for a team longing to acquire a talented seven-footer this summer. Even in a below-par season on a Mavs team that he came off the bench for toward the end of the year, Kaman averaged 10.5 points (50.7 percent shooting) and 5.6 rebounds.
Chris Andersen, Miami HEAT (Unrestricted)
2013 Salary: $341,756
A solid role player this past season with Miami, Andersen proved that he still has quality basketball left in the tank at 34 years old. Andersen showed that he could get lift from his lower body after a disappointing few previous seasons in the league. With a solid postseason run under his belt in which he shot an unbelievable 80.7 percent from the field, expect the Birdman to field plenty of offers this offseason.
Non-Guaranteed, Early Termination Option, Player Option and Team Option Notables:
Emeka Okafor, Washington Wizards (ETO):
2013 Salary: $13,490,000
The consistent nine-year vet averaged 9.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this past year in Washington for the injury-plagued Wizards. With nearly $14.5 million guaranteed next season, Okafor’s best move would be to collect his last giant NBA check before hitting the market next summer.
Andris Biedrins, Golden State Warriors (ETO)
2013 Salary: $9 million
Option: $9 million
Despite riding the pine as a bench warmer nearly all of 2013, the 27-year-old Biedrins is just a few years removed from averaging a double-double nightly. Another player looking at the likelihood of his last immense payday, Biedrins would be wise to hang around and collect a check next season with Golden State.
We Want to Know:
Finals Loss Produces Kind, Engaging Gregg Popovich?
In his final meeting with the media heading into the 2013 offseason, San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich flipped the script and dropped his irritated old man image. Despite coming just 30 seconds short of a fifth NBA title, Popovich was as engaging as ever recently.
Pop acknowledged the disappointment while also cracking jokes with the assorted media in San Antonio.
“I don’t really want to do a soliloquy, but the elephant in the room is that we’re all hurting because we had an opportunity to win a championship right in the palm of our hands and it didn’t happen,” Popovich told The Associated Press. “So, that hurts, and it will dissipate over time, but right now it hurts everyone to varying degrees.”
The obvious question was how the disheartening back-to-back losses after being up 3-2 in the 2013 NBA Finals would affect San Antonio next season.
“That’s the kind of articles you guys write,” Popovich said, deflecting the question before cracking a smile, “that we always read. … I read every one of them, I swear. I swear, I read every one.”
The four-time champion head coach wasn’t shy about acknowledging the embarrassment that comes with having an NBA title within reach before blowing it in the final seconds. Especially after the Game 6 debacle, Popovich was brutally honest with his team’s feelings about the loss.
“I’ll be honest with you, when you saw the crowd, the first feeling I had was embarrassment,” Popovich said. “We wanted to bring it home for them so badly. Was just embarrassed that we didn’t get it done and then as you look at them all and they just keep cheering you realize, my gosh, you really felt the love and the way they care for these guys and their team and then it did make it easier. Like, ‘Hey, they’re with us.’ ”
San Antonio has plenty of decisions to make this offseason with so much uncertainty heading into the summer. Based on the Spurs’ track record, regardless of what happens over the next two months, contending in the West is a given next season.