Ranking the 2012-13 NBA Centers
Seemingly a dying position in today’s NBA, the role of center has undoubtedly been put through the ringer over recent years. From multiple teams ditching centers to go to a smaller, quicker attack to being taken off of the All-Star ballot completely, the future suggests the center position could end up being obsolete as the NBA game continues to evolve.
Still, while it may not stack up to the glory days for centers that was the 1990′s (or even the 2000′s for that matter), the NBA still has its fair share of talent at the center position.
Today, let’s take a look at the top centers for the 2012-13 NBA season:
#6 – Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz
17.5 PPG, 9.2 RPB, 1.2 BLKPG, 20.71 PER
A pillar of consistency throughout his career, Jefferson flies mostly under the radar despite being a lock to drop at least 16 points and grab nine rebounds over the course of nearly nine NBA seasons. As the anchor in the post for the playoff hopeful Jazz, Jefferson leads the team in both points and rebounds – a feat he’s accomplished in each of the past two seasons.
Second in the NBA among centers in scoring, Jefferson continues to excel and put up elite-level numbers despite playing next to a solid power forward in Paul Millsap and in front of a solid young hybrid in Derrick Favors.
One of the last of a dying breed of the lumbering NBA centers that rely on strength and size over quickness and athleticism, Jefferson still resides as one of the best in the business at the position. A prospective free agent at the end of the season, the 28-year-old Jefferson will undoubtedly be a hot commodity on the market if Utah fails to re-sign him.
#5 – Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
17.3 PPG, 10.1 RPB, 1.1 BLKPG, 19.97 PER
Putting up some of the best numbers of his career while leading the Hawks in both points and rebounds per contest, Horford has solidified himself as a top-five NBA center this season. After playing just 11 games last year due to a left pectoral tear, Horford has bounced back this season to lead the Hawks to the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference.
With a heavily retooled squad in Atlanta around him, Horford has continued to thrive in 2012-13. Overall, Horford ranks third in the NBA among centers in scoring and seventh in rebounding while shooting a gaudy 55.5 percent from the field.
At 26 years old, Horford is entering the prime of his NBA career and, if he can stay healthy, will likely vault a few other names on this list before the dust settles.
#4 – Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
12 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 2.2 BLKPG, 17.76 PER
Arguably the best defensive center in the game today, Noah anchors a Bulls defense that consistently ranks among the most difficult to score upon in the NBA. With Noah patrolling the paint, Chicago ranks third in the NBA in opponent points per game (91.8) and fifth in field goal percentage allowed (43.7 percent) so far this season.
Fourth among centers in blocks and third in rebounds, Noah’s stats coincide with his reputation as being one of the NBA’s staunchest defenders. Also just one of seven active centers to average a double-double over the course of the current campaign and the league-leader among centers in assists per game (4.1), Noah isn’t a liability on the offensive end either.
Even with former NBA MVP Derrick Rose looking on from the sidelines for the majority of 2012-13, the Bulls have continued to be a force in the East and Noah has been the key.
#3 – Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
10.7 PPG, 11 RPB, 1.1 BLKPG, 19.30 PER
The most important cog in the 2011 Dallas Mavericks championship run not named Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler has evolved even more since leaving Dallas that subsequent summer. Chandler then followed up helping guide Dallas to the first championship in franchise history by winning NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the Knicks the very next season. This year, Chandler has continued on course as one of the best centers in the game to lead the surprising Knicks to the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Among NBA centers, Chandler ranks fifth in rebounding while also leading the NBA in field goal percentage, shooting an astounding 64.5 percent from the field. Along with the insertion of head coach Mike Woodson, Chandler has been the key to New York’s massive turnaround on the defensive end of the floor. Not just a powerful presence on the court, Chandler is regarded highly in the locker room and is a force behind the team’s attention to detail on the defensive end.
#2 – Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
14.3 PPG, 7.7 RPB, 1.7 BLKPG, 19.75 PER
Along with Zach Randolph, Gasol has been the defining reason that Memphis has continued to play dominant basketball despite trading Rudy Gay earlier this season. Even with an influx of new players, the Grizzlies haven’t missed a beat with the best center, power forward combination in the NBA leading the way.
Even though Gasol’s overall numbers aren’t on the same plane as some of his peers on this list, his overall game suggests he could be on the All-NBA First Team at center when the dust settles this season. A combination of defensive prowess, strong post presence on both ends and a dominant back to the basket game make sure Gasol resides in that elite-level category. Also, second in the NBA at his position in assists per contest (3.9), Gasol excels finding open teammates out of the double team.
A throw-back style NBA center that doesn’t wow with athletic ability but excels using strength and savvy to have his way, Gasol has to be considered as one of the top few centers in the game today.
#1 – Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
16.4 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.4 BLKPG, 19.38 PER
Even though he’s dealing with a bum shoulder this season, Howard has continued to excel and there’s little doubt that the Lakers big man still reigns at the top center in today’s NBA. From the center position, Howard leads the league in rebounds per game and is second in double-doubles (36) despite missing time this season.
The prototypical new-age NBA center, Howard has the speed and quickness to keep up with multiple positions on the defensive end while still being able to overpower or outmaneuver the opposition on the offensive end of the floor. An excellent combination of physical ability, size, strength and overall savvy, it’s going to be quite some time before a center surpasses Howard as the cream of the crop in today’s NBA.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
17 PPG, 10 RBG, .7 BGP, 20.14 PER
One could argue that Cousins should be on the top-six list above but it’s still too early for Cousins, even as talented as he is in just his third NBA season, to be listed among the league’s best centers. Still just 22 years old, Cousins has all the makings of an all-time NBA great if he can manage to keep his head on straight.
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
18.8 PPG, 7.1 RPB, 2.2 BLKPG, 24.58 PER
The most prolific scorer from the center position in the league, Lopez has shaken off an injury-riddled 2012 campaign to help lead Brooklyn to the fifth-best record in the East this season. In fact, if judging strictly by Player Efficiency Rating, Lopez would rank as the best center in the game today.
DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
8.8 PPG, 6.9 RPB, 1.3 BLKPG, 16.87 PER
While Jordan doesn’t feature gaudy statistics like some of the other members of this list, he’s one of the best defensive centers in the game and does all of the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a guaranteed two points any time you lob it up to Jordan in the rim’s general vicinity either.
Marcin Gortat, Phoenix Suns
11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPB, 1.6 BLKPG, 15.64 PER
Even though he’s dwelling in the abyss that is the Phoenix Suns this season, there are many NBA teams out there that would love to have Gortat’s presence in the paint. A double-double threat on a nightly basis on a contender, Gortat should still be in the discussion as one of the better centers in basketball.
On the Rise:
Even though he hasn’t logged a second of NBA action this season due to a bum knee, Bynum is a free agent after the season and the promising young center will still get plenty of attention on the open market.
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
12.2 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 1 BLKPG, 17.20 PER
Looking like a steal in the massive four-team blockbuster trade this past August, Vucevic has played like a man possessed for the Magic this season.
Omer Asik, Houston Rockets
10.3 PPG, 11.8 RPB, 1.1 BLKPG, 14.97 PER
The second-best rebounder in the NBA for 2012-13, Asik has emerged has a key piece for an up-and-coming Rockets team after the Bulls decided not to match his offer sheet this past summer.
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
15.9 PPG, 9.5 RPB, 0.7 BLKPG, 19.08 PER
The seventh overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Monroe has put together back-to-back solid seasons in Detroit and only has room to grow at just 22 years old.
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks
9.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.2 BLKPG, 18.57 PER
Currently reigning as the NBA leader in blocks per game this season, Sanders has provided a much-needed spark for the Bucks in the paint.
Who are your choices for the best centers in the league? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!