Top 6 NBA Centers in 2013-14
Throughout the week, we here at HOOPSWORLD have been ranking the Top 6 performers at each position. So far, we’ve looked at the Top Six NBA Point Guards, Top Six NBA Shooting Guards, Top Six NBA Small Forwards and Top Six NBA Power Forwards.
Today, we wrap up this offseason series by examining the best big men in the NBA.
#6 – Chris Bosh, Miami HEAT
2012-13 stats: 16.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 20.1 PER
As the third banana in Miami, Bosh is relegated to a strictly supporting actor status. If he was still the leading man on a team like he was in his days with the Toronto Raptors and the focal point of an offense, his production, and consequently, his ranking, would likely be higher.
Bosh has done a great job transitioning to the center position since joining Miami in the summer of 2010. He’s not your typical five, but he’s a perfect center in Erik Spoelstra’s position-less approach. Bosh is able to stretch the floor and contribute at the five, which opens things up for teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The two championships on his resume help his case too.
#5 – Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
2012-13 stats: 11.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 18.2 PER
Noah’s numbers won’t wow you. He isn’t the tallest center on this list, he isn’t the strongest nor is he the fastest. His jumper certainly isn’t the prettiest. However, you’d be hard pressed to find another center, or any NBA player at any position for that matter, who plays harder than Joakim Noah.
The Bulls’ burly, bruising big man is as physical and aggressive as they get. His dogged determination is one of the primary reasons why his teammates love playing with him. He helped prove his worth this past postseason, as he helped guide an undermanned Chicago squad past the Brooklyn Nets, despite playing through agonizing foot pain. In Game 7, on the road, Noah produced an epic performance, finishing with 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks. Per the Elias Stats Bureau, Noah is just the fifth player in NBA history with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a Game 7 win, joining Kevin Garnett, Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Elvin Hayes.
#4 – Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
2012-13 stats: 17.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 19.8 PER
Probably more of a natural power forward, Horford often plays center in today’s NBA. And despite sometimes giving away plenty of pounds, Horford more than holds his own against bigger, stronger opponents. A terrifically well-rounded player, Horford contributes significantly on both ends of the floor.
With six seasons under his belt, Horford’s numbers speak for themselves. Consider this fact: Horford has now appeared in 391 regular season games, and has posted a composite average of 13.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks, while shooting 53.9 percent from the floor. Per Elias, this places him in elite company, as only four other players matched those averages through the same number of games played – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Artis Gilmore.
#3 – Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
2012-13 stats: 19.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 24.8 PER
Lopez is a polarizing player, as some choose to disparage his game by focusing on what he doesn’t do. Yes, Lopez is certainly far from an elite defender, and his lack of rebounding prowess for a man his size can be frustrating. However, on the other end of the floor, Lopez is the most skilled and offensively efficient big man on the planet. With an incredibly soft touch on his jumper, and improving low-post game on the block, Lopez poured in nearly 20 points a night last season, boasting a true shooting percentage that hovered near 57 percent. In addition, his PER of 24.8 ranked fifth in the NBA, behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.
Also, Lopez showed growth on the defensive end as well, averaging a career-high 2.1 blocks. In fact, Lopez became just the second player since 2007 to average at least 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the same season (Dwight Howard is the other player). And at just 25 years of age, Lopez’s best days still lie ahead of him.
#2 – Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
2012-13 stats: 14.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 19.6 PER
A legitimate argument could be made that Gasol deserves the top spot on this list, as he produced the finest 2012-13 season amongst NBA centers. In the process, Gasol established himself as the most versatile and well-rounded big man in the game today. For starters, Gasol was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Incredibly, he also averaged career highs in assists (4.0) and free throw percentage (.848) and was one of three players (Kevin Durant, Josh Smith) to tally over 600 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 blocks last season. Gasol also became just the second player in NBA history to average at least 14 points, 4 assists and 1.5 blocks while also shooting above 84 percent from the free-throw stripe. The only other player to accomplish that feat was Michael Jordan. Not bad company to keep.
#1 – Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
2012-13 stats: 17.1 ppg, 12.4 ppg, 2.4 bpg, 19.5 PER
Despite struggling through offseason back surgery and a nagging shoulder injury that clearly limited his athleticism, Howard still managed to have a huge impact at both ends of the floor during his lone season in Los Angeles. He led the NBA in rebounding, and finished fifth in blocks. From mid-February through mid-March, Howard grabbed at least a dozen rebounds in 14 straight games. On eight separate occasions, he totaled at least 20 points and 10 rebounds while also shooting above 70 percent from the floor in the same game. The eight such games were the most by any player in the NBA last season.
The gap between Howard and the rest of the NBA’s centers was once quite wide, but has shrunk considerably in recent years. Will Howard finally get passed next season, or, now in Houston, will he reestablish himself at the league’s best big man?
Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
2012-13 stats: 10.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 18.9 PER
Had this list been compiled last summer, Chandler would have cracked the top six. After a phenomenal first season in New York, in which he became the first Knick ever named Defensive Player of the Year, Chandler regressed in 2012-13. Some have speculated that a nagging neck injury may have been the root cause, but he was a shell of his former self over the second half of the season, and was badly outplayed by Roy Hibbert in New York’s loss to the Pacers in postseason.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
2012-13 stats: 11.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 17.3 PER
Over the first half of the 2012-13 season, Pacers fans were often frustrated by Hibbert’s ineffectiveness. He averaged less than 10 points while shooting just 41 percent from the floor over the first 50 games of the regular season. However, he picked up the pace in the second half, averaging nearly 16 points and converting over 50 percent of his FG attempts. Then, in the postseason, Hibbert was an absolute beast, playing the best basketball of his career. Can he keep the momentum going onto 2013-14?
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 stats: 13.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 16.8 PER
Due to his all-around versatility and offensive efficiency, Gasol has long been considered one of the elite big men in the game. But last season Pau looked a step slow, and came back to the field a bit. With Howard in Houston, and Pau closer to 100 percent healthy, will he climb back up the rankings in 2014?
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
2012-13 stats: 17.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 20.21 PER
If we ranked these players strictly on skill set and pure talent alone, Cousins would be much, much higher on this list. However, DeMarcus has been besieged by maturity issues since entering the NBA. If he ever maximizes his ability, he’ll be scary good.
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats
2012-13 stats: 17.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 21.0 PER
Utah let him walk away as a free agent this summer because they weren’t satisfied his defense. However, Charlotte was willing to pay him $40+ million over three seasons because he’s a rare back-to-the-basket big man that can efficiently and effectively score on the low block.