2010 Closeout: Center Rankings

The center position is back.

For the past few years, the All-Star game was just a way for Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming and Dwight Howard to display their dominance at the position.

This season there can actually be a debate about which players deserve the nod at center for the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Like every other position in the league, centers are now sleeker and more athletic.

It’s also proven to be one of the most interchangeable parts on a team, as eight new players are listed as starters and three power forwards have made successful transitions to becoming starting centers.

At least this year, there are some legitimate debates for which players deserve an All-Star bid.

30. Chuck Hayes– Houston Rockets

It’s never easy filling in for one of the most popular players in the NBA. The challenge is even more drastic when giving up 12 inches to your predecessor. The six-foot-six Chuck Hayes faces an uphill battle each night and the Rockets need to shop around for a better option.

Previous ranking: unranked

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29. Zydrunas Ilgauskas- Miami Heat

The other defector from Cleveland, Zydrunas Ilgauskas is playing the fewest minutes of his 12-year career this season. Miami employs a triumvirate of centers, Ilgauskas just happens to be the player taking the opening tap. A solid defender and rebounder, he is really expected to provide some impact for this Heat team.

Previous ranking: unranked

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28. Nazr Mohammed– Charlotte Bobcats

Off to a miserable start, the Bobcats have already switched coaches and seem open to changing personnel. Putting up a respectable eights points and five rebounds a game, it will come as no surprise if Nazr Mohammad, a center for six different teams in his career, is wearing a different uniform in February.

Previous ranking: 28th

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27. DeJuan Blair– San Antonio Spurs

Experiencing the same troubles as Brandon Roy, playing without any cartilage in either of his knees, DeJuan Blair has proven the setback won’t derail an NBA career. Maybe he’s not as explosive as he could be, but Blair has established himself as a solid rebounder in San Antonio.

Previous ranking: unranked

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26. Ben Wallace– Detroit Pistons

Not many players can keep a starting job while averaging just 3.3 points per game. Ben Wallace has never been known as an offensive force, but without the phenomenal rebound or block numbers, the Pistons are having a difficult time justifying keeping him a starter, even with a depleted front court.

Previous ranking: 26th

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25. DeAndre Jordan– Los Angeles Clippers

Showing some explosion to his game, DeAndre Jordan has filled in nicely for the injured Chris Kaman. Averaging six rebounds in just 21 minutes of action, Jordan has improved tremendously as a shot blocker and will be a serviceable backup for the Clippers this year.

Previous ranking: unranked

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24. Spencer Hawes– Philadelphia 76ers

Taking over the starting position expected to belong to Mareese Speights, Spencer Hawes has helped Philadelphia climb back into the playoff race. Against the Lakers, Hawes posted 18 points, 13 rebounds and five assists as the 76ers nearly pulled off the upset.

Previous ranking: unranked

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23. Nenad Krstic– Oklahoma City Thunder

In the midst of one of the worst seasons of his career, Nenad Krstic may soon be replaced by second year defensive stalwart Serge Ibaka. Averaging 7.8 points and 4.7 rebounds, his lowest numbers since his injury shortened final year with the Nets, Krstic is shooting just 45 percent from the field this season.

Previous ranking: 21st

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22. Andris Biedrins– Golden State Warriors

The good news is Andris Biedrins has increased his free throw percentage by nine percent. The bad news is Biedrins is connecting on just 25 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe. The Warriors are off to a disappointing start and are getting no offensive production from Biedrins. He’s only posted two double digit point totals this year.

Previous ranking: 25th

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21. Darko Milicic– Minnesota Timberwolves

Yes, it is true. Darko Milicic ranks second in the NBA in blocks per game and has even surpassed 20 points in a game four times this year. However, Milicic is still the player we all thought he was on offense, shooting just 43 percent from the field even with the defense keying in on Michael Beasley and Kevin Love.

Previous ranking: 30th

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20. DeMarcus Cousins– Sacramento Kings

Talented enough to start for the Kings, coach Paul Westphal has temporarily stripped Cousins of the starting job because of his immaturity. When Reggie Williams missed a free throw against Sacramento, Cousins reportedly gave him the choke sign. Too special of a player to remain on the bench, Cousins will likely need to switch teams before he can become an impact player.

Previous ranking: unranked

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19. Emeka Okafor– New Orleans Hornets

For the fifth straight season Emeka Okafor’s scoring average has dipped. To make matters even worse, the starting number in that time period was just 14.4 points per game. Okafor is the player the Hornets are trying to move, but with the league owning the team, a roster change will likely have to wait until the team is sold.

Previous ranking: 19th

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18. Nene– Denver Nuggets

Averaging a career high 15 points per game, Nene is one of the reasons why Denver is still competing for a playoff spot even with all of the uncertainty surrounding the team’s superstar. To make his scoring total even more impressive, Nene is shooting a league high 62 percent from the field this year.

Previous ranking: 16th

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17. Anderson Varejao– Cleveland Cavaliers

Starting consistently for the first time in his career, Anderson Varejao has proven he is better in small doses. Even though his point and rebound totals are the highest of his career, Varejao would be better served as the top reserve for a contending team, not a starter on a lottery club.

Previous ranking: 14th

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16. Robin Lopez– Phoenix Suns

Missing 14 games with a sprained left knee, the return of Robin Lopez provides some much needed size to the Phoenix lineup. Prior to the injury, Lopez showed flashes of becoming a solid NBA center. Against the Lakers, Lopez posted 18 points and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes. If he can produce similar numbers a little more often, he’ll creep closer to his twin brother on this list.

Previous ranking: 12th

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15. Marcus Camby– Portland Trail Blazers

The best possible insurance policy for the continually injured Greg Oden, Marcus Camby is still one of the top rebounders in the league, even at the age of 36. If not for his own injury troubles, Camby would be one of the elite centers of his generation.

Previous ranking: unranked

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14. Tyson Chandler– Dallas Mavericks

No one thought Tyson Chandler could turn the Mavericks into one of the leagues top defensive ball clubs. Even though he is averaging just 1.3 blocks per game, Chandler’s intensity on the defensive end has been picked up by his teammates. Dallas is allowing the opposition to shoot just 43 percent from the field, second best in the NBA.

Previous ranking: unranked

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13. JaVale McGee– Washington Wizards

A young player with tremendous athleticism, JaVale McGee makes at least one play a game no one else can make. He also commits one mind boggling play a game no one else would make. No question he is an exceptional talent, McGee needs to start making wiser decisions on the floor and become a leader for the struggling Wizards.

Previous ranking: 13th

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12. Marc Gasol– Memphis Grizzlies

Following a breakout year last season and an excellent showing this summer at the FIBA World Championship, Marc Gasol has regressed with the Grizzlies to open this season. Watching his scoring, rebounding and shooting percentages dip, Memphis needs Gasol to get back on track if it wants to reach the playoffs this year.

Previous ranking: 6th

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11. Andrea Bargnani– Toronto Raptors

Tough to leave someone scoring over 20 points per game out of the top-10 but Andrea Bargnani needs to improve on the 5.6 rebounds per game he’s averaging to move up. Bargnani has scored in double figures each game this season but has topped 10 rebounds just once.

Previous ranking: 11th

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10. Shaquille O’Neal– Boston Celtics

The oldest player in the NBA is still getting it done. Filling in for the injured Kendrick Perkins, and dealing with a few ailments himself, Shaquille O’Neal has made sure the Celtics haven’t missed a step even with a depleted roster. Still playing just 21 minutes a night, O’Neal should be ready for Boston’s playoff push.

Previous ranking: 10th

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9. Roy Hibbert– Indiana Pacers

Becoming the complete center the Pacers envisioned since acquiring him on draft night, Roy Hibbert has transformed his body and elevated his game. Down to just eight percent body fat, Hibbert is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, blocks and assists. More importantly, he no longer looks gassed when running up and down the court.

Previous ranking: 18th

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8. Al Jefferson– Utah Jazz

Still adjusting to coach Jerry Sloan’s offense in Utah, Al Jefferson is starting to put up the gaudy scoring numbers with his previous teams. Topping the 20 point plateau just ten times this season, Jefferson should receive some All-Star consideration next season after getting used to playing with Deron Williams.

Previous ranking: 14th (as power forward)

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7. Al Horford– Atlanta Hawks

Selected to his first All-Star Game a year ago, Al Horford has made a strong case to return by upping his scoring average to 16.6 points per game to go along with his usual rebound and block numbers. Horford has kept the Hawks in playoff contention even with the team around him struggling this year.

Previous ranking: 9th

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6. Brook Lopez– New Jersey Nets

Brook Lopez is supposed to be the unquestioned second best center in the Eastern Conference. Instead, his weak rebounding numbers along with a huge dip in his shooting percentage has him tumbling on this list and the Nets remaining towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference. New Jersey can’t be an elite team until its center starts playing like the cornerstone of the franchise again.

Previous ranking: 3rd

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5. Andrew Bogut– Milwaukee Bucks

Averaging a league high 2.9 blocks per game, Andrew Bogut has posted some one of the most impressive stat lines of the season: against Houston he had 24 points, 22 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Bucks to victory. Still recovering from his horrific injury last season, Milwaukee needs even more production from Bogut with Brandon Jennings out with a foot injury.

Previous ranking: 5th

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4. Joakim Noah– Chicago Bulls

Out for 8-10 weeks recovering from thumb surgery, Joakim Noah has proven why the Bulls were reluctant to part with him in a deal for Carmelo Anthony. Averaging 14 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, Noah can dominate offensively with no plays drawn up for him and makes up for the shortcomings of the Bulls front court defense.

Previous ranking: 4th

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3. Amar’e Stoudemire– New York Knicks

Knicks fans are finally chanting MVP for one of their own players. Amar’e Stoudemire has given New York every reason to celebrate, turning the team into winners and posting numbers never thought possible while in Phoenix. Stoudemire has become an enforcer on the defensive end and is in contention for the scoring title.

Previous ranking: 5th (as power forward)

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2. Pau Gasol– Los Angeles Lakers

There isn’t one area of the game where Pau Gasol doesn’t excel. A terrific passer, he is averaging 4.1 assists per game, second most on the team to go along with the 19.5 points and 11 rebounds per game. Even with Andrew Bynum back from injury, Gasol has filled in so well that Los Angeles has the luxury to bring Bynum in off the bench.

Previous ranking: 1st (as power forward)

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1. Dwight Howard– Orlando Magic

Always looking to fine tune his game, Dwight Howard has made a concentrated effort to dominate on the offensive end. Displaying a wider variety of low post moves, Howard is averaging a career high 21 points per game while maintaining his 13.1 rebound and 2.4 block per game averages.

Previous ranking: 1st

Other Position Rankings:

Power Forward, Small Forward, Shooting Guard, Point Guard

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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