The NBA’s Top 20 Centers Right Now

By: 09.26.13
Al Jefferson

Al Jefferson (photo. Bethany Gilbert)

So much for that idea of the NBA having run out of quality centers outside of two or three names. You can look at a majority of the league’s teams and give a respectable case as to why those centers could be proclaimed All-Stars. There are so many quality centers in the league. In fact, there are three teams on this list that have two centers within the top 20. The NBA isn’t devoid of centers, they’re actually “hording” them on a few rosters.

It’s made this construction of the top centers in the NBA all the more difficult. To determine the makeup of the list, the offensive repertoire, defensive influence and rebounding capabilities were all weighed.

Injuries also played a pivotal role in the rankings. Use Andrew Bynum as an example. When he’s healthy, there’s no denying that he’s a top three center in this league. However, since he hasn’t played in over a year and may not play for awhile this upcoming season, his stock drops.

Durability is key for a center. It’s the most injury-prone position in basketball, and investing a great deal of money into a player that plays three-quarters of a season every year… those players may not find themselves too high on the rankings compared to a center who hasn’t been prone to injuries.

Don’t spew too much vitriol if you see a few quality centers listed low. They have been passed up by centers who have maintained their health and have proven durable in the past.

Either way, it’s encouraging to see the center position revitalized. Watching 7-footers battle using nimble footwork, soft touches on the rim and throwing their bodies into each other has given us some of our greatest moments in NBA history, and it would have been greatly missed had the position been rendered obsolete.

Thankfully, there are still coaches out there teaching their big men post moves. After dropping a piece yesterday on the game’s 20 best point guards right now, these are the 20 centers who have kept the position alive and thriving.

[RELATED: The Top 20 Point Guards In The NBA Right Now]

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The NBA has been put on notice. They must beware of the titan that is Andre Drummond, whose second season in the league is looming over the heads of the mere mortals that inhabit the league along with him.

At 6-10, 270 pounds, Andre Drummond is going to be a top five center within the next three years. It’s unfortunate he was forced to wallow on a Pistons team that doesn’t attract too much national attention, but there’s enough in highlight reels and the numbers to distinguish Andre as a one-in-a-million type of player.

Per 36 minutes, Drummond, who only started in 10 of the 60 games he played in, averaged 13.8 points, 13.2 points, 2.8 blocks and 1.7 steals in a rookie season where he only took home All-Rookie Second Team honors.

Expect Drummond to begin making All-Star teams soon. He shot 66 percent and was the league’s 24th best player, in terms of PPP, running the pick-and-roll, and held opponents to sub-40 percent shooting on post-ups. Drummond’s PER of 21.6 was tops in the league among rookies and 17th in the league overall. His offensive rating was 114 points per 100 possession, while holding opponents to 99 points per 100 possessions at the same time.

The downside? He’s probably the worst free throw shooter in the league after converting 37 percent of his free throw opportunities last year. There’s also the fact that the majority of his minutes came against bench players. With a year under his belt, and with the league on notice, let’s see if he can keep up these incredible numbers against more attention and starter competition.

If this was the league’s top offensive centers, Al Jefferson is arugably a top five player at his position. He’s averaged as much as 23 points and is coming off a season with the Utah Jazz where he dropped 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. He has a beautiful soft touch on his shots and ranked among the league’s best when running cuts, post-ups and pick-and-rolls. His jumper extends out to the perimeter, recently hitting 40 percent of the 352 jumpers he attempted in the 16-to-25 foot range. He also made 72 percent of his shots around the rim, once again showcasing the touch he has on the offensive end.

But, man, his defense. It’s holding him back from becoming a perennial All-Star and it’s why he’s now the primary player on Charlotte, because only the Bobcats would give over $40 million to a player as poor on defense as Al Jefferson.

Jefferson is allowing 106 points per 100 possessions over his career, allowed assignments to shoot 46 percent last season and is a turnstile of a rim deterrent. Fortunately, he’s an extremely gifted offensive threat and will dominate opponents on that end. However, he completely cancels it out on defense when he’s letting slashers get to the rim with ease and allowing opponents who utilize the post-up to shoot 42 percent.

Per Synergy, Jefferson ranked 279th in the league in points per possession (PPP) given up. He ranked 102nd in PPP on offense, though.

It took a few years, but the Milwaukee Bucks were finally able to wise up and give Larry Sanders the minutes he deserved in his third season in the league. Sanders responded with strong averages of 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in his first year receiving consistent minutes and starting. His block percentage of 7.6 percent was tops in the league and he finished second in blocks per.

The 15th pick of the 2010 Draft made his presence felt on the defensive end. He forced opponents who tried to post up on him to 36 percent shooting and held those who used isolation to a horrific 30 percent from the field.

His offense, however, is limited anywhere outside the rim. He shot below 30 percent in the 3-to-10 foot range and was a 27 percent shooter in the 16-to-25 foot range. The majority of his points are scored in the pick-and-roll, where he shot 55 percent last season.

The Golden State Warriors are going to need Andrew Bogut this year if they want to seriously compete for a title. Without him, they’re using second-year big man Festus Ezeli and Jermaine ‘I can’t believe he’s still in the league’ O’Neal.

What Bogut brings to the table in terms of his greatest impact is size. At 7-0, 245 pounds, Bogut is not a player who is going to get pushed around easily. He commands the respect that one usually receives when they’re wider and taller than everyone else near them.

Before injuries began to throw him off, which is why he’s not a top five center anymore, Bogut had three consecutive seasons averaging double-doubles and was coming off a career season in 2010 when he dropped a career-high 15.9 points and 2.5 blocks per. The former No. 1 pick would lead the league in blocks per the year after, sending back nearly three attempts a night.

However, injuries have limited Bogut to only 44 games in the past two seasons. His most recent work could be seen in Golden State’s playoff run where he averaged 7.2 points on 58 percent shooting, an impressive 10.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 12 games.

Before getting hurt, Bogut was in the top five in defensive rating, holding opponents to less than 100 points per 100 possessions, was in the top five in blocks and defensive win shares, and had made it on his first All-NBA team, earning third team honors in 2010.

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