The true center is a dying position, but big men haven’t been completely scrapped in terms of their relevance and impact in the NBA. Despite being erased from the All-Star ballot two seasons ago, when you peruse a box score the position is still manned by someone — even if only in name.
The league has a laundry-list of talented big men, but we wanted to ascertain who might be the best at the center position, so we compiled a list of the best in the NBA today. What you will find here are the names of players manning the middle who are important to their teams based on both previous history/accolades and potential impact this coming season. Stats and analytics tell the story for some, while untapped talent and opportunity tell the story for others. It’s all relevant.
With much respect to Steven Adams, Jordan Hill and Larry Sanders, who fell just short of the list, I’d like to say all three have circumstances which could propel them into an amended version of this list at the All-Star break. Nevertheless, we press on.
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20. Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers:
RoLo does many of the same things as some of the others higher on this list, and he’s durable — unlike a certain sibling who you’ll see later. Lopez is another guy coaches never run (or have to run) plays for. He’s perfectly fine scoring off the scraps that come from errant shots released by Portland’s volume shooters. With per-game averages of 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks last season, it could be argued he was one of the most productive “role” players in the league last season.
Lopez is going to have some stiffer competition for playing time with the more offensively talented Chis Kaman added to the roster, but the Blazers need his defense to truly compete this season.
19. Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves:
Pound for pound he might be one of the strongest centers in the league. He maximizes his ability through his physicality and is tough as nails on the block. He was a nice sidekick to the now-departed Kevin Love, giving Minny 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season. Despite being a bit mechanical in the post, he gets things done from an offensive standpoint.