Back in the day, centers were often looked at as the cornerstones of many winning NBA franchises. While they might not be the main focus when building a contender today, they are still an important piece. Basketball Insiders talked to a number of NBA centers to get their thoughts on their peers. Using that information as well as stats, we put together this list of the best centers around the league:
1. Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies
Marc Gasol has made a name for himself in Memphis and has stepped out the shadow of her older brother (Pau Gasol). Offensively, he is very skilled, which makes it hard for opponents to contain him, as well as efficient. Defensively, he doesn’t give his opponents much room to do anything, and he is constantly making plays all over the court for Memphis. The 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year is currently leading the Grizzlies with a career-best 19.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He has a 23.4 efficiency rating (seventh-best in NBA).
2. DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings
DeMarcus Cousins is in the midst of the best year of his career. He is currently leading the Kings with a career-high 23.7 points and 12.5 rebounds. His shooting has also improved over the past five seasons, and he is currently shooting a career best 51.9 percent from the field. He is clearly the Kings’ most important player, as evidenced by the fact that the team struggled mightily when he missed 10 games because of an illness (viral meningitis). Without Cousins on the floor, the Kings did not look like a playoff team and dropped eight of the 10 games. Cousins has emerged as an elite big man, and his best basketball may still be ahead of him since he’s only 24 years old.
3. Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls
Joakim Noah was outstanding on the defensive end of the floor for Chicago last season, which led to him winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. He won the honor by a landslide, while also contributing in other facets of the game due to his excellent skill set. He has dealt with some injuries this season, but expect Noah to cause even more damage once he is completely healthy. Even with the injuries, Noah is currently averaging 8.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Noah is obviously one of the better defensive players in the NBA and now with the addition of Pau Gasol, the Bulls have one of the league’s top frontcourts.
4. Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets
Dwight Howard has not been as dominant since leaving Orlando, but he is still a solid center. Several injuries have limited the three-time Defensive Player of the Year (2009-2011), but he is still performing at a high level. The eight-time All-Star is currently averaging 2.5 blocks per game (second in the NBA), 11.9 rebounds per game (fourth in the NBA) and 19.6 points per game (second on the Rockets). The 28-year-old still causes a lot of problems for opposing teams and he’s a focal point that teams must prepare for when playing the Rockets.
5. DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers
DeAndre Jordan recorded career-high numbers last season and showed why he is an important piece for the Clippers, particularly on the glass and defensive end. This year, he is once again making a big impact by averaging 9.1 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.1 steals. Jordan is currently leading the NBA in rebounds and ranks third in blocks behind only Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis. Jordan has really benefited from the hiring of head coach Doc Rivers, and he has played well as the Clippers’ defensive leader.
Honorable Mention: Al Jefferson, Roy Hibbert, Chris Bosh, Nikola Vucevic, Tyson Chandler, Andre Drummond and Marcin Gortat
Good big men are hard to find, but these NBA teams have every reason to be satisfied with their centers.
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