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Ranking the best starting centers in the NBA for 2014-15

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Sonics Rising staff (and guests) weigh in on who we think the best NBA centers to be. Do you agree?

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

We've weighed in as a staff with some guests as well to determine who we think is the top center in the NBA heading into the 2014-15 season.  We'll detail the top 11, and invite you to make your arguments in the comments below.  Why 11 you might ask? Because the final two to make the detailed list tied in our rankings.

First though, we'll let you run through 12-30 real fast.

Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
30

Henry Sims
29 30 29.8
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
29

Kendrick Perkins
27 30 28.8
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
28
Samuel Dalembert
23 29 26.9
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
27

Kelly Olynyk
24 29 26.3
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
26

Jordan Hill
17 28 25.1
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
25

Larry Sanders
17 28 23.9
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
24

Miles Plumlee
21 25 23.4
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
23

JaVale McGee
13 28 22.7
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
22

Thiago Splitter
12 28 21.6
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
21

Derrick Favors
18 27 21.3
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
20

Anderson Varejao
15 25 19.5
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
19

Robin Lopez
13 29 19.3
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
18

Roy Hibbert
13 26 17.6
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
17

Tyson Chandler
11 24 16.4
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
16

Jonas Valanciunus
7 19 15.7
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
15

Andrew Bogut
12 19 14.4
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
14

Nikola Vucevic
9 20 14.2
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
13
Asik

Omer Asik
10 19

13.1

Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
12

DeAndre Jordan
6 21 12.8

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
T-10

Brook Lopez
8 21 11.2

2013-14 Stat Line: 17 games, 31.4 MPG, 20.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG, .563/.000/.817 shooting, 25.5 PER

Last season started off nicely for Brook Lopez.  He was playing well on a team that wasn't yet playing very well.  He was the lone bright spot early on for the Nets.  And then he got hurt.  And not just any injury, but one particularly concerning for a big man.  So with that in mind, his ranking might be lower here than we might otherwise have put him.  He has to prove himself healthy and able to stay so before I can move him farther up this list.  He's only played in 134 of a possible 230 games in the past three seasons, so don't hold your breath.

On the plus side, Lopez is very efficient on the offensive end of the court.  He works well within the offense, and doesn't have to dominate the ball to find ways to score.  That meshes well with some of his more offensive minded teammates.  He can get to the rim with a couple of solid post moves, has a reasonable touch around the basket, and can reliably close out games.  He is only a mediocre rebounder, and has ample room to improve in that category this coming season.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
T-10

Marcin Gortat
9 14 11.2

2013-14 Stats:  81 games, 32.8 MPG, 13.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 0.5 SPG, .542/1.00/.686 shooting, 17.6 PER

The Polish Hammer showed last season that he still has some game left despite now being 30.  Gortat has fewer miles on the clock than many comparable big men, so the idea is he might remain useful across his new contract.  Gortat was the 10th ranked center when it comes to PER, and has a lower salary than all the centers ranked above him.  So it would appear Washington made a good call to lock him up when they did.

While Gortat might not statistically bowl you over, he does a lot of little things well in the course of a game.  And as important as anything he might contribute on the floor is his ability to take some of the pressure off of John Wall and Bradley Beal on the offensive end.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
9

Nikola Pekovic
4 16 10.8

2013-14 Stats:  54 games, 30.8 MPG, 17.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 0.4 BPG, 0.6 SPG, .541/-/.747 shooting, 20.7 PER

Pek is the most intimidating physical presence in the NBA today.  The only way to describe his frame is massive.  Pek has shown himself to be a solid scoring option on offense.  Not a man who can lead his team on offense, but a capable #2 option.  He excels at setting picks that cause smaller players to literally bounce off of him when they try to fight through.  Would benefit from finding ways to get to the free throw line more frequently.  His rebounding numbers might be a bit lower due to playing many minutes alongside rebounding machine Kevin Love.

Pek's weaknesses are exposed on the defensive end against more athletic players.  Near the basket he is imposing and difficult to back down on due to his size and strength.  But due to limited quickness and lateral mobility he can be exposed, particularly on a good pick and roll two man game.  He does not block many shots, but does a reasonable job redirecting people who drive into the paint with him near.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
8

Andre Drummond
3 17 7.8

2013-14 Stats:  81 games, 32.3 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.2 SPG, .623/-/.418 shooting, 22.6 PER

Solid stat line but overrated.  He's a garbage time stat stuffer rather than a difference maker.  Terrible free throw shooter.  Might be better on defense if not making up for Greg Monroe constantly.

Stan Van Gundy might be able to  work with him though.  See Dwight Howard as exhibit A.

Drummond needs to develop a go to/unstoppable offensive move rather than just relying on cleaning up misses.  He is a very good rebounder, so there is some real opportunity for growth with some polish on his moves.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
7

Al Horford
4 9 7.1

2013-14 Stats:  29 games, 33 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.5 BPG, .568/.364/.682 shooting, 22.0 PER

Injuries keep him from being higher, so he's better than this ranking if he can keep it on the court.  Since it was the odd Pec injury (though not his first), I suspect he'll have a much better year this season.

Horford provides a lot of matchup problems on offense, particularly against less mobile big men with his ability to shoot from outside.  He's better offensive player than defender, but still solid as a defender.  He's kept Atlanta just good enough after the departure of Josh Smith and Joe Johnson to keep them from rebuilding.  His game is one that catches many off guard in just how well rounded he actually is.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
6

Marc Gasol
2 11 6.8

2013-14 Stats:  59 games, 33.4 MPG, 14.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.0 SPG, .473/.182/.768 shooting, 18.2 PER

Gasol has shown that when healthy that he can anchor a defense like few other big men in the NBA currently.  His stats suffer a bit from the style of play the Griz employ, and from Zach Randolph being a vacuum on the glass.  Despite his size, he is a dependable passer and can initiate the offense nicely when he has the ball.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
T-4

Al Jefferson
4 9 5.8

2013-14 Stats:  73 games, 35 MPG, 21.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, .509/.200/.690 shooting, 22.7 PER

Uncle Al had an outstanding season last year in Charlotte.  He has every old man move in his toolbox on offense, and uses them all well.  His defense is suspect at best.  Good rotations can help hide him somewhat on defense, but against a skilled big man, he is readily exposed.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
T-4

Chris Bosh
3 10 5.8

2013-14 Stats:  79 Games, 29.2 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.0BPG, 1.1 APG, .516/.339/.820 shooting, 19.1 PER

Is Bosh a center?  For our rankings he is, though Chris Anderson and Udonis Haslem are more likely to play that role for the Heat.  Bosh signed a HUGE contract this off season, and with the departure of Lebron James, Bosh is going to have to raise his game to levels he hasn't seen in a few seasons if the Heat are to make any noise in the East.

While not a great outside shooter, Bosh has developed a reliable spot up game from the wings.  His rebounding suffered last year with his positioning on the floor.  His defense can be solid, though it remains to be seen what impact losing Lebron will have on him on that end of the court as well.  Combine that with a questionable Dewayne Wade, and well, it will be interesting to watch at least.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
3

Joakim Noah
1 7 3.2

2013-14 Stats:  80 games, 35.3 MPG, 12.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.2 SPG, .475/-/.737 shooting, 20.0 PER

Noah is everything you want in a center - tough as nails on defense and not a liability on offense.  His offense could still greatly benefit from polish, but at this point I think he is what he will be on that end.

May see a dip on stats this coming season, but I do not believe that will be reflective of his effort or worth, but rather due to the new makeup of the Bulls.

How many NBA centers can carry a team by sheer force of will into the playoffs?  Noah did that last season.  A great leader and great competitor on what may well be the best team in the East.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
2

DeMarcus Cousins
1 5 2.2

2013-14 Stats:  71 games, 32.4 MPG, 22.7 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.3 SPG, .496/.000/.726 shooting, 26.1 PER

Cousins has remarkable talent only limited by himself.  Has the offensive tools to be the best scoring center in the game.  Lazy on defense.  Fights with teammates.  Shows little personal motivation.  No interest in leading his team except for in techs.

Stepped up his game last year and improved in many categories.  With the construction of the Kings at the moment, he should be a guaranteed double-double every night.  Perhaps he'll mellow with age, or wise up, and reach his full, spectacular potential.  But only Boogie can make that happen.

Rank Player Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
1

Dwight Howard
1 3 1.7

2013-14 Stats:  71 Games, 33.7 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.8 APG, .591/.286/.547 shooting, 21.4 PER

How much of last season was still Dwight Howard in recovery mode from his injuries he played through starting with the Lakers remains to be seen.  But I fully expect him to have a stronger year this year from the get go.  His immaturity is what largely holds him back.

Howard can be the most dominant center in the league if he wants to be.  Sadly, that is still in question.  Put heads up against any other center on the list, I'd take him every time in a one-on-one tournament.  Basketball is a team game however.

Having Trevor Ariza should help Howard's defense on his own man this coming season with fewer mistakes to cover.  The Rockets will only go as far as Howard will take them though.