Patrick Ewing and Dwight Howard

On the first full week of each month this season, I’m going to rank the top 10 NBA players at each position based on how I expect them to perform in the coming month. If a player is injured and is expected to miss most of the month, then they probably won’t make the list regardless of his value when healthy. I’ll rank the point guards on Monday, the shooting guards on Tuesday… you get the picture.  Your feedback is welcome, even if you want to tell me how incredibly, irredeemably clueless I am.

Four new gifted giants on the center rankings this month — Pau Gasol and Amar’e Stoudemire moved to the power forward rankings, Joakim Noah is out until February and Roy Hibbert is in a pretty bad slump at the moment.

10. (New entry) Marcus Camby, Portland Trail Blazers — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 28.5 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 2.2 APG, 11.5 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 1.8 BPG, .443 FG%, .000 3P%, .660 FT%, 17.1 PER

No, I’m not putting Camby on the list to appease angry Blazers fans. Let’s just say his pair of 20-rebound games within the last week have made an impression on me. It appears that Camby is going to follow the Dikembe Mutombo route of continuing to be a rebounding and shot-blocking force into his 40s — as long as Camby chooses to play that long. If Portland trades him, he might consider retiring.

9. (New entry) Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz — 2010-11 stats: 36 GP, 35.5 MPG, 16.4 PPG, 1.7 APG, 8.6 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 1.9 BPG, .471 FG%, .000 3P%, .787 FT%, 17.4 PER

Big Al had his first 30-point game of the season on Dec. 29 against the Clippers, which is significant because he used to have two of those games a month when he was a healthy Timberwolf. For a guy who grew up studying the post moves of Olajuwon and Shaq, it has to feel good that his soft touch is coming back to him.

8. (New entry) DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 25.9 MPG, 12.8 PPG, 1.6 APG, 7.7 RPG, 0.8  SPG, 0.6 BPG, .437 FG%, .250 3P%, .674 FT%, 14.6 PER

If you watched DMC in college or summer league, you knew that the only thing that could keep him from becoming a top-five center in the NBA is the looseness of his cannon. Presumably, a productive Cousins is a happy Cousins because I’m not hearing any complaints about him now that he’s starting to dominate. If you haven’t watched a full game with him yet, make sure you do. You’ll be amazed that somebody that big is so agile and fluid with the ball. He reminds me of a larger Chris Webber.

7. (9.) Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 33.5 MPG, 11.6 PPG, 2.8 APG, 7.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.5 BPG, .522 FG%, .500 3P%, .743 FT%, 16.4 PER

After only five games with double-digit rebounds in his first 32 games, Gasol grabbed exactly 10 boards in each of his last two games. Since he averaged 9.5 rebounds per game last season, this is more what the Grizzlies have come to expect from him.

6. (7.) Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks — 2010-11 stats: 27 GP, 35.3 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 1.7 APG, 11.1 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 2.9 BPG, .495 FG%, .000 3P%, .421 FT%, 17.5 PER

It strikes me as a little odd that a guy shooting 42 percent from the free throw line is trying to add a 15-footer into his repertoire, but the Bucks need somebody to step up and provide some offensive firepower and Bogut thinks he can start making that shot with regularity once his elbow is fully healed. And maybe he can raise his free throw percentage back up to his 58 percent career mark at the same time.

Andrew Bynum and Marc Gasol

5. (Last month: 8.) Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 28.2 MPG, 9.1 PPG, 0.4 APG, 9.4 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG, .691 FG%, .000 3P%, .756 FT%, 17.6 PER

While the Mavericks have now dropped four of their last six games since they lost Dirk Nowitzki to a knee injury, Tyson Chandler has made a valiant effort to try and step up his production in Dirk’s absence — last night’s double-double against the Thunder was his third in a row. Fun fact: Only one player in NBA history has finished a season with a field goal percentage over .690 with at least 150 field goal attempts (Chandler has 152). That was Wilt Chamberlain with the Lakers in 1972-73.

4. (10.) Nene, Denver Nuggets — 2010-11 stats: 31 GP, 31.7 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 2.3 APG, 7.6 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG, .626 FG%, .500 3P%, .786 FT%, 20.8 PER

I don’t really understand the hand-wringing about who should be the starting center for the Western Conference All-Star team since Yao Ming is going to get the most votes at the position. Nene has clearly been the best center in the West this season, assuming that you consider Pau Gasol to be a power forward. His soft touch around the basket is better than ever — he’s finished a career-high 74.2 percent of his shot attempts around the rim this season.

3. (New entry) Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers — 2010-11 stats: 12 GP, 21.8 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 1.0 APG, 6.7 RPG, 0.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG, .587 FG%, .000 3P%, .568 FT%, 20.3 PER

My fondness for Andrew Bynum’s game has very little to do with his facial resemblance to Tracy Morgan. When he’s healthy and in-shape, he can be a dominant force on offense, defense and the boards like only two other centers in the league who happen to be above him in these rankings. It’s no accident that the Lakers are 4-1 since he returned to the starting lineup.

2. (4.) Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks — 2010-11 stats: 38 GP, 34.2 MPG, 16.3 PPG, 3.2 APG, 9.6 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .565 FG%, .000 3P%, .817 FT%, 22.4 PER

The scary thing about Al Horford for the rest of the league isn’t that he’s already this good, it’s that he could get even better. He’s still working on extending his post game and extending his shooting range so it’s not impossible that he could have a 20 and 10 season at some point.

1. (1.) Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 35.8 MPG, 21.4 PPG, 1.2 APG, 13.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.4 BPG, .566 FG%, .000 3P%, .573 FT%, 24.2 PER

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy says “There is no one in the league who has a bigger impact on a game than Dwight” and it’s hard to argue with him. Unfortunately, MVP voters tend to favor players who are among the leading scorers so Howard probably isn’t going to win that award until the season he leads the Magic to the best record in the NBA. Since Orlando is 23-12 at the moment with seven teams ahead of them in the standings, this probably won’t be that season. As for a third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award, that’s basically a lock unless he gets hurt.

Comments (19)

  1. did you see Bogut Wed night vs Dwight Howard? not top 10 worthy at all
    i know i will get laughed at for this, but where is the love for Darko? for realz

  2. CJ: I’m laughing at you right now. Darko might not be Top 20, but he’s playing well enough so that his contract actually seems reasonable. As for Bogut, Dwight can make a lot of opposing centers look bad.

  3. He’s not the same caliber of name as a lot of the guys here, but based on how well he’s played in recent games and actually the last few weeks, there’s a case to made for DeAndre Jordan cracking this list.

    http://is.gd/kjpYV

    Although I must admit I’m not sure who I’d drop to get him in. Marc Gasol, I guess.

  4. Another note- considering the amount of time coaches, players and analysts spend talking about defense and rebounding, you’d think that a perennial DPOY and rebounding champ who also scores 20 ppg would consistently be in the top-2 of the MVP voting. It’s weird that Dwight is so productive, famous and hyped by the mainstream press, but never recognized at MVP time.

  5. Emile: Jordan narrowly got edged out by Camby for 10th. If he keeps blocking everything like an eclipse, he’ll definitely be on next month’s list.

    As for the MVP discussion, pro sports awards voters usually aren’t very sophisticated. The Most Improved Player Award is a particular farce.

  6. There’s a centre not on this list that’s tied with Dwight for highest PPG. I know scoring isn’t everything but it should be enough to crack the top 10. Especially when his points per game just about equals Bynums minutes per game.

    I think I saw this list at Unloveable last week wearing skinny jeans and drinking PBR alone in a corner screaming ‘hey i’m cool, really!’

  7. Cousins, Al Jefferson, Bogut, Bynum in front of Camby?! this dude is a lunatic!

  8. Don’t overlook Bogut’s defense. He’s leading the league in blocks and is second only to Howard in Steals+Blocks+Charges. He’s the main reason the Bucks, who have the worst offense in the league, are able to win any games at all.

    Though, I should point out, I’m fine with Bogut’s ranking here as he has been nothing special on offense so far this year.

  9. Jits: Scoring ability is the least important attribute a center needs to have. Anybody on the court can score, I expect a center to change and block shots, rebound, set picks, and if they can direct the defense like Chandler does, even better. If you’re a center that’s a good scorer but below average at all those other attributes, you’re never going to be top-10 at the position in this league.

  10. Scott, why didn’t you call this Defensive Centre Power Rankings? Scoring is the most important attribute for a basketball player, regardless of position. It will keep you in the league ahead of every other stat you can list. You can even argue that it is more important to have a defensive beast in the swingman position because that’s where the majority of the league’s scorers play.

    Looking deeper into the list you see that the top teams in the league don’t even have a centre who cracks the top 10. So really, how important is that your centre blocks 2-3 shots a game?

  11. Jits: When you say “top 10″ I assume you mean in blocks and that’s not how I measure how good a center is defensively. I measure that by watching hours of NBA basketball every night and seeing how these players defend opposing centers and offer assistance for their teammates on help defense. The top five centers on my list are all on winning teams, and that’s not a coincidence. Likewise, the fact that Andrea Bargnani and Brook Lopez (who are actually quite similar these days) are on losing teams is also not a coincidence. And as for your claim that a defensive beast at swingman is more important than a strong defensive center, how do you explain that 16 of the last 19 Defensive Player of the Year Award winners have all been centers?

  12. Pro sports awards voters usually aren’t very sophisticated. To my knowledge Shane Battier has not come close to winning this accolade. If players voted for this award the results could be very different.

    When I said ‘top 10′ I was only referring to your list.

    I do disagree on your Bargnani v Lopez comparison though. Bargnani still leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive side of the ball but to dismiss how much he has grown as a player this year is short-sighted. He has become the focus of each team’s defensive strategy for the night, he is learning how to deal with double teams and he has developed an efficient post game. He has done all this and raised his PPG total by 4. He also stepped up in 4th quarters on both siodes of the ball and has improved his rebounding since Evans went down.

    All I am saying is that he is becoming hard to ignore.

  13. jits: Bargnani’s rebound and block rates are actually his lowest out of the past three years, and his turnover rate has doubled (1.5 per 36 minutes last year, 2.9 per 36 minutes this year). While I’ve been as pleased as anyone with how his scoring has progressed this year, the idea that he’s improving in other areas is completely untrue – he’s regressing. He is a poor defensive player and when you consider positional norms he might be *the worst rebounder in the entire NBA*. I’m sorry, that is not one of the 10 best centres in the league.

  14. jesus, what does it take for you to start noticing brook lopez? sure he’s on a team you probably never watch but he puts up 19 points a game and 6 boards (2.3 offensive, which is top 10) … plus he’s still very young

  15. Scott is absolutely correct about scoring being next-to-nothing in importance compared to defensive capability for a center. Having a weak post presence means easy points over and over for the opposing team, who can layup the ball at will. On the other hand, a strong post defense affects everything – even if a shooting guard blows by his defender, he still has to put up with the big guy in the paint!
    Another notable fact is how most scoring bigs who can’t play D are usually forward-centers more than clear-cut centers. Then there are the obvious centers such as Camby and Ben Wallace. I’m willing to bet that they aren’t starting centers because of their “scoring ability.”
    As a Rockets fan, the need for a defensive center is especially obvious.. watching Kevin Martin’s freakishly efficient game go to waste just because Aldridge can do the same thing over and over and over to Hill AND Scola… it’s really a shame. When you realize that Chuck Hayes is better at playing center than Jordan Hill is.. well scoring ability isn’t really a priority anymore.

  16. I watched DMC the other night… last night?? They all start to blur together. No matter, I much agree about his movement, the guy doesn’t play like 6-11, 270. He’s a project when it comes to the mental game but he’s got heaps of athletic ability. It’ll be interesting to see where his career goes.

  17. [...] In his last five games, he averaged 21.8 points, 9 rebounds and 2.8 assists. (On a related note: I ranked Cousins eighth in my January center power rankings.)3. Who do you think will have more points today: Cousins or Bargnani?4. Do you think Kings guard [...]

  18. Bogut in front of Chandler. Not close. Imagine those two switching teams… Not close.

  19. Man, the time lost arguing on these threads!

    If the D didn’t matter at C, then let’s just play Deron Williams there! He would blow by any defender! (*wink-wink-nudge-nudge*)

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