Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum

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.

This will be my final positional power ranking of the 2010-11 NBA season. The thousands of hours of NBA-watching, Googling, blog-reading, and number-crunching I put into these posts were made worthwhile by the all the lovely, intelligent and charming commenters and Tweeters who interacted with me throughout the season — even the ones who questioned my mental facilities and cast aspersions on my ability to contain my saliva within my own mouth*. Let’s do this again next season, chill bros.

*This is a lie.

10. (10.) Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets — 2010-11 stats: 78 GP, 35.2 MPG, 20.0 PPG, 1.6 APG, 6.0 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.5 BPG, .488 FG%, .000 3P%, .785 FT%, 18.9 PER

Brook Lopez can be a top-five center in this league, there should be little doubt about that. It’s been a matter of consistent effort from game-to-game this season — the scoring is often there, not so much with rebounding and defense. If we keep in mind that he’s still just 23 years old, then we should continue to believe he has a bright NBA future.

9. (6.) Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz — 2010-11 stats: 79 GP, 36.0 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 1.8 APG, 9.7 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.9 BPG, .494 FG%, .000 3P%, .769 FT%, 20.1 PER

A lot of people in the comments of these rankings get confused or angry when high-scoring big men like Lopez and Al Jefferson are ranked behind much less gifted offensive players. Maybe I’m tainted by five years of rooting for a team with Andrea Bargnani in its frontcourt, but I’m much less impressed by big men who can score than I am by bigs who rebound, contain their man in the post and provide help on penetration. Utah’s end-of-season slide — particularly on defense — reveals the fatal flaw in starting two big men who are both below-average defenders. Again, as a Raptors fan, I speak from experience.

8. (5.) Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks — 2010-11 stats: 70 GP, 36.0 MPG, 10.2 PPG, 0.5 APG, 9.3 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 1.1 BPG, .645 FG%, .000 3P%, .739 FT%, 18.4 PER

The timing of Chandler’s annual injury problems couldn’t be worse for the Mavericks. They’re a whole different team — especially on the defensive end — when he’s in the lineup. They’re 50-20 when he plays this season and 3-5 when he doesn’t. If Dirk is the straw that stirs the Mavs’ drink, then Chandler might be the ice that keeps the drink cool. (To be honest, that analogy makes less sense than I thought it would now that I’ve typed it out. Let’s just move on.)

7. (New entry) Emeka Okafor, New Orleans Hornets — 2010-11 stats: 68 GP, 32.0 MPG, 10.5 PPG, 0.6 APG, 9.7 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 1.8 BPG, .580 FG%, .000 3P%, .561 FT%, 16.3 PER

Allow me to toast Emeka Okafor as he prepares to make his first playoff appearance in seven NBA seasons. He never lived up to some of the expectations that come with being drafted second overall (behind Dwight Howard, in his case) but he’s a very solid defensive center who has remained remarkably healthy over the past four seasons and he’s the main reason the Hornets are ranked seventh in Defensive Efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) this season.

6. (7.) Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls — 2010-11 stats: 44 GP, 33.7 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 2.3 APG, 10.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG, .525 FG%, .000 3P%, .726 FT%, 18.4 PER

In sharp contrast with Okafor’s sturdiness, Noah missed 18 games last season, has missed 34 games this season and is currently recovering from a sprained right ankle. When he’s healthy, though, he brings it on both ends of the court and would have to be ranked among the most beloved teammates in the league. He’s probably always going to rub other teams’ fans the wrong way, but I doubt that will dim his exuberance if the Bulls go all the way. As one of the featured comments in this YouTube clip said, “oh lord whats going to happen if the bulls win.”

Emeka Okafor

5. (8.) Nene, Denver Nuggets — 2010-11 stats: 72 GP, 30.7 MPG, 14.6 PPG, 2.0 APG, 7.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .611 FG%, .200 3P%, .728 FT%, 20.4 PER

Nene’s ascension among the top big men in the NBA will make him an extremely coveted free agent this coming off-season. He’s always been offensively skilled and that ability has grown to the point where he can average 15 points per game on 60 percent shooting — a rare skill indeed. What’s new this season is his improved commitment on defense, where he now uses his athleticism to great advantage on pick-and-roll switches. Few men of his size can stay in front of quicker guards like he can.

4. (3.) Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks — 2010-11 stats: 77 GP, 37.0 MPG, 25.4 PPG, 2.6 APG, 8.2 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 1.9 BPG, .503 FG%, .435 3P%, .793 FT%, 22.8 PER

It’s tricky figuring out whether to rank Stoudemire as a center or a power forward since Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni has switched him between positions throughout the season. Most of his minutes were at center so that’s where he gets ranked for now, but the good news for Knicks fans who have grown tired of Stoudemire’s inconsistent attentiveness on defense is that D’Antoni is reportedly leaning towards starting Shelden Williams at center in the playoffs.

3. (2.) Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks — 2010-11 stats: 73 GP, 35.7 MPG, 15.6 PPG, 3.6 APG, 9.5 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .557 FG%, .500 3P%, .798 FT%, 20.9 PER

Like Stoudemire, he’s a man stuck between two positions. Unlike Stoudemire, Hawks fans never feel cheated by his defensive and rebounding efforts even though he’s usually undersized compared to his counterpart. There are signs the grind of banging against the big dudes is wearing him down, however — he only has four double-digit rebounding performances in his last 15 games.

2. (4.) Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers — 2010-11 stats: 51 GP, 27.8 MPG, 11.6 PPG, 1.4 APG, 9.5 RPG, 0.3 SPG, 2.0 BPG, .576 FG%, .000 3P%, .662 FT%, 21.6 PER

Beast mode: Activate! Bynum’s been OK since the All-Star break, I guess. I mean, as long as averages of 11.9 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 61 percent shooting are the kind of numbers you like to see from your center. I happen to be one of those people, as you might have figured. Bynum is a problem for every team the Lakers face and if there’s an “X-Factor” in these playoffs, he’s it.

1. (1.) Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic — 2010-11 stats: 76 GP, 37.8 MPG, 23.1 PPG, 2.6 APG, 14.1 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.4 BPG, FG%, 3P%, FT%, 26.1 PER

Here’s an argument I haven’t heard or read anywhere else regarding the increasingly contentious MVP debate: Is there a bigger gap between the best and second-best player at his position than there is between Dwight Howard and whoever you deem to be next on your list of centers? I’m not saying it should necessarily factor into the MVP decision, but I think it’s worth noting the likely team impact of replacing a particular player with anyone else who plays his position.

Comments (19)

  1. I understand the reasoning behind your comments on Brook Lopez, but I’m not sure I agree. He’s clearly a gifted scorer and should be able to keep that up for quite a while. However, I find the fact that he’s such an inconsistent, and at times awful, rebounder to be very troubling. Either you’re into it and bust your ass on the boards, or you’re not. Guys rarely improve as rebounders.

    I’d feel better about his future if he were hitting the boards like crazy but struggling to score.

  2. Derrick rose and noah would make the magic contenders, but i doubt the same is true about the bulls, howard and jameer.

  3. Alright, here’s how it is. Dwight Howard SHOULD be the number one NBA MVP candidate, with LeBron James 2nd, and Derrick Rose third. Take D-12 off the Magic. They are a bunch of three-point shooting, offensively minded players with no inside presence. He allows them to even get their open 3 point looks because they can play inside out, and most teams need to double or foul him to stop him. LeBron off the Heat. No supporting cast, wade cannot carry that particular group and Chris Bosh sure as hell can’t carry that team. Lebron is essentially their point guard, their leading scorer and without him they are middle of the pack in the East at best, probably going nowhere in the playoffs. Take Rose off of the Bulls. They are a defensive minded team, correct? Their bench is among the best defensive 2nd units in the league. The Bulls have Boozer, Noah, Deng, and multiple other role players that can go off on any particular night. Kurt Thomas, yes Kurt Thomas, led them in scoring on one night. Rose is the key to that offence succeeding, but they could still be a top 4 team in the east, because of thier strong defense. The award is most VALUABLE, and i think that Dwight HOward menas the most to his team of the three leading candidates. On a side not, kobe bryant shouldn’t even be in the running for mvp because he has the best supporting cast of any of the stars. kobe haters rejoice…

  4. How do you qualify that Millsap is a Below-Average Defender?

  5. Man Bynum is awesome. I’ve liked him since I heard his favorite HS subject was physics, and I think he showed a lot playing hurt in last years finals…the Lakers were wise not to give him up for Bosh.

  6. I’m sorry but A’mare eats Al Horford’s for breakfast. Not even a contest there STAT is far superior.

  7. Bynum is clearly overrated, just look at his stats! Bynum is up at two because of one more blocked shot every 4 to 5 games?

    Bynum 11.6 9.5 2.0
    Noah 11.9 10.8 1.4

    Noah will be top 5 this time next year. Yeah, and Horford above A’mare? That’s ridiculous.

  8. Horford is a way better defender than A’mare. Not even close.

  9. Those of you who feel its absurd that Horford is ranked above Amare – you do understand that there is a defensive component to the position, right? I mean if the question is who is the best offensive center in the league then perhaps Amare may even get the nod over D12. But if the question is who is the best defensive center in the league Amare does not find himself in the top 20. Accordingly, it seems rather logical to place Horford — a top 5 player in both categories — clearly above Amare. Its nice that Amare goes out every night and gets his 20 points but the reason the Knicks are a far worse team then the Magic is that Amare proceeds to allow the opposition guards get to the hole after penetration while he also has trouble guarding his man.

    I’d have Amare behind Joakim as well on my chart. He is a flashy offensive player but that is not what wins games.

  10. How is Kendrick Perkins not on this list?

  11. @witness i agree with a lot of what you said but im pretty sure wade led a similar group of nobodies to the 5th seed last year, do you really think that the comparative difference of a wade/bosh team is that much from a lebron/bosh team? I know lebron is the better player than wade but in this instance the difference between a lebronless team and a wadeless team wouldn’t be much. For the record i agree with 1. dwight 2. lebron 3. rose, i just don’t buy that particular argument in determining the mvp.

  12. @witness … my ranking would be 1. Rose, 2. Dwight, 3. LeBron … Rose has led his team to the best record in the East, most of the time with either Noah and/or Boozer out.. Dwight has an arguably better supporting cast but still not a better record. LeBron has consistently good stats but he’s not the MVP…

  13. It’s interesting you suggest defensive prescence is more important than offensive capability but leave Andrew Bogut off the list. Perhaps you could argue that he’s now inactive and won’t contribute much to the Bucks record next month but I can’t see Lopez or Jefferson contributing much from Miami or wherever they’re on holiday during the playoffs. Only Dwight Howard is more valuable to his team and Bogut is arguably a better defensive player than even Howard backed by combined charges, steals and blocks. Offensively, well, Bogut’s the best one handed centre in the NBA, given he can barely feel and move his right elbow and he’s still a step above Noah, Okafor, Chandler and arguably a couple more of this month’s top 10. Of course, if Deron williams was playing with Bogut he’d be 20, 11 and 3 with 3 blocks and rated no 2 on the list.

  14. You could give Chuck Hayes some love

  15. @ Rich, there is no way in hell Dwight has a better supporting cast. The Bulls 4th best player (Luol Deng) is better 2 way than Orlando’s 2nd best player in Jameer Nelson.

    The Bulls have the best bench in the league as well.

  16. With all I hear and read about people arguing Rose as MVP as a bad choice, but still saying they think he will win it (even when they have a vote themselves), I’m starting to wonder if he indeed will win it.

    I agree with 1. Dwight 2. James 3. Rose

    This #1 seed argument is really getting old, especially when there isn’t a huge difference in actual number of games won, and there is a clear advantage to Rose when it comes to supporting casts.

    Oh! And the fact that Dwight is SO above the rest of the centers is important:
    Value is closely realted to rarity (think diamonds, gold, oil, offer and demand, all that stuff).
    It would be easier to replace Rose than Howard in an ideal world. I can’t imagine that the Bulls would win 10 less games if you put Chris Paul, Deron William or, Russell Westbrook instead of Rose at PG for the Bulls.
    If you put Bynum, Bogut, Horford or Stoudemire on the Magic, however, I can easily imagine them drop 15 or more games because of either health (Bynum, Bogut), defense (Amare’, Horford) or offense (Bogut and Bynum again) issues. Maybe Pau Gasol would do kinda OK and they only win 10 less.
    Same goes for replacing James on the Heat: none of Durant, Melo or Pierce could match what he does scoring, handling the ball and on defense. They still wouldn’t drop as much as Orlando ‘tho.

  17. AT – as for Bynum’s stats, he’s usually the 3rd option so I really don’t think it’s about ppg. And I don’t think his impact is so much about numbers anyway. He’s huge, plays the low post well and alters other teams’ plans.

    On other fronts, I just lost a couple hours trying to navigate SB Nation’s Byzantine maze – I think I need a toolbox and schematic just to post. That’s why I like it here, I can click and type and drool and even hustle my own absurd posts and I’ve yet to receive any overt threats. Some nonsense about switches is here: http://tinyurl.com/3pybwga

  18. @Rich man it doesn’t really matter that he lead his team to the best record in the East seeing as aside from Boston/Miami/Chicago, the rest of the teams are very inconsistent. And Rose has a better supporting cast, not necessarily offensively but overall, the reason everyone has pre-determined his MVP status is because he is the teams best offensive player, he’s humble and there is a lot of hate being thrown LeBron’s way. I don’t understand how he’s already been determined the MVP and he hasn’t exactly blown away the competition….
    @illmatic I suppose you are right about wade last year as he had somewhat of a similar cast without mike beasley..but they were eliminated first round by the celtics and didn’t go anywhere in the playoffs. They are essentially the same team without james as they were without bosh because they really just lost beasley and a couple 3 point shooters, so they are probably still middle of the pack… as for lebron and bosh i think they might win a few more games than wade and bosh just because lebron is a slightly better 3-point shooter and maybe if bosh wasn’t a pussy they could work it inside out with him and lebron…still he’s probably done for his career mvp’s unless he leaves miami and maybe reaches out to cavs fans who knows…

  19. There needs to be an explanation as to why Bogut isn’t included.

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