December 31, 2014

Ranking The NBA's Best Centers Heading Into 2015

#33, Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies

Every year it seems like people view the Center position as the worst position in the league. "There are no elite/dominant centers" they would say. That's begun to change. It's taken a while, but there are finally some big men that are putting their teams on their backs willing them to victories, while some young big men oozing with potential are starting to make names for themselves. The criteria for these rankings isn't complex. Which centers in the NBA are playing the best, putting up the best numbers, are the most efficient, and are the most important to their team's success right now. If a player is listed lower than you think he should be, it's probably because his defensive play isn't up to par right now, which is also very, very important.

(Andrew Bogut and Nikola Pekovic missed significant time due to injuries, while Brook Lopez and Joakim Noah have been struggling this season due to their own injuries, so they won't be included. Also, Anderson Varejao is out for the season, so he will be left off the list as well.)

*Stats as of 12/31/14

(PER = Player Efficiency Rating / ORTG = Offensive Rating / DRTG = Defensive Rating)

Tier 4: The "Starting Caliber" Centers

Not flashy, not spectacular, and they may not even be starters for their respective teams. But, they have enough skills to do much more than just crack a rotation. They should be able to start for plenty of teams in the league.

20. Tyler Zeller, Boston Celtics

21.4 PER / 130.9 ORTG / 105.1 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
19.3 MPG: 9.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 BPG, 0.9 TO (63% FG, 0% 3P, 84% FT)
PER 36: 17.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.7 TO

Analysis: Tyler Zeller isn't a spectacular player, but he's made the most of his opportunities. He gets good looks around the basket on offense, and has been very productive in limited minutes. Going forward, he looks like a solid starter.

19. Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

16.9 PER / 110.8 ORTG / 103.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
25.8 MPG: 12.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 BPG, 1.7 TO (52% FG, 38% 3P, 69% FT)
PER 36: 16.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.1 BPG, 2.4 TO

Analysis: Kelly Olynyk is enjoying a pretty good season so far in Boston. You don't see too many stretch fives in the NBA, but that's what Olynyk is, and he shoots nearly 40% from beyond the arc. He's also better than you'd think on defense.

18. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

14.2 PER / 103.5 ORTG / 100.5 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
25.0 MPG: 7.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.7 TO (54% FG, 0% 3P, 51% FT)
PER 36: 11.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.8 BPG, 2.4 TO

Analysis: Game by game, Steven Adams continues to improve. The numbers don't show how his offensive game is coming along, and his presence in the middle as an interior defender. He's yet to reach his ceiling.

17. Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets

19.4 PER / 109.9 ORTG / 101.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
20.9 MPG: 9.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.0 BPG, 1.0 TO (55% FG, 0% 3P, 48% FT)
PER 36: 15.7 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.8 TO

Analysis: Mason Plumlee is an improving young player with a lot of talent. He's a high energy guy who rebounds the ball well, blocks a good amount of shots, and plays solid defense. He should continue to grow offensively and is a centerpiece for the Nets going forward.

16. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

15.0 PER / 98.4 ORTG / 99.5 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
25.0 MPG: 11.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.0 BPG, 1.7 TO (44% FG, 0% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 15.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 2.8 BPG, 2.3 TO

Analysis: No matter what you think about Roy Hibbert, you can't deny his value to the Pacers as a defensive anchor and an elite shot blocker. Statistically, his numbers don't exactly stand out, but his per 36 numbers are solid. Offensively, he's not very efficient or productive, but he can do a little work in the post.

15. Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks

19.8 PER / 110.5 ORTG / 106.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
26.4 MPG: 13.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, 1.9 TO (56% FG, 0% 3P, 70% FT)
PER 36: 17.9 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 BPG, 2.6 TO

Analysis: A healthy Amar'e Stoudemire is a tough cover for any defender. He's still capable of putting together some solid offensive performances. He's never been known as a defensive force or a dominant rebounder, but this season, he's been decent enough on defense and crashing the boards.

14. Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards

17.6 PER / 109.7 ORTG / 100.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
29.5 MPG: 12.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.4 TO (53% FG, 0% 3P, 78% FT)
PER 36: 15.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.8 BPG, 1.7 TO

Analysis: Marcin Gortat doesn't put up gaudy numbers, but he's a very solid starting center who has a really nice post game and doesn't get enough credit for what he does on the defensive end of the floor.

Tier 3: The "Rising All-Star" Centers

These players are showing some improvements in their games from last season, and are putting up very good numbers. They aren't quite All-Star players just yet, but are well on their way to being in the discussion.

13. Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz

17.9 PER / 107.0 ORTG / 111.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
27.0 MPG: 14.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.4 BPG, 1.9 TO (51% FG, 32% 3P, 81% FT)
PER 36: 18.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.5 BPG, 2.5 TO

Analysis: Enes Kanter's game is really coming along... offensively. His post and mid-range games are respectable, and he's one of the best young big men in the league. However, until his defense catches up with his offense, he's stuck in tier 3.

12. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

18.4 PER / 128.0 ORTG / 100.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.3 MPG: 9.3 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 0.6 APG, 2.3 BPG, 1.3 TO (70% FG, 0% 3P, 43% FT)
PER 36: 9.8 PPG, 14.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 2.4 BPG, 1.3 TO

Analysis: Elite athlete, elite rebounder, elite shot blocker, elite rim protector... Basically, DeAndre Jordan is elite on that end of the floor. He's not a top scoring option, but he could be the best center in the league if his offensive game ever catches up.

11. Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks

22.0 PER / 136.6 ORTG / 102.8 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
29.9 MPG: 10.8 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.5 TO (68% FG, 0% 3P, 73% FT)
PER 36: 13.0 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.8 TO

Analysis: Like DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler's calling card is rebounding, blocking shots, and being a defensive anchor. However, when he gets his touches on offense, he can faceup some and find ways to put the ball in the hoop. He's an underrated starter.

10. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors

20.2 PER / 123.3 ORTG / 104.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
26.9 MPG: 12.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 1.0 BPG, 1.1 TO (54% FG, 0% 3P, 79% FT)
PER 36: 16.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.5 TO

Analysis: Another steadily improving young big man, Jonas Valanciunas is an underrated player. His post game is very solid, and he's an above average rebounder and defender. I think he's only scratching the surface right now.

9. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

20.8 PER / 108.0 ORTG / 104.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.6 MPG: 18.1 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.9 BPG, 2.2 TO (53% FG, 100% 3P, 76% FT)
PER 36: 18.9 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 BPG, 2.3 TO

Analysis: With an improved jumper and a variety of post moves, Nikola Vucevic is one of the more underrated offensive centers in the league. He's also an above average defender and an excellent rebounder. He could be an All-Star this season.

8. Marreese Speights, Golden State Warriors

22.9 PER / 114.0 ORTG / 99.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
17.7 MPG: 12.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.7 BPG, 1.2 TO (53% FG, 0% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 24.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 BPG, 2.4 TO

Analysis: In a much bigger role this season Marreese Speights have been very productive, averaging 12 and 5 in just 17 minutes per game. He really deserves more minutes. He has such a diverse offensive game, and plays really good defense. He's such an underrated player.

Tier 2: The "All-Star" Centers

Just on the edge of being considered elite, these players have some impressive skills, and there is a reason why they are some of the highest paid players at their position (or will be) and in the entire league.

7. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

19.7 PER / 111.6 ORTG / 102.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
30.0 MPG: 14.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.2 TO (53% FG, 33% 3P, 76% FT)
PER 36: 17.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.8 BPG, 1.4 TO

Analysis: Al Horford is one of the most underrated centers in the NBA. Both his offensive and defensive games are usually overlooked. His rebounding numbers don't look spectacular, but he gets the job done consistently.

6. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

19.9 PER / 103.2 ORTG / 99.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
29.9 MPG: 12.9 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 0.4 APG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 TO (50% FG, 0% 3P, 42% FT)
PER 36: 15.5 PPG, 15.4 RPG, 0.5 APG, 2.2 BPG, 1.9 TO

Analysis: Andre Drummond has been on fire lately (he's averaging 16 and 13 for the month of December). He could become the best center in the NBA in a few years. I thought this before the 2012 NBA Draft, and I won't back a way from it, because he has that kind of potential. He's already one of the elite shot blockers, rebounders, and rim protectors in the league, and he's been doing work in the post lately. He's starting to look more and more like a clone of Dwight Howard.

5. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Hornets

19.5 PER / 103.7 ORTG / 104.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.2 MPG: 18.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 BPG, 1.1 TO (49% FG, 0% 3P, 70% FT)
PER 36: 20.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.3 TO

Analysis: Al Jefferson struggled in his last few contests due to a strained groin, and will likely miss about a month. From what I've seen this season, he's having another All-Star year. He's a beast on the low block, one of the best offensive centers in the league, and blocks a decent amount of shots. And defensively, he's not quite as bad as he's made out to be.

4. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

21.9 PER / 107.9 ORTG / 107.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.2 MPG: 21.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 BPG, 2.2 TO (48% FG, 38% 3P, 77% FT)
PER 36: 22.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 BPG, 2.3 TO

Analysis: With LeBron now in Cleveland, Chris Bosh has been putting up numbers similar to when he played for Toronto. He's still one of the most skilled big men in the NBA offensively, but he does have a tendency to settle for jump shots too often. Defensively, he hasn't been that impressive this season, which is why he isn't challenging for that number one spot.

Tier 1: The "Elite" Centers

The number one guy on this list was almost put in a tier of his own, but all three of these elite centers can dominate down low and take over games with stellar play on both ends of the court. They are the best of the best.

3. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets

20.2 PER / 106.0 ORTG / 96.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.0 MPG: 18.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.9 BPG, 3.1 TO (59% FG, 0% 3P, 50% FT)
PER 36: 19.6 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.1 BPG, 3.3 TO

Analysis: A healthy Dwight Howard is still a beast. Although he can still struggle a bit with consistency and have mental lapses, Howard has proven this season that he's an even bigger force down low with an improved post game. Couple that with his elite defense, and he's one of the scariest players in the entire league.

2. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

23.3 PER / 113.4 ORTG / 101.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.0 MPG: 20.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.6 BPG, 2.4 TO (50% FG, 29% 3P, 83% FT)
PER 36: 20.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.7 BPG, 2.5 TO

Analysis: Marc Gasol has emerged as an MVP candidate this season. He's lost significant weight before the season, and looks so much more improved offensively. He's got the post game, and a consistent mid-range shot. And you know he going to give you the effort on the other end of the floor. He's never been a dominant rebounder, and this season has been no different, but, his value to the Grizzlies cannot be understated.

1. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

28.6 PER / 113.1 ORTG / 101.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.4 MPG: 24.6 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.6 BPG, 3.8 TO (52% FG, 100% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 27.4 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.7 BPG, 4.2 TO

Analysis: Ladies and gentlemen, the best big man in the league is none other than "Boogie" Cousins, and it might not even be close. He's the only center that I can label as dominant with no hesitation. He's got a complete offensive game. He can drive and finish, take any defender to school in the post, shoot the mid-range jump shot, and is even beginning to extend his range to beyond the three point like. He can run the floor like a guard, is an underrated passer, and is even a very good interior defender. He's a monster, a beast, unstoppable this season. Period.