I really hate the offseason. So much time to kill, yet, as the tip-off time gets closer, it seems to get further as well. Rosters are basically set, some teams are already working out together. With just under 60 days remaining, let's add to the discussion and rank the best centers in the association.
For the sake of these rankings, it is a preview of how I expect the season to shake out, not how they are ranked right now. Also, last year's ranking can be found here (Wow, I goofed on Cousins).
Honorable mentions, in no order, go to Joakim Noah, Nikola Vucevic, Andre Drummond, Al Jefferson, Jonas Valacinius and Steven Adams. 7] Brook Lopez (Brooklyn Nets) Last year, Lopez made the honorable mention list, but sneaks onto the seventh slot for the 2015-16 campaign. Health has always been a big concern for Lopez, who missed only 10 games during the 14-15 season, and was held to just under 30 minutes per game.
Despite less playing time, Brook was able to contribute 17/7 with 1.8 blocks for the struggling Nets side. Most impressive, Lopez shot 51.3% from the field with only 4% of his total shot attempts came from dunks or lay-ups. Shot a solid 47% from 10-16 feet and 45.6% from 3-10 feet. With Deron gone, the Nets will greatly rely on Lopez's offensive output teamed with Joe Johnson's play to try to sneak into the 8th slot in the East.
6] Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz) Might be jumping onto the Gobert bandwagon a bit early, but in the French International I believe. Known as the Stifle Tower and the French Rejection, Gobert averaged 2.3 blocks in 26 minutes over the 14-15 season. Teamed with 8 points, 9.5 boards as well, Gobert was a big part of the Jazz post All-Star break run, as opposed to settling for tanking.
As a starter, for 37 games, Gobert averaged 10.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.8 blocks while shooting 59.6% from the field. The defensive impact is not to be underestimated as the Jazz will hope to contend for one of the West's two open playoff slots, even with the loss of Dante Exum. Don't count out an MIP contention for the big man.
5] DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers) Finishing third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2015, Jordan absolutely cleared the boards, grabbing 15 rebounds a contest. Yes, 15. 11.2 points and 2.2 blocks aren't to shabby either for the 7-footer, who was at the heights of controversy during the moratorium period, after going back on his word to the Dallas Mavericks and Mark Cuban before re-upping with the Clippers.
The negatives of his game are quite obvious, as he's a woeful 39.7% from the free throw line, and over half of his field goal attempts were dunks or lay-ups (53.2% to be exact). The positives, however, trump his defincies by a great margin, as he's second to none in grabbing rebounds, while, his length and athleticism allows him to be among the league's best shot blockers. He has also taken great steps to improve his screen setting game.
4] Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks) Quite possibly the one pick most will disagree with, I'm a huge fan of Horford's game. At 6'10, Horford will dive for any loose ball, whether it's going into the stands, into the oppositions bench, or just anywhere on the court in itself. His basketball intelligence, on-court awareness, selfless play allows Horford to impact the game further than any statistics can show. Not the tallest, not the most athletic, yet, he fights on every play.
His numbers took a bit of a dip in 2015, putting up just 15/7, with no complaints from the stout big. He took the personal sacrafice as the Hawks went into uncharted territory, running the Eastern Conference during the regular season before falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals. Expect Horford to continue his solid play and help propel the Hawks into another season amongst the East's elite.
3] Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets) Dropping from the top spot to the third slot, Howard has been regressing on the defensive side of the court, as he's just down to 1.3 blocks a night. Still, while statistics don't tell the whole story and Howard is still, arguably, the league's strongest center, he possesses the skills to keep opposing bigs off the low block, while using it to his advantage.
Like Jordan, Howard is abysmal from the free throw line, teamed with age, his efficiency can be expected to be a bit lower. On the flip side, the acquisition of Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets may open up the offensive side of the floor for Dwight, provided both can keep their heads into the game.
2] DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) I really undervalued Cousins last year, placing him sixth, behind Andre Drummond and Noah. While, this time around, I had to flip a coin between him and Marc Gasol for the top spot. His questionable attitude, teamed with George Karl not being a fan of Cousins are detrimental.
His output, however, quiets the storm and doubt. An outstanding 24.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists, Cousins has a well rounded game and has the fire to succeed. It's just not certain if Sacramento is the place for him. Though, no team will provide the Kings with the value needed, and the Kings would be dumbfounded to trade him as opposed to building around the big man.
1] Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies) Gasol takes the top slot, jumping up two slots from last years rankings. Quite easily the most well rounded center in the association, Gasol, like elder brother Pau, should just get better with age. Must be something in the waters over in Spain allowing the two to continue an incline despite age.
An offensive repertoire unexpected by a center, a mid range jumper nearly as reliable as Richard "RiP" Hamilton's, assist numbers better than Greives Vasquez/Marcus Smart, defensive intensity, ability to box out, play in a team system, and the list can go on for hours and hours. If the Grizzlies can remain healthy, winning the West isn't out of the equation.