Gone are the days where centers stood tall in the NBA, now that the league is dominated by more perimeter based players. Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul Jabbar were both larger than life that pioneered big man dominance during their respective times. And when they were traded the transactions went down in the record books as probably the “trades of the century.”
Fast forward to this summer’s thrilling NBA offseason, highlighted by the NBA’s best centers, Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard swapping conferences, we now know dominating big men are now a rarity in the NBA. With the addition of Bynum to the Eastern Conference, Tyson Chandler and Roy Hibbert staking their claim as one of top centers in league, I rank the best eight centers in the Eastern Conference.
8. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers
Indeed the Brazilian was plagued by injury last season, but when healthy he’s a very active and energetic defensive player. Varejao can do everything on defense from taking charges, flopping, and grabbing offensive boards. But on offense, he leaves much to be desired only able to run the floor well and finish drop off passes deep into the post.
7. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Similar to Varejao, Noah has a ton of energy and true value comes on the defensive end for the Bulls. Noah gets the nod over Varejao here because he has shown to be a better defensive anchor for his team. Despite having one of the worst shooting forms in league history, he is further along than Varejao offensively because of his instincts and passing ability. Sadly his consistent foul trouble diminishes his production for his team as well.
6. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
Lopez is a big body with a great feel down low for scoring. The main knock on Lopez is his toughness and rebounding. For a seven footer to only grab six rebounds in a season with heavy minutes is unacceptable. With his size and strength he needs to put more effort guarding the rim for the Brooklyn Nets next season. Hopefully with his new hefty contract will motivate him to improve these weaknesses and move up on this list.
5. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
One of the very few bright spots on this hapless team, Monroe is naturally a power forward but has proven to be an effective scorer down low in his short tenure in the NBA. Monroe was my pick for most improved player last season because of his consistency and his very good passing skills for a center. I would like to see him become more a defensive presence and match his great statistics from last season before he can make jump on this list.
4. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Horford is truly a team player. Coming into the league Horford was power forward and still is but he sacrificed this and has played center for the Hawks. Despite playing out of position Horford is still a big and long body and has provided solid rim protection for the Atlanta Hawks over the years. Although his skills in the post are mechanical and still raw he can stretch the floor by stepping out and hitting shots on the perimeter and using his quickness to get out on breaks.
3. Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
Fresh off of winning Olympic Gold, the reigning defensive player of the year, Tyson Chandler, is poised for another solid season with the New York Knicks. Chandler has excellent conditioning which shows with his great mobility for a center. Yes even this late into his career he doesn’t have a polished offensive game—comprising of mostly dunks and alley oops—you would expect from him, Chandler knows his role and value on his team and rarely makes mistakes.
2. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
Hibbert is a throwback to the bigs of old. At 7’2, Hibbert is the larger than life specimen that the league was defined by back in the day. He has a tremendous work ethic and has really made for himself this season highlighted by an All-Star selection and second round berth for the Pacers. Hibbert just like Dwight Howard demands a great deal of attention—on both ends of the floor—which bodes well for this young player’s future.
1. Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia Sixers
No Surprise here.
Of course his defense and maturity are an issue, but Bynum is the best low post scoring center in the league today. Kareem’s post work with Bynum has him now an unstoppable force when he catches the ball deep in post—something that happens very often.
Last season Bynum became a more aggressive and consistent player than he ever was and being the first option in Philly will really show if he has what it takes to be the best center in the league. But even with his impressive offensive skills on defense he doesn’t try nearly as hard and this needs to change for him to help the Sixers have a deep playoff run.