Ranking the League’s Starting Centers

Preseason is here.  After a quick and very eventful summer, NBA teams are back at it.  Media Day for most teams was last week, teams finished up their training camps, and preseason games have started for a few teams, with the rest playing today and tomorrow.  We’ve already gotten disappointing long-term injury news about Khris Middleton and Ben Simmons, an injury scare for Bradley Beal, Steph Curry showing off, Victor Oladipo destroying the souls of two Spaniards, and rumors flying around that Simmons’ agent won’t let the 76ers even play him this season.  With all that said, it’s GREAT to have the NBA back.  In the last of the 5 rankings of the starters, we focused on centers, and as is usual in the 30 team league, the discrepancy between the #1 ranked starter and the #30th ranked starter is laughable.  Only 22 days until opening day.  Can’t Wait! Enjoy. – Ryan




1. Demarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

From an athletic and talent standpoint, there are no flaws in Demarcus Cousins game. At 6’11, 270 lbs, and mobility he stacks up athletically with the greatest centers of all time (excluding Shaq who has to be put in a class of his own). Cousins averaged 26.9 ppg and 11.5 rebs to show he has elite skills to go with his body. He can score from the post, face defenders up, and even take them off the dribble. He crashes the offensive glass and his stats show he makes plays on defense. Even with recognizing all of this I still ranked him as the 2nd best center in the NBA right now. Cousins has never been to the playoffs or has he led a team to a winning record. I recognize that not all of that is his fault. The Kings have hit him with new and inexperienced coaches almost every season and his roster gets juggled around like a jester’s balls in a king’s court. That being said I can’t think of any players who have been as productive as Cousins with 5 straight losing seasons and I believe at least some of the blame has to be credited to Cousins lack of leadership. He is constantly fighting with coaches and teammates. Right or wrong in his frustrations… no NBA player should have a 10 minute YouTube compilation of fights and technical fouls. – Jeremy

2. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Gasol, age 31, missed the last 30 games of the 15-16 season and the playoffs with a foot injury. His 52 games played were a career low. That fact, combined with his age and a small decrease in production last year while healthy lead to the question, are his best years behind him? Personally I doubt it. Gasol is still one of the 20 best players in the NBA. Last year, he had the Grizzlies sitting at 30-22 before he fractured his foot. The season before that, 2014-15, Gasol was easily the best two-way center in the league and was rewarded with an All-NBA First Team selection and an 8th place finish in MVP voting.

Memphis raised some eyebrows over the summer by spending $247 million on two players, Mike Conley and Chandler Parson, who have never made an All-Star team. But critics of the moves don’t understand how much Big Spain means to Memphis. He is the best player in Grizzlies history—and it’s not close. He is a 2-time All-Star and a former Defensive Player of the Year, and the Grizzlies franchise leader in playoff minutes played. Memphis was at a crossroads at the start of the offseason due to Conley’s status as a free agent and the declines of Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. It would have been easy to rebuild. But they just couldn’t do that to Marc. – Charlie

3. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

With so many great players in the NBA, it’s pretty rare to see a rookie immediately establish themselves as a franchise cornerstone and generational player in his rookie season.  Karl-Anthony Towns did just that his rookie season, when he started all 82 games.  Only 7 players in NBA history besides KAT have averaged at least 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in their rookie year: David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Shaq, Hakeem, Alonzo Mourning, Elton Brand, and Ralph Sampson.  5 of those players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Tim Duncan is a first ballot Hall of Famer once he’s eligible. Towns also shot a respectable 34% from the three point line on 1 attempt, after attempting ony 8 threes in college. Towns truly can do it all, even at age 20. – Ryan

4. Al Horford, Boston Celtics

Al Horford is entering his 10th season in the NBA and his first with the Boston Celtics who rewarded him for his consistent plays over the years with a 4 year 113 million dollar contract. The Celtics take pride in drafting, trading for, and signing high character players who sacrifice for the better of the team. Al Horford certainly fits this model. He has never averaged over 19 ppg for a season, but he was also a centerpiece for a Hawks team that made the playoffs for nine straight years under his leadership. He can defend, rebound, set screens, and make shots. There are very few if any weaknesses to Horford’s game. Renowned Celtics coach Brad Stevens has stated that he is impressed with Horford’s mentality that he says “screams winner”. Since Brad Stevens has won at every level of basketball… he probably knows what he is talking about. – Jeremy

5. Deandre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

The All-NBA 1st-Team center averaged 13.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game last season and shot a ridiculous 70.3% from the field. Life’s good when you’re the biggest guy on the floor and catching lobs from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. He then went and won an Olympic gold medal—which doesn’t quite make up for the Clippers never having made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs. He’s goofy and can’t shoot free throws, but his impact is undeniable, a physical force on both sides of the ball. – Charlie

6. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

Drummond took the league by storm last year.  Serving as a pseudo young Dwight Howard, he led the league in rebounding at 14.8 per game, while anchoring an improved defense.  He had 12 more double doubles than anyone else at 66, and had the second highest rebounding average in the last 5 seasons.  His rebounding, and ability to alter shots contributed directly to Detroit returning to the playoffs after a 6 year drought.  The Pistons showed their belief in Drummond by signing him to a 5 year, $130 million rookie extension this summer, and are a popular pick to improve on the 44-38 record.  Drummond isn’t much of a “feed me” guy on offense, but he gets a lot of putbacks on his five offensive rebounds per game, and being 6’11” and almost 300 pounds, Drummond routinely can get great positioning in the paint against smaller players, leading to plenty of layups, dunks, and alley oops.  Obviously, the only real issue comes when he’s hacked and goes to the line with his 35% free throw shooting.  This summer, Drummond has been using virtual reality in an effort to improve this abysmal FT shooting, and we’ll see if this helps him improve.  “It’s more of a mental thing, and with the VR, it’s more of a reinforcement, kind of training your mind to think positively all the time — even though you’re not going to make every shot, but you still have that thought process that you’re making shots,” Drummond said.  It’s clear at least that he’s willing to do anything. – Ryan

7. Dwight Howard, Atlanta Hawks

Howard is coming off of his worst statistical season since his rookie year in 2004. He averaged 13.7ppg and 11.8 rebounds. Given that these numbers are still very good, it just shows how dominate Howard has been over the years. Howard is ranked the 7th best center this year, had we done these rankings in the past he would probably land in the top 3 centers every other season. Part of this is probably reflected in Howard’s age and wear and tear on his knees and back… but a lot of what is hurting Howard nowadays is the small ball movement the NBA has adopted in the last couple of years. The rockets were ecstatic to sign Howard just three years ago in 2013, and they opened the interior focuses center with open arms. Now in 2016 they let him walk in free agency with hardly even saying goodbye because his style of play does not match the fast pace perimeter oriented offense that the Rockets and many other teams are trying to adopt. Howard is an elite shot blocker and rebounder however. While his toughness and desire to win has been questions, I believe Howard is still a very productive center who has a lot of good years left in him to finish out in Atlanta. – Jeremy

8. Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat

Heat President Pat Riley made sure Whiteside was his number one priority when free agency started last July. Now Dwyane Wade is on the Bulls, Chris Bosh is out, and Whiteside is the highest paid guy on the team. He is going to be under a lot more pressure this year… and he will be just fine. He led the league last year with 3.7 blocks per game and has had a PER of 25+ each of his last two seasons. He is not going to carry the Heat’s offense, but he should develop pick and roll chemistry with Goran Dragic. That said I think the Heat miss the playoffs. – Charlie

9. Pau Gasol, San Antonio Spurs

Gasol is such a great fit for the Spurs it’s infuriating for fans of teams like the Wizards who have failed to have consistency for four seasons, let alone twenty.  Gasol is one of the best passing centers in the league, and playing alongside LaMarcus Aldridge should leave plenty of open opportunities and backdoor cuts for his teammates.  Gasol recently turned 36, which should mark a decline in his play, but then again that should have happened a few years ago.  In SA, he’ll be asked to play less than 30 minutes per game most likely, and just do the things he does best.  Over his two seasons in Chicago, Gasol averaged 11.4 rebounds and 2 blocks, playing more of the center position recently, and bringing that strength to the Spurs, Aldridge won’t have to do as much banging for rebounds, which he has voiced displeasure in over the years.  Gasol is an obvious upgrade over final year Tim Duncan, but 67 wins is probably out of the question.  Vegas has the over/under all the way down at 56.5.  It will be interesting to see if Gasol continues trying to stretch the floor in San Antonio, after shooting 35% on one attempt from three per game last year.  Aldridge went from attempting 1.5 threes per game his last year in Portland, to 0.2 attempts in his first season with the Spurs, and something tells me that unless your name is Matt Bonner, Popovich doesn’t want his bigs taking threes. – Ryan

10. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

Vucevic is coming off of another superb statistical season as he averaged 18.2ppg and 8.9 rebs. Despite this production the Magic seem to be on the fence on Vucevic’s future with the team. The Magic just threw a huge long-term contract at center Bismack Biyombo and traded for defensive specialist Serge Ibaka. The Magic seem to be loading up on defensive big men, which contradicts Vucevic’s style of play as an offensive force down low, who struggles on the defensive end. If the Magic are looking to change their identity down low, Vucevic could find himself fighting for minutes this year which could make him a valuable trade option down the round. Vucevic is young and can hold his own with the best big men in the league. He could be a steal for some team that is willing to give assets to a Magic team finishing off their rebuild. – Jeremy

(J Pat Carter/Getty Images North America
Steven Adams capped a solid third season with a very impressive playoff performance, while Tristan Thompson capped an up and down fifth season where he only started 34 of 82 games, with an NBA Championship. (J Pat Carter/Getty Images North America


11. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

Last May the Maori Mustache was the third best player on the Thunder during their run to the Conference Finals. He’s so valuable because he has the toughness to match up with any center and the mobility to keep up with smaller players. Both those traits can be traced back to his Rugby background (the 23-year-old 7-footer famously wanted to be an All Black). The signature play of his career came in last year’s playoffs at the end of game 2 against the Spurs. Known as the play when Dion Waiters elbowed Manu Ginobili while in-bounding, it was also the play when Adams stopped a 3 on 1 fast break, thwarted a Ginobili drive, and sprinted out to an open Patty Mills to contest his shot and seal a one point win. – Charlie

12. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

I can’t believe Brook Lopez is still on the Nets.  I can’t believe Brook Lopez is still on the Nets.  I can’t believe Brook Lopez is still on the Nets.  I can’t believe Brook Lopez is still on the Nets.  I can’t believe Brook Lopez is still on the Nets.

Lopez is going into his 9th season in the league, all with the Nets, and with the current state of the team, I can’t believe Brook Lopez is still on the Nets.  The Nets hilariously traded 4 years of their future for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and still owe the Celtics their next two 1st round draft picks (1 via pick swap).  The only asset that could probably return a 1st round pick is Brook Lopez, and the Nets have no reason not to trade Brook.  They signed NY favorite Jeremy Lin, who will take care of putting people in the seats, and I think the only reason Brook Lopez is still on the Nets is for the promotional Brook-Lin possibilities in store.  At 28, with numerous foot issues, 1 more would ruin any trade value that Lopez has, and BRK is certainly taking a risk by not moving him ASAP.  Brook had a great statistical season last year, averaging 20.6 points (0.1 off his career high), 7.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 2 assists.  Still he won’t be able to do much to help the Nets get to the laughably low “over” set by the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas: 20.5 – Ryan

13. Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards

The Polish Hammer has been a very consistent contributor to an inconsistent Wizards team for the last three season. Any fan, teammate or coach can pretty much pencil him in for around 13 pts and 9 rebs as that is what the veteran has averaged every season he was given starters minutes. As the only writer in this blog who doesn’t love the wizards and their players, I can honestly say that I love Gortat’s game. He prides himself on being the best conditioned big man in the game and this dedication to his fitness has allowed him to run the lanes hard for the breaking John Wall for the last 3 seasons while only missing 8 games. He is a very good finisher around the rim, he sets great screens, and he rebounds and defends hard even if not well at times. It’s probably true that the Wizards will go as far as John Wall can take them, but players like Gortat are perfect role players who do nothing but help a team trying to get to the next level. – Jeremy

I disagree with people who say that the Ian Mahinmi signing was the beginning of the end for Gortat in Washington. It is unfair to compare Mahinmi’s $16M/year in new money to Gortat’s $12M/year in old money. Last season Gortat was 1st in the league in paint touches, 5th in points scored while rolling to the rim, and 4th among high usage roll men in points per possession while rolling to the rim (nba.com/stats). On a roster filled with new faces and young players the Wizards need the Machine. – Charlie

14. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Gobert is one of the very best rim-protectors/rebounders in the league. He’s 7’1 and has a cool nickname (Stifle Tower).   And we should have ranked him higher. He was expected to take a jump last year but instead took a small step back. He missed 21 games to injury and couldn’t find a rhythm when healthy. He is not the most mobile center, but he makes up for it with an enormous wingspan. Gobert’s expected maturation is part of the reason Vegas has the Jazz at 47.5 wins. – Charlie

15. Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers

What a year for Tristan Thompson.  In the last 365 days, he has signed a new contract with the Cavaliers for five-years and $82 million, went from sharing the starting center position with Timofey Mozgov during the regular season, to full-time starter in the playoffs, winning an NBA Championship, and dating a Kardashian.  He apparently had an excellent training camp, and should expect his minutes to go from around 27 minutes per game in 2015-16 to 34+ this season with Mozgov gone and Chris Anderson in as replacement.  The only L he took was his Canadian national team not qualifying for the Olympics, but with Andrew Wiggins, Trey Lyles, Jamal Murray, Nik Stauskas, and others potentially joining in the future, even that looks to have future appeal.  In the 2016 NBA Finals, Thompson averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds, and routinely did a good job switching onto Golden State’s nifty guards.  He isn’t going to get a ton of blocks, but he does a great job going straight up when contesting shots, and his quick bounce allows him to come down and go back up for the rebound.

James Harden notoriously started off last season poorly, leading to his coach’s firing, and much of that seemed to come from his summer partying lifestyle with his former GF and TT’s current, Khloe Kardashian.  Thompson’s game thrives on hustle and energy, and all Cavs fans can hope is that hanging out with the Kardashian clan all summer doesn’t tire TT out like the bearded man in Houston, and his friend Mr. West. – Ryan

Kim Kardashian James Harden and Kanye West party hard

16. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors

Valanciunas had a solid season in 2015-2016 averaging just under 13 pts and close to a double-double in only 26 minutes of action. With the departing of Biyombo this season, the Raptors will rely more heavily on their young center to play more minutes at the same production. Jonas showed that he is up for challenges with some monster games in the eastern playoffs last year as he outplayed centers such as Hassan Whiteside at times. Valanciunas does everything a center is “supposed” to do, but doesn’t do anything at a particularly impressive rate. He is a big capable body who will protect the rim, set screens, and finish plays down low. I the raptors are going to somehow compete for a finals berth anytime soon they will need players like Valanciunas to develop to the next level. Maybe with some more playing time and experience Jonas can get there, but he is not at an elite level yet. – Jeremy

17. Joakim Noah, New York Knicks

Yannick son’s prime years are behind him. Really he hasn’t been the same since Nene demolished him in the 2014 playoffs. But he provides value to the Knicks. He is an accomplished player who competes relentlessly and basically just knows how to be on a winning team. The Knicks can run the offense through him at times, which is nice because Derrick Rose sucks at point guard, and he can protect the rim and gobble rebounds, which is nice because Kristaps Porginzis looks like a stretched out 14-year-old. – Charlie

18. Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers

Who wants Jahlil Okafor? Or Nerlens Noel?  If you do come on down!  You may be less excited than Premal Shah, but the prizes are probably a little better than an all-inclusive vacation and kitchen set.  Because of some interesting drafting, the Sixers find themselves with a log jam at Center.  It’s almost guaranteed Joel Embiid starts at this point, but we ranked the players mid summer so I’ll talk about both Okafor and Embiid.  Firstly Okafor.

Because the Sixers have Okafor, Noel, Embiid, Saric, and Simmons, the thought among executives is that Philly will look to trade Okafor and/or Noel for more backcourt help.  Because both players have shown flashes of potential on the lowly Sixers, each think they should start in the NBA, which they probably wouldn’t in Philly, except for the recent injury to Ben Simmons.  Still, there’s not enough playing time to appease them all, and Philly isn’t going to wait around for them to damage any potential trade value.  Okafor had a successful offensive season, but was comically atrocious during the 10-72 season.  He averaged 17.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks, shot 50% from the field, and showed an array of offensive moves.  Among centers who started at least 40 games, Okafor had the third highest usage rate (27%), behind only Demarcus Cousins and Brook Lopez.  His game didn’t mesh well with his teammates, not that many’s would, but it’s been rather clear for awhile that he is the most likely of the young bigs to be moved, it’s just a matter of the Sixers finding a deal they like.  Assuming Embiid doesn’t get himself hurt this preseason, he will start, but Okafor’s offensive acumen still is worthy of a top 20 ranking on this list.  If only the Sixers had taken Porzingis…

Embiid’s competitive basketball resume contains two seasons in high school, and 28 college games.  That’s it. Embiid obviously hasn’t played in an NBA game, although he was drafted two years ago, but his aura has been shining over Philly since draft day.  His foot issues are certainly troubling, but he has shown in college and workouts that he has excellent potential in footwork, rebounding, shooting, and defense, making him more of a potential franchise cornerstone than Okafor.  A quick reminder of his performance his one season at Kansas, alongside Andrew Wiggins.  He was a popular choice for the #1 pick before he broke his foot, and ended up going 3rd.  He averaged 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game, in just 23 minutes per game.  Philadelphia isn’t in a rush to make the playoffs or anything, and with the injury to Simmons, Embiid will certainly be the focus of the season so far.  I’m excited to see him play, but sad to see his legend status take a backseat for a while, while he shows what he can actually do in live game action.  His first preseason action comes Tuesday against Boston, and we’ll see him Thursday on NBATV when the Wizards head to Philadelphia. – Ryan

19. Andrew Bogut, Dallas Mavericks

Bogut is a tough player to evaluate from afar as it is hard to see how good he actually is. There was a time in 2010 when Bogut was averaging 16 ppg and 11 rebs and leading a young Bucks team through the eastern conference playoffs. A few injuries later and a change of scenery has Bogut putting up lowly numbers of 5.4 pts and 7.0 rebs in only 20 minutes of action a night. That being said I have a suspicion that Bogut has sacrificed and taken a backseat to other players on the Warrior’s superteam esq roster. The Warriors are stacked with shooting, scoring, playmakers and finishers which leaves a very unique role for a player like Bogut. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched the Warriors play and seen Bogut get the ball inches from the basket only to see him flick a pass across the court to a three point shooter in the corner. I think that Bogut’s selflessness has helped the Warriors become the powerhouse they are today and it has killed the statistical career Bogut could have had. Of course, there’s alway the possibility that I am wrong and Bogut sucks now. The Mavericks think (and hope) that I am right however, as they traded for Bogut this past summer, even as he enters a contract year, and promised him the opportunity to show flashes of his playing days in Milwaukee. – Jeremy

20. Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks

Moose is a talented player who can be an offensive hub from the low post but has limited utility because he doesn’t protect the rim. The problem in Milwaukee is that if you start Monroe and Jabari Parker, who also sucks at defense, at the four/five then it’s hard to be a good defense regardless of who else is on the floor. I’d like to see him on the Pelicans. – Charlie

The Bottom 10 includes two exciting prospects in NBA All-Rookie Second Team selection Myles Turner and NBA All-Rookie First Team selection Nikola Jokic.
The Bottom 10 includes two exciting prospects in NBA All-Rookie Second Team selection Myles Turner and NBA All-Rookie First Team selection Nikola Jokic.


21. Robin Lopez, Chicago Bulls

RoLo is playing for his 3rd team in 3 years, but that isn’t entirely because of his production.  He left Portland for New York during the mass exodus of 2015, and was traded for Derrick Rose this summer.  On an underwhelming Knicks team last season, Lopez averaged 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks last year while shooting about 80% from the free throw line.  Additionally, he provided valuable post defense and doing the dirty work on offense.  Lopez won’t have many highlight plays on the Bulls this year, but will be a valuable anchor down low.  On a confusing note, apparently Coach Fred Hoiberg won’t commit to Lopez as the starting center, even though the only other center on the current roster is Christiano Felicio.  Part of Hoiberg’s problem probably originates from the fact that he doesn’t even know which Lopez his team traded for. – Ryan

22. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers

Myles Turner’s numbers don’t reflect how much promise the Pacers young big man showed last season. He only averaged 10.3 ppg and 5.5 rebounds in around 20 minutes of action, but he showed flashes that tells the NBA world that he has the talents to one day be a 20 point 10 rebound guy who protects the rim (averaged a nice 1.4 blocks this season). The reason Turner is ranked 22 and not higher is because he showed flashes, not consistency, of this high level play. The Pacers are looking to play more small ball lineups with shooters and playmakers. Turner fits that role perfectly as he can spread the floor on offense and protect the rim on defense. With GM Larry Bird determined to keep his core in tact at “no matter the cost”, the Pacers will rely on their young players like Turner to develop for them to get better as a team. They have confidence in Turner to do this as they have not brought in any big men to contest him as the starting center this past season. – Jeremy

23. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Easily the most underrated player on our list, Jokic should be 10 spots higher. It is hard to know what to make of him since he played so few minutes (21.7/game) and was so ridiculously good (21.5 PER, 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting). He put some doubts to rest with strong Olympic play, but it is still a major question if he can maintain his production in starters minutes. If he can he’s an All-Star. – Charlie

24. Zaza Pachulia, Golden State Warriors

Pachulia surprised a lot of NBA fans and experts last year with his play in Dallas.  Before the All-Star break he posted averages of 10 points and 10.7 rebounds, and for the season averaged 9.4 rebounds.  His previous career high for a season was 7.9, and in his 13th season, he proved that he can defend modern NBA bigs without being athletic or a shot blocker.  Zaza’s first half was so good that he was nearly voted a starter for the Western Conference All-Star team, ultimately getting 14,000 fewer votes than MVP Candidate Kawhi Leonard, and 41,000 more votes than Draymond Green.  While these votes were inflated by the following in his home country of Georgia, it also probably helped that Wyclef Jean made a song campaigning him.  All of this is pretty awesome for a 32-year-old journeyman heading into his 14th season, but what’s even better for him is that he gets to start for probably one of the best and most anticipated teams in NBA history.  He’s never made more than $5.2 million in a season and certainly left millions on the table during free agency, but the opportunity was just too great, and you can’t really blame him. – Ryan

25. Mason Plumlee, Portland Trail Blazers

Going into the final year of his rookie contract NBA GM’s across the NBA will be looking closely at Mason Plumlee. He has elite athleticism and has shown that he deserves to be a rotation player on any roster with his stellar hustle play and shot blocking ability. Plumlee will have to go out and prove that he can be consistent starting center however for him to earn the big bucks. He only played 25 minutes a game for a Blazers team that was filling the 5 spot by committee because he lacks an offensive game and makes mistakes in pick and roll situations. – Jeremy

26. Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets

Look… I love the Hornets. I love their roster, their coaches, and their style of play. I have spent hours of my life thinking about crazy unconventional arguments as to why their players and teams are better than public opinion. All of this being said, I don’t know if I feel positive about Cody Zeller being the uncontested Center for the Queen City.

Being drafted #4 in the 2013 NBA draft Hornets front office was hyping Zeller as a super athletic power forward who can make threes and develop to create plays off the dribble. Zeller’s rookie season I saw what the front office scouted. He is super athletic, and he has good shooting form while never seeming to actually make an outside shot, and he can’t make plays off the dribble but certainly tries. Fast forward three seasons under his belt and Zeller is more or less the same player he was as a rookie, although I give him credit that he has gained around 30lbs of muscle over the past 2 seasons. His increase in strength and, frankly, Charlotte’s inability to hold onto Al Jefferson or attract a better center than Roy Hibbert this offseason, has forced the coaches to pencil in Cody Zeller for 30+ minutes a game this season.

Will Zeller improve his finishing ability while gaining strength? I hope so… if he does he can be a serviceable 13 pt and 9 rebound a game guy… but given he has shown little improvement over the last 3 seasons I am not sure how long I am willing to wait before I give up on the big man. In my dreams Kaminsky develops into an elite stretch four and Zeller develops into a defensive/rebounding force. That way I get to watch and root for a front court of Kaminsky and Zeller for the next 10 seasons which would make all white guys across the midwest proud. – Jeremy

27. Clint Capela, Houston Rockets

First things first.  Clint Capela destroyed the Shanghai Sharks last night.  This is the Capela that the Rockets hope shows up this season after letting Dwight Howard walk in free agency.  Capela has shown he can be an athletic rim runner as a reserve, but now it’s time to translate that to starter’s minutes and competition.  Capela did start 35 games last season, averaging 8.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in only 23 minutes per game.  With James Harden running that up tempo Mike D’Antoni offense, Rockets fans can certainly expect to still see the alley oops that made their offense so fun to watch with Dwight in town.  Rockets fans can also expect to continue seeing terrible free throw shooting as Capela is just a 36% free throw shooter for his career.  For comparison’s sake, Dwight shot 49% last year.  Fun Fact: Capela missed the first 15 free throws of his career. – Ryan

28. Alex Len, Phoenix Suns

As Alex Len’s fantasy basketball owner this past season I can attest to the former Terrapin’s potential. He was type of player who would enter my starting lineup (in fantasy) only when I needed a miracle to win because one out of every 10 games Len would put up crazy numbers like 22 pts 13 rebounds and 6 blocks. These stellar performances were few and far between 5pt and 3 rebs performances which rounds his average for the season to 9 pts and 7.6 rebs. Len has some talent, but he is slow… like… really slow, and I don’t know if he will be able to carve out a career as a starting center given all the talented guards and shooting big men he has to defend in pick and roll situations these days. – Jeremy

29. Timofey Mozgov, Los Angeles Lakers

It’s easy to lambaste the Lakers for signing Mosgov for $64 million thirty seconds into free agency instead of holding out for other available centers such as Mahinmi (signed for $64M), Bismack Biyombo ($72M), or Festus Ezeli ($16M). And that’s just what I’ll do: HA-HA. In all realness though, the Lakers are in the early stages of a rebuild and it will benefit the young players to have a real center on the floor, let alone an NBA champion. – Charlie

30. Omer Asik, New Orleans Pelicans

I really wish I didn’t have to write about Omer.  I usually show love to players on the Pelicans, but I just can’t for Omer.  The Pelicans have been trying to trade him essentially since he joined the team, and in a world where Timofey Mozgov has a 4 yr $64 Million contract, Asik’s 5yr/$60 mil contract is still probably the worst contract in the league.  Last season he was ranked #1 for least tradeable contract in the league, and I think New Orleans would trade everyone not name Jrue Holiday or Anthony Davis to rid themselves of Asik.  Alvin Gentry appears not set on starting Asik every game, instead going with AD against smaller lineups, which is certainly not a bad idea.  For every player through my 50 or so rankings, I have said at least one thing positive.  For Asik I will not. – Ryan



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