Join Frank Santos and myself as we take our annual journey through the wonderful world of centers. Santos and I roll through the best centers around the association, taking turns making our picks. Then we put it together in a nice little package, filled with insults flung back and forth as the bond between colleagues grows stronger.
Perhaps you already skimmed though our other drafts this season. Frank and I started with point-guards, moved through the swingmen, fought our way through power-forwards, and ended here, with the anchors.
You’ll notice that every player has ether a plus, minus, or same label next to their spot. These just show their rise or fall from our 2013-14 rankings.
1 – Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets (Frank Santos) Same
I think we have gotten to the point with Dwight Howard where he was overrated, and now it has swung the other way. Now, everyone yells Dwight Howard is overrated to the point where he is underrated, and I still think he holds the crown as best center in the league.
I foresee a big season from D12 and the Rockets now that they have had time to adjust to each other. We may even see James Harden play something that resembles defense.
2 – DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings (Andy Flint) +1
I had Boogie ahead of Howard this year, and of course, Frank acted disgusted, probably rolled his eyes, and then snapchatted with anyone who would listen, just so he could explain how terrible I am.
I just like DeMarcus Cousins. He does with ease what others his size struggle to even imagine on the court. He’s graceful, powerful, athletic, and mega-talented. He’s easily the best offensive center in the game right now. The ONLY issue with Boogie is his attitude. I truly believe we’ll see a more mature Cousins this season, after spending valuable minutes with Team USA this Summer.
3 – Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls (Frank Santos) +1
One day I need DeMarcus Cousins and Russell Westbrook on the same team just to see if Andy decides to abandon his family to travel the country with them for 82 games.
Remember when I said that Dwight Howard is underrated and everybody hates on him? Well, I may be a bit of a hypocrite who got caught up in Noah’s brilliance last season and said he was better than Howard. That doesn’t mean Noah’s 2013-2014 campaign wasn’t anything short of brilliant (that is before Marcin Gortat and NeNe took him to school in the playoffs), but he just has offensive limitations that make it hard to take him over Dwight.
Then again, I think Boogie has too many mental limitations to take him over Noah, so there’s that.
4 – Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies (Andy Flint) -2
Ha! Santos has a way with words. Always sitting on his high-horse. I recall a similar disgust with my taking Dwight Howard number one overall last season, but that’s none of my business.
As for Marc Gasol. He was a guy I really took a long look at for the number one overall pick last season, but fourth just feels very right for him this year. Not that he was bad last season, but missed time, and the Grizz only managed the seven seed in a tough, tough, tough western conference. It’s the post-Lakers Howard stepping up in Houston, the brilliant season from Noah, and the development with Cousins that really contributed to Gasol dropping from two to four in this draft.
5 – Al Jefferson – Charlotte Hornets (Frank Santos) +3
Having to defend Al Jefferson for 40+ minutes has to be one of the worst propositions in all of the league right now. Every time I think I have seen every move in Big Al’s arsenal, he breaks out a new one. It’s truly a pleasure to watch him work on the block, and his throwback style in the post is refreshing.
He has slowly morphed into a competent defender as well. Not good, but he isn’t the James Harden of centers, either. That wasn’t always the case, so salute to Big Al there.
6 – Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons (Andy Flint) +3
I believe that Drummond is already one of the best defensive anchors in the league. His long, athletic frame stops players from driving to the lane, while his ability to use strength and athleticism on offense has really put him a step or two ahead of where I figured he’d be.
I look for Drummond to continue to improve under Stan Van Gundy. Hopefully the Pistons will figure out what to do with either Josh Smith or Greg Monroe. This team needs to swap one of those two players for a reliable wing scorer.
7 – Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks (Frank Santos) -2
In typical fashion, I haven’t agreed with a single pick Andy has made yet. That’s just the kind of relationship we have. I especially think he may have been high on bath salts when he decided that Andre Drummond was better than Al Horford.
We have discussed this phenomenon in the past, but there is something about a guy going down with an injury that makes us forget him. In sports, there really a mixed cocktail of “what have you done for me lately” and “out of sight, out of mind” mindset. I didn’t forget you, Al. I didn’t forget how the Hawks went from the 3rd best team in the East to only sniffing the playoffs because the East is so putrid because of you, Al. Keep your head up, let the hate breed a 22-10 season.
8 – DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers (Andy Flint) +3
Look, I like Al Horford as much as the next guy, but when you only crack 30+ games once in three seasons, I tend to become worried.
As for DeAndre Jordan, I had him above Horford as well. This game is all about “what have you done for me lately”, and lately, the Clippers have benefited more from Jordan than ATL has from Horford. Jordan has a different game from Drummond, but generally garners similar results. Both players are tremendous on defensive, long, and athletic. I have a special bias towards guys who protect the rim, and DeAndre Jordan is one of the league’s best.
9 – Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets (Frank Santos) -2
If Brook Lopez has a healthy right foot, he is at least three spots higher on this list. For a long time, many thought that Brook Lopez was the most talented offensive center in the league. I was on that bandwagon as well, but it’s a tough argument to make in a league that also employs the aforementioned Al Jefferson.
I am just rooting for Lopez to stay healthy since as a Nets fan, he is my favorite player to watch. I think 9 is an appropriate spot for him, as there is a slight drop-off in talent after this, but I also understand that his injury history may have some see this as a reach. I would go into detail about how the whole “Brook Lopez doesn’t rebound” is a stupid argument, but we are trying to keep these write-ups reasonable in length.
Long Live The Brookie Monster. (He REALLY needs a new nickname.)
10 – Tyson Chandler – Dallas Mavericks (Andy Flint) +2
Chandler appears to follow my trend of lanky defenders, who are defensive studs. The real difference with Chandler is that he doesn’t have the offensive game that Drummond and Jordan do. I know what you’re thinking, because Drummond and Jordan aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts. That’s my point. Chandler has a role, he knows that role, and he plays it perfectly. Last time he was in Dallas they beat the Heat and won a title.
I expect Chandler to guard the best big man on the floor, protect the rim, and set the tone defensively, as he roams the paint, cleans the glass and looks for easy cleanup buckets. The Mavs have many scoring options. Chandler’s defensive ways are needed to make this team legitimate.
11 – Marcin Gortat – Washington Wizards (Frank Santos) +4
As I typed this pick, I didn’t really buy it myself. Then, I double checked the players left, and Gortat really does seem like the best center remaining from the bunch. Gortat and NeNe really stepped up last season, and both made big leaps in our drafts for good reason.
With the addition of Paul Pierce, and the continued emergence of those two guys paired with maybe the best back-court in the league (personally, give me The Splash Brothers), the Wizards are going to be a serious contender in the East.
12 – Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic (Andy Flint) +1
The age old question of which Nikola goes first resumes in 2014-15. Look, I prefer Vucevic, and Frank prefers Pekovic. I don’t think you can really go wrong with either player. They both have loads of talent, but they both also have very different games. Vucevic is more of a typical rebounder/back-to-the-basket type, while Pek is a wide body, who has more offensive skill than you’d ever think just from looking at him.
The kicker for me really boils down to skill, as I believe Vucevic has more. Pekovic is more of a scrappy player, who earns his stripes doing the dirty work. Which I do love, but I like Vucevic’s ability to be a constant double-double player, who’s capable of running the offense, from the post, in spurts.
The Magic seem to agree, as they just locked Vucevic up on a four-year, $54 million deal.
13 – Nikola Pekovic – Minnesota Timberwolves (Frank Santos) +1
The fall of Roy Hibbert continues. We like to keep the Nikola’s together, as we also took them back-to-back last year as well. Mostly I took Pek because I was scared that if he went any lower, he would put hits out on Andy and I.
I ain’t trying to die over a harmless centers draft.
14 – Jonas Valanciunas – Toronto Raptors (Andy Flint) +6
I didn’t plan it this way, but I feel like Jonas really fits in well with the Nikola’ crew. I truly do love the fact that the NBA has seven foreign centers worthy of being drafted in the top 15. Not to mention the fact that, without realizing it, Santos and I just drafted four international players in a row. This is why I love the NBA!
As far as Valanciunas goes, he’s put on good weight this off-season, appears more comfortable in the paint, and even took a run at Boogie Cousins when Team USA faced-off against Lithuania back in September. I actually liked what I saw in that video. It proves a point. Cousins is a top-tier talent in the NBA. He’s an absolute load down in the paint, and I feel like Jonas was showing that he’s all of those things as well. Next time, I’d just prefer that he doesn’t flinch when Cousins comes at him, but hey, I probably would too. That dude is nuts!
15 – Roy Hibbert – Indiana Pacers (Frank Santos) -9
Right now, I am picturing Roy Hibbert as the dude in the green room during the NBA draft who was told he had a lottery guarantee, only to be sitting with his mom and his agent into the second round with the “what the hell happened?” face.
What happened is you went from someone who helped the Pacers go toe-to-toe with the defending champion Miami Heat to a dude who has a hard time putting up a stat. Like, ANY STAT. A point, a block, a rebound. ANYTHING. GIVE US ANYTHING ROY.
That being said, I can’t believe somebody can completely fall of the face of the earth like that, and I thought this was the lowest possible place he could go, as everyone behind him is either one-dimensional, not established, or has injury concerns.
16 – Omer Asik – New Orleans Pelicans (Andy Flint) +1
One quick thing about Roy Hibbert, before I start in with Asik. Most of Hibbert’s success was brought on by people who dislike Dwight Howard. Shaq included. People were acting like Hibbert was the best center in the league! Even when he wasn’t doing a whole lot, people would point out the things he does that don’t show up in the statline. I always felt like that was a HUGE farce. Doo doo!
As far as Asik goes. I’m not blown away by him or anything, but I do see him as a 15 and 12 guy, given the right situation. However, I do not feel like New Orleans is that situation. I believe Asik can be their difference-maker, because he’s a brute on defense, and more skilled that people give him credit for being on offense. I just feel like his current role with the Pelicans has to be only about defense and rebounding. That being said, this is the correct place for him. He can average eight points and 10+ rebounds in The Big Easy and help this young team to the playoffs, but he has to buy-into it.
Anthony Davis and Omer Asik may be the league’s best big-man duo (defensively) this season. YOU CAN’T SCORE INSIDE!
17 – Andrew Bogut – Golden State Warriors (Frank Santos) -7
In retrospect, 10 was probably a reach last year. Flint and I may have been caught up in that Warriors playoff run, with Bogut being at the forefront, and being praised as “the most important Warrior.” The team now has a new identity, and I am not sure that the David Lee/Bogut front-court really fits into it.
He also simply cannot stay on the court, and unlike Brook Lopez, he has been in the league long enough to know that will probably always be the case.
18 – Robin Lopez – Portland Trail Blazers (Andy Flint) +11
My (our) biggest regret from last year’s draft was sleeping on Lopez. I truly believe that he’s the real difference in Portland, although most brains will never process it that way. Not only did Robin’s presence move LMA back into his natural power-forward position, but the seven-footer has brought some defense into the middle for the Blazers.
I know we’re a sports’ society who really loves stats, so I don’t expect most people to give a hell about Robin Lopez. You’ll probably also point out how bad Portland was, defensively, last season, but trust me when I say that it would have been far worse without Lopez manning the middle. Respect.
19 – Anderson Varejao – Cleveland Cavaliers (Frank Santos) -1
I am still upset that we took Fropez 29th last season. I was SO upset I tried to take him again at 23 in this draft before Andy informed me he had already taken him. We owed him a double selection.
Rocking a respectable fro in his own right, Anderson Verejao is another guy who just can’t stay on the floor. I enjoy the 2-3 weeks I plug him into my fantasy lineup for 8 points, 20 rebounds before he goes down though.
20 – Enes Kanter – Utah Jazz (Andy Flint) -1
Kanter is rapidly approaching a crossroads with me. I like his size and ceiling, but is this dude every going to open up and let us see how good he can be, or nah? I can say the same thing about his buddy, Derrick Favors, too.
I keep Kanter in the top 20, but I’m expecting 15 and 10 this year. If I don’t get it, he can consider himself banned from my Christmas card list, moving forward.
21 – Miles Plumlee – Phoenix Suns (Frank Santos) +2
Given his impressive season, I figured the older Plumlee would have leaped more than two spots. We must have been fairly high on him last season too. That’s a good job by us, and we don’t do that often. Also, just want to remind somebody that the Suns got Plumlee, Gerald Green AND A DRAFT PICK for Luis Scola. That is what the kids refer to as robbery.
The problem for Miles is I am just not sure how much his game can really grow from here. This may be his plateau, and it is a respectable starting center. Not too shabby at all.
22 – Steven Adams – Oklahoma City Thunder (Andy Flint) +N/A
I fully expect Adams to be the starting center for the Thunder this season. If not by opening night, then by the second or third week. Here are my reasons.
A) He has showed a knack for defense. Blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and pissing off opposing players.
B) He’s better than Kendrick Perkins.
C) Kendrick Perkins is a bum.
D) Get Perkins the hell out of here!
23 – Spencer Hawes – Los Angeles Clippers (Frank Santos) -2
Give me all the white boys!!
Spencer Hawes is hard to place on this list because he doesn’t really play like a center. You can find Hawes spotted up at the three-point line more times than not. You can also find him with a dictionary trying to look up the word defense.
Offensively, he is legit though, and I like what he potentially brings to the Clippers roster.
24 – Nerlens Noel – Philadelphia 76ers (Andy Flint) +N/A
Before I start on Noel, I should mention that Frank claims that I have “Whiteboy Syndrome”, which apparently means I’m biased against white basketball players. I’m just here to say that the current count is six to five, in favor of me. Cured!
Nerlens Noel is probably the biggest reach for me during this draft. I’m not even sure what position he’ll end up playing in the long run, but I believe, at least for now, that he’s a center. He’s still too raw offensively to play PF, and he’s too long and defensive-minded to not man the middle for Philly, while they wait for Embiid and their 56 first-rounders to come to fruition.
I believe, a lot like MCW last season, Noel will thrive because he’ll have buckets full of opportunity on a team that should win 20 games next season.
Rookie of the year candidate!
25 – JaVale McGee – Denver Nuggets (Frank Santos) -3
JaVale McGee is just a shot in the dark here. He hasn’t been a factor in such a long time that he becomes one of those guys impossible to properly place. Still worthy of this list though.
26 – Tiago Splitter – San Antonio Spurs (Andy Flint) +N/A
Tiago Splitter gives me my seventh white guy!
I don’t have a much to say about Splitter, aside from the fact that he understands his role, and does a pretty good job not screwing it up.
27 – Mason Plumlee – Brooklyn Nets (Frank Santos) +N/A
What do you know about that MONEY MA$E work?!
If Brook Lopez can’t stay healthy, I expect Plumlee to play huge minutes for the Nets, and it will be interesting to see what he can do with them. He was one of the biggest surprises as a rookie last year, and he may be able to continue that success if he can develop an offensive game. The playoff spotlight seemed just a bit too bright for him last season, but hopefully his time with the US Olympic Team this summer helped him in that respect.
28 – Larry Sanders – Milwaukee Bucks (Andy Flint) -4
Sanders is certainly a dude I can see having a huge bounce-back season, but in the same breath I’d like to convey my worries, as some part of brain is telling me that what we saw from Sanders in 2012-13 was a lie.
Look, every player in the NBA is capable of looking like they deserve a starting position with a team. I feel like the common misconception is that some NBA players suck, and that isn’t the case. Given ample minutes and opportunity, Kendrick Perkins can make you believe that he’s a top 10 center. Wait, that already happened before.
The jury is out on Sanders. Let’s see what he has in store for 2014-15.
29 – Samuel Dalembert – New York Knicks (Frank Santos) -3
At this point, you know what Samuel Dalembert brings to the table. Rebounding, blocks, and every now and then, he can even get you 10 extra points on put-back efforts.
Most nights, you’re lucky he can catch the ball.
30 – Kendrick Perkins – Oklahoma City Thunder (Andy Flint) +N/A
Why does Perk have facial hair like a 16th century Spanish Conquistador?
Listen, I like to bag on Perk, because, well, he deserves it, but I may be the last person still breathing in oxygen, who believes Perkins does have a role on an NBA roster. I hate him as a starter, but he has a big body, and can contribute defensively against the big teams out west. Let him get 15-18 minutes per game, make him use some fouls and grab a few boards. He’ll be fine. Just get him to shave that ridiculous facial hair.
Pick Too High:
Frank: So many choices, so little time. I didn’t agree with half of Andy’s picks, but that’s the way it goes with us. He will find his way eventually, and I still can’t believe he picked more white guys than I did. I would have to go with Nerlens Noel, even though I expect him to have a quality rookie season in Philly. That being said, he is still so raw, especially offensively, and has a lot of maturing to do before I would consider him any higher than 29-30.
Andy: My pick was Anderson Varejao. His window has closed, in my opinion, and I felt he was more suited for 25-30, rather than falling inside the top 20. Perhaps we’ll see a rejuvenated career out of him now that LeBron is back in Cleveland.
Pick Too Low:
Frank: ITS GOTTA BE ROBIN LOPEZ. (Okay, Fropez, we are even now.) Nah, but seriously, I don’t think there are a lot of guys that really went significantly lower than I expected. I didn’t agree with Andy’s top 10, but I still had the same 10 guys in my top 10, just in a completely different order. In that sense, nobody got snubbed. Honestly, it may be Mason Plumlee. In his rookie season, he had a signature moment with his game-saving maybe it was a foul but whatever block on LeBron, and should have probably in the conversation at 21-24 instead if 27.
Andy: I agree with Santos on this one. Plumlee probably could have moved up four 0r five spots, but it’s not much of an error on our part.
Pick you wish you could take back:
Frank: This sounds crazy given where he was at this time last year, but… Roy Hibbert at 15 may still be a reach.
Andy: I believe if I could re-draft, I’d have chosen Al Jefferson at number four, instead of Marc Gasol. Nothing against Gasol, I just feel like, at this point, I’d prefer Jefferson. But that’s me fishing for something to change. I’m content with my picks.