Who Is the NBA’s Next Elite Center?
The NBA in recent years had has a drought of dominant big men leading their teams to NBA titles. Gone are the days when giants like Shaq ran the court, as the game has recently relied more on fast-paced finesse scoring rather than physical post games and hard nosed defense. Whether it truly has been just a lack of talent or the center position becoming less vital, the elite players at the 5 are few and far between. That may change soon, however, as there are a number of interesting young options set to make their mark on the NBA as early as this season.
5. Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers
The most proven center on this list is also at the bottom, but for good reason. He may very well be the best center this side of Dwight Howard when healthy, but health has been a major question throughout his career. Weak knees aren’t the only thing plaguing this young center, however, as he has had a string of questions about his maturity and character. Still, the past two season he has been on the court he has averaged around 15 points and 8 rebounds a game, and has been dominant in just about every facet you could ask for. Cleveland took a chance on him with a two year prove-it deal this offseason, and if he does indeed prove it he may be the reason the Cavaliers return to the playoffs this season.
4. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
When the Pacers signed Roy Hibbert to a max contract worth $58 million in 2012, the NBA collectively laughed at what seemed like a ludicrous deal. Well, no ones laughing now. After a slow start offensively that could have been due to a wrist injury, Hibbert took his game to a whole new level after the All-Star break, and it carried over into the playoffs. He averaged over 17 points and 9.9 rebounds in the 19 postseason games, including a masterful Conference Finals series in which the Pacers nearly knocked off the defending champs due in no small part to Hibbert’s average of 22 points and 10 rebounds a game. People still have a right to be skeptical after his slow start to the season, but I for one am a believer in Hibbert, as is Carmelo Anthony and everyone else who was on the receiving end of one of his vicious two blocks per game in the playoffs.
3. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Jonas Valanciunas is well on his way to becoming a household name. After a solid rookie season, he set the Summer League on fire and was named the Las Vegas Summer League MVP. Usually that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but he got people talking and now Valanciunas legend is growing. He has a rare finesse to his game that NBA centers usually lack, and can surprisingly hold his own with the likes of Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert despite his slim frame. He is also a capable defender with a lot of room for growth, and has all the makings of a franchise center. Remember the name Jonas Valanciunas ladies and gentlemen, because he is going places. To the playoffs, the All-Star game, the Olympics, on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the skies the limit.
2. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Talented is an understatement for a man such as Andre Drummond. His potential alone netted him 13 points and rebounds per 36 minutes in his rookie season with an astounding .608% field goal percentage. His game was so raw and unpolished, yet he handled the best the NBA had to offer and came away with a very solid rookie season. Now he seems to have added a bunch of new elements to his game, as he was a man among boys during the NBA Summer League and showcased how improved he really is. Even if the pre-draft concerns about his work ethic prove to ring true, he can make an impact at the NBA with his current skill set. I doubt this is where Drummond peaks though, and I believe he will be in debates about the NBA’s best center for the next decade.
1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
I may receive some backlash for having a tweener like Davis at the top of this list, but hear me out: he is that damn good. Most tweeners are good players that lack all of the qualities to make them a full-time player at either position. Not Anthony Davis. He has all the good qualities of both positions and next to none of the bad ones. His massive 6’10 frame and elite shot blocking ability may scream center, but when he hits a 20-footer and makes over 70% of his free throws you’ll be left thinking you’re going up against the next great NBA power forward. He is a once-in-a-decade type player, and if he stays healthy you are looking at the next great NBA big man.