Though there is a faction of the League trying to eliminate the NBA center position—be they small-ball survivalists or All-Star Game frontliners—alas, we must reference the late, great Mark Twain when we say that reports of the center position’s death are greatly exaggerated.
To prove this, we looked at every NBA team’s two main centers—listed their heights and weights, in addition to the SUPERGLOOO per-48 minute average (a hybrid of Player Efficiency Rating with On and On-Off plus-minus numbers)—and detailed their contributions to show that the big man is just as alive in today’s game as he was 20 years ago.
In fact, after sizing up all 60 of these first- and second-stringers, we discovered the center’s height is 6-11, 252 pounds (or for you mathematicians out there, a total 4978 inches and 15,114 pounds).
Sounds like the centers are still as big as ever.
And when you look ahead to the 2018 NBA Draft and consider that at least five centers are projected to go in the lottery rounds—perhaps all in the top half of the lottery—it is safe to say the future of the position looks very safe indeed.
Marc Gasol and Deyonta Davis have past, present and future covered at the center position, but one wonders what Memphis will do if/when a center drops to them in the 2018 NBA Draft. After all, the 7-1, 255-pound Gasol may be on a decline at age 33 (he dropped from a 21.83 SUPERGLOOO per-48 minute average last season to 13.57 in 2017-18), while the 6-11 237-pound Davis is ready for a playing-time increase (567 minutes this season), armed with a solid 16.38 SUPERGLOOO at age 21, but management may go with a bigger name should one be available. Who knows?
The Hawks have to be ecstatic that they got rid of expensive center Dwight Howard and replaced his $23.5 million salary this season for a combined $18 million from both 7-0, 245-pound Dewayne Dedmon (15.02 SUPERGLOOO) and 6-11, 249-pound journeyman Miles Plumlee (8.45). In a year that Atlanta was expecting to tank, Dedmon has proven to be worth every penny of the $6 million they are paying him.
28. Phoenix Suns
Alex Len (16.50 SUPERGLOOO) and Tyson Chandler (9.12) essentially split the minutes at the center position, but we are probably presently witnessing a changing of the guard with the 24-year-old replacing the 35-year-old, respectively. The 7-1, 250-pound Len is now getting starting assignments after averaging 8 points and 8 rebounds in 20 minutes per game in 2017-18; the 7-1, 240-pound Chandler averages 6 points and 9 rebounds in 26 minutes per game.
Nikola Vucevic (21.85 SUPERGLOOO) and Bismack Biyombo (5.85) have mostly split time at center, mainly because the 7-0, 260-pound Vucevic missed 24 games due to injury. One would think Vooch’s return would pick up the Magic in the wins column, yet the tank trade of Elfrid Payton was sufficient enough to pull the rug out of any possible win talk down the stretch.
26. Sacramento Kings
Willie Cauley-Stein (12.90 SUPERGLOOO) and Kosta Koufos (10.62) have been holding down the Sacramento center position ever since the organization traded away All-Star big DeMarcus Cousins more than a year ago. That said, based on the Kings’ recent draft history, these two would not preclude the team from adding another center to the mix, should one fall to them in the 2018 NBA Draft.
We bet you the 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki (15.97 SUPERGLOOO) never imagined he would be closing out his illustrious Mavericks career as the center on a disastrous Dallas team. Nevertheless, that is where we find ourselves, with the 7-0, 245-pound Nowitzki and the 7-2, 245-pound Saleh Mejri (20.55) playing the Nos. 1 and 2 center roles for the Mavs.
24. Chicago Bulls
In this tanks-giving season, one never knows who Chicago plays at center. But as we look in retrospect, Robin Lopez (12.02 SUPERGLOOO) and Cristiano Felicio (-6.43) have been the worst pair of starting centers in the NBA in 2017-18. Granted, the Bulls’ Bobby Portis and Lauri Markkanen frontline combos have not been half bad, but those pairings in particular have been few and far between.
23. New York Knicks
When New York traded Carmelo Anthony for center Enes Kanter (19.90 SUPERGLOOO), the Knicks knew they were getting a developing 25-year-old for an aging former All-Star. That said, no one is holding New York’s Porzingis-less losing season against the 6-11, 255-pound Kanter or the 6-10, 250-pound Kyle O’Quinn (19.08).
22. Brooklyn Nets
With Tyler Zeller shipped out to Milwaukee, Timofey Mozgov (-0.20 SUPERGLOOO) steps into Brooklyn’s No.2 center spot by default, having played more center minutes than any other Net besides starting center Jarrett Allen (13.72). For what it’s worth, starting Brooklyn center Allen just may be the second-best player in his birth class of 1998, trailing only fellow rookie Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics. As for Allen’s latest backup, that job now seems to belong to 6-8 forward Dante Cunningham, representing the most extreme game of small-ball in the NBA today.
Since being traded to Detroit, starting power forward Blake Griffin is getting in almost 10 of his 33 minutes per game in at the center position as the backup to All-Star center Andre Drummond (21.97 SUPERGLOOO). But it has been 6-10, 228-pound reserve Eric Moreland (12.67) who has been the 6-11 279-pound Drummond’s main backup for most of the 2017-18 season.
20. Charlotte Hornets
When the Hornets acquired Dwight Howard from the Atlanta Hawks, the thinking was he would improve their defense even more. Well, injuries to various Hornets submarined those plans, but that’s not to say the 6-11, 265-pound Howard has been ineffective. Au contraire, amigo. While Howard (21.95 SUPERGLOOO) has not been at All-Star form, he has been a good starter. That said, Charlotte has still relied on injury-prone Cody Zeller (17.55) and Frank Kaminsky (11.50) to play key roles as No. 2 and 3 centers.
19. Los Angeles Lakers
Starting center Brook Lopez (16.70 SUPERGLOOO) and starting power forward Julius Randle (21.30) have been responsible for playing the lion’s share of Lakers minutes at the center position, with 20-year-old prospect Ivica Zubac recently entering the mix. Zubac is now playing the minutes departed power forward/center Larry Nance Jr. used to play.
Miami goes with a three-headed center monster with Hassan Whiteside (21.40 SUPERGLOOO) and 20-year-old prospect Bam Adebayo (16.27) chewing up a majority of the post minutes, with stretch big Kelly Olynyk (20.93) splitting his time at the 4 and 5 spots. There is little doubt the 7-0 265-pound Whiteside, 6-10, 255-pound Adebayo and 7-0, 245-pound Olynyk make up the best center trio in the Eastern Conference, perhaps second only to Denver in the NBA.
Milwaukee made the trade-deadline deal with Brooklyn to acquire backup center Tyler Zeller because the Bucks needed to upgrade the backup post to John Henson’s (20.4 SUPERGLOOO) starting position. The 7-1, 223-pound prospect Thon Maker (5.75) is only 21 years old after all, and not quite on the development fast track. Conversely, the 7-1, 229-pound Henson is rounding into good form, but then again, he is 27 years old, having learned much from growing pains of is own.
DeAndre Jordan (18.95 SUPERGLOOO) has to be happy that he finally has a strong backup in backup big Montrezl Harrell (26.93), who has been a Godsend on this injury-plagued team. Granted, D.J.’s play has been less than normal of late, but that is understandable for the three-time All-NBA center who now plays without All-Star teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
15. Denver Nuggets
While veterans Paul Millsap, Kenneth Faried and tweener forward Wilson Chandler have locked down half of Denver’s power-forward minute slots, bigs Nikola Jokic (27.2), Mason Plumlee (17.68) and Trey Lyles (17.75) have taken pretty much all of the center minutes, including half the power-forwards’ time share as well, forming perhaps the deepest set of bigs in the NBA. As far as the center position goes, all revolves around the 6-11, 250-pound Jokic, who dominates as a developing 22-year-old point center. Mix in a 6-11, 255-pound Plumlee here and a 6-10, 234-pound Lyles there, and one can see how both opposing starters and backups alike have trouble with Denver’s altitude at the center position.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves
From the get-go, head coach/GM Tom Thibodeau replaced Gorgui Dieng (8.4) in the starting lineup with his old, reliable Chicago Bulls power forward Taj Gibson. And Dieng has never been the same since, watching his SUPERGLOOO per-48 minute average drop from 15.28 in 2016-17 to 8.40 in 2017-18. That becomes a problem when the 7-0, 248-pound Towns and the 6-11, 251-pound Dieng combine to play 97 percent of Minnesota’s center-position minutes. Nonetheless, the T-Wolves can count on the 22-year-old All-Star Towns to dominate his position 35 minutes every night. But as for the remaining quarter of the game, do not be surprised if Tibbs looks elsewhere for another replacement in 2018-19.
Despite missing 27 games in 2017-18, nobody has logged more minutes as the Jazz center than All-NBA center Rudy Gobert (24.43 SUPERGLOOO), who has played 1206 minutes thus far. Utah’s No. 2 center and current starting power forward Derrick Favors (18.57) has played two-thirds of his 1690 minutes at the 5 spot, while Ekpe Udoh (19.25) has played significantly as a third Jazz postmans, logging most of his 790 minutes at the center position as well. Add it all up and one would be hard-pressed to come up with a better center trio than the 7-1, 245-pound Gobert, the 6-10, 265-pound Favors and the 6-10, 245-pound Udoh.
The center position is not Washington’s greatest strength, but the Wizards do have two solid bigs in the 6-11, 240-pound Marcin Gortat (16.43 SUPERGLOOO) and the 6-11, 262-pound Ian Mahinmi (13.78). The 34-year-old and 31-year-old centers, respectively, combine for 13 points and 12 rebounds in 41 minutes per game.
Myles Turner (20.58 SUPERGLOOO) and backup center Domantas Sabonis (18.4) are the NBA’s youngest center duo with both 21-year-old prospects looking like can’t-miss players at the 5 spot. In fact, the 6-11, 255-pound Turner and 6-10, 252-pound Sabonis’ steady play as bigs—along with the emergence of All-Star guard Victor Oladipo—are the main reasons why Indiana has actually gotten better since losing perennial All-Star wing Paul George.
Joel Embiid (31.85 SUPERGLOOO) has only missed 11 games this season, which is the sole reason why Philly has become a playoff contender for the first time in seven seasons. The 7-0, 255-pound Embiid just goes to show that talented giants will always find their way in any new style of game. Take note, Class of 2018! For the record, the 6-9, 240-pound Amir Johnson (10.72) serves as the 23-year-old Embiid’s backup.
Injured DeMarcus Cousins played all of his 1737 minutes at the center spot, while the 24-year-old Anthony Davis played two-third of his minutes at power forward and third as the 27-year-old Cousins’ backup at the 5 spot when the two were active teammates. Now that the 6-11, 270-pound Cousins is out, the 6-10, 253-pound Davis is playing full-time center and the power forward/center season breakdown should become more 50/50.
Centers Kevin Love (20.17 SUPERGLOOO) and Tristan Thompson (10.02) are having their worst season together, with Love not having his typical All-Star caliber season, while Thompson is not enjoying his typical good role-player status. Meanwhile, experimental center Larry Nance Jr. is excelling in is first couple weeks in his new role, but for the sake of this column, we spotlight the 6-10, 251-pound Love and the 6-9, 238-pound Thompson, who have been the Cavs’ season-long 5s.
Steven Adams (25.53 SUPERGLOOO) and slumping small-ball center Patrick Patterson (4.37) could not be more diverse, which is probably why the Thunder struggles so much when Patterson is in the game at the 5 spot. The undersized 6-9, 230-pound Patterson has never played that position before. That said, the 7-0, 255-pound Adams is in the midst of an All-NBA caliber season, while the 28-year-old Patterson is counting down the days until Coach Billy Donovan starts playing him full-time at his natural power forward position.
In 23-year-old Jusuf Nurkic (19.4 SUPERGLOOO) and 20-year-old Zach Collins (11.00 SUPERGLOOO), the Trail Blazers have the youngest pair of centers in the Western Conference, with the 7-0, 280-pound Nurkic and the 7-0, 230-pound Collins both providing a defensive presence that is now propelling Portland up the Western Conference standings.
5. San Antonio Spurs
Because Pau Gasol (19.65 SUPERGLOOO in 1502 minutes) is the Spurs starting center and starting All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (27.23 in 1947 minutes) split his playing time as San Antonio’s backup center, the 7-0, 250-pound Gasol is first-string center and the 6-11, 260-pound Aldridge is second-string center, for all intents and purposes. So when it comes to size—and age, for that matter—nobody is bigger and wiser than the silver-and-black’s gray-haired duo.
4. Boston Celtics
Al Horford (23.08 SUPERGLOOO), Aron Baynes (16.80) and—to a lesser degree—Daniel Theis (16.68) play 98 percent of the center minutes in Boston and give Coach Brad Stevens a depth most teams simply do not have. In the 6-10, 245-pound Horford, Stevens has a big that can also play the 4 spot, giving Boston a size factor most teams do not possess (Baynes goes 6-10, 260; Theis, 6-9, 243).
Raptors prove the dinosaurs are not extinct with the 7-0, 255-pound Jonas Valanciunas (23.1 SUPERGLOOO in 1311 minutes) and Jakob Poeltl (25.3 SUPERGLOOO in 1159 minutes) split time a center 53/47 percent, outplaying any centerpiece duo in the Eastern Conference.
2. Golden State Warriors
Though no other Warrior plays more minutes at center than the 7-0, 255-pound Zaza Pachulia (25.78 SUPERGLOOO) or 6-9, 250-pound David West (24.75), but as a whole, the remaining four Golden State centers still see enough playing time to balance out Pachulia and West, with JaVale McGee, Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney and even starting power forward Draymond Green playing limited minutes at the 5 spot to stretch the position out wider than any other team in the League.
1. Houston Rockets
No pair of centers are dominating basketball as well as rising superstar Clint Capela (31.35 SUPERGLOOO score) and Nene (26.9). The 6-10, 240-pound Capela fits in perfectly as a rim runner for both Chris Paul and James Harden, while also providing the perfect blend of rim protection and pick-and-roll coverage one wants from a 21st Century center. Ditto for the 6–11, 250-pound Nene, who is equally adept, despite being a dozen years older than his 23-year-old counterpart.