Here is the beginning of the list for the final position: centers. As usual, I will split the list into four separate posts with 10 players each. After that, I will give a list of the top 50 players overall. Here are the first ten guys:
40. Jason Smith, New Orleans Pelicans
Stats: 9.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 0.9 APG
For one reason or another, Jason Smith almost always finds himself on the bench. More often that not though, it’s because of an injury. Last year he was set to be the starting center in New Orleans, but like pretty much every player on that team, he suffered an injury and kept him out more than half the season. He only got 31 games in and started 27, but maybe getting injured was a good thing for the team. It was the best season of his career, but it was only good enough to put him at #40 on the list, not good considering he started most of the games he played. Regardless, it was still an improvement for him so that’s a positive.
39. Jermaine O’Neal, Golden State Warriors
Stats: 7.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 0.6 APG
O’Neal is still chugging along after 18 long seasons in the NBA. He’s been primarily a small-minutes guy in the past few seasons due to him wearing out quickly, but he’s still proven that he’s good enough to make a team’s roster and get time on the court. He only played about half of last year even with injuries all over the place at the center position in Golden State. He did manage 13 starts and shot very efficiently at just over 50%. I’m not sure what his plans are for the future, but I think he’s still good enough for another year as a role player.
38. Zaza Pachulia, Milwaukee Bucks
Stats: 7.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.6 APG
Milwaukee was the worst team in the NBA last year, so that didn’t help Pachulia much, but he certainly didn’t help the team much when he was out there. Playing in just 53 games and starting most of them, he put up abysmal numbers for a team that desperately needed production for somebody…anybody. He replaced Larry Sanders after he struggled and got hurt, but did even worse. He should really be coming off the bench if anything, and then he’ll be worth it. Forcing him to be the starter is not an option though, even if it’s the Bucks.
37. Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
Stats: 8.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.6 APG
Olynyk did much better than a lot of the rookies last year, but that’s not saying much. At least he made the list for his position though. Olynyk put up reasonable stats for the smaller/inconsistent role he was given. The Celtics were doomed from the start without Rondo for a portion of the season, and rebuilding includes trying people out all over the place. Olynyk impressed me enough though to deserve a bigger minutes load next year. I think he could be one of the better rookies from that class.
36. Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks
Stats: 7.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 0.8 APG
Well I mentioned how bad he was earlier, but bad is an understatement. This was a guy that was supposed to be one of the best centers in the league as a dominant double double guy. He received a massive contract and full support from the rebuilding Bucks, but he came out of the gate flat and never was able to rebound. Dealing with a plethora of injuries, he limped his way to 23 games and lots of disappointment. The Bucks are in a bad situation if he doesn’t get his act together soon because he was a long-term investment and one of the building blocks for their future.
35. Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers/Indiana Pacers
Stats: 8.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.1 APG
Speaking of centers who were once in the discussion for best in the league, there’s Andrew Bynum. Oh, how fast a career can be derailed by knee injuries. He had many dominant seasons for the Lakers, then was traded to the Sixers, and was declared close to worthless afterwards. He missed the whole year in Philly and has already announced that he’s sitting out the entire year next season as well. I honestly don’t know why any teams even give him a chance because he’s so injury prone that it’s not worth it. He started 19 games in Cleveland before being released, then was signed by Indiana where he only played in 2 games. Yup, he’s a waste of money now.
34. Samuel Dalembert, Dallas Mavericks
Stats: 6.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 0.5 APG
Dalembert has always focused much more on his rebounding than his scoring, but last year neither were particularly impressive. He started 68 games for the Mavericks last year and played in 80, putting up more rebounds than points, but fewer rebounds than his career average. He was then traded to the Knicks in the offseason where he’ll play for his 6th different team in 6th years. He’s the definition of a journeyman at this point, but I don’t understand why he’s still starting games. He’s a backup at best.
33. Miles Plumlee, Phoenix Suns
Stats: 8.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 0.5 APG
No, this is not the Plumlee that could very well be representing Team USA this summer, but to be honest, I don’t think either deserve it. Plumlee started almost every game for the Suns last year and put up alright stats, although landing at #33 on this list for a full-season starter is a bad sign. It was only his second year in the league though, so I expect him to improve over the next couple years. He was certainly a better option than rookie Alex Len, who was one of the biggest busts of the draft. Do not be fooled by his ranking, his stats are good enough for his role in Phoenix.
32. Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs
Stats: 8.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.5 APG
Now, unlike Plumlee, Splitter’s stats are much lower than they should be. I see him as the replacement big man for the Spurs after Tim Duncan retires. But, Duncan never put up a poor season like this. Injuries hurt Splitter and kept him off the court for 23 games, but he didn’t do much when he was on it. His minutes and stats dropped off from his first major season in the league two years ago, but I have no idea why. No starter for a top team in the league (and in this case, the best team) should be this low on the list in the rankings. Splitter needs to figure himself out and prove that it was just a fluke season.
31. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
Stats: 10.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.1 APG
While I have hope for Splitter, I don’t have hope for Hibbert. He is incredibly overrated by people…and when I say incredibly overrated, that’s an understatement. Why do people think he’s good? His PER is lower than any center on this top 40 list other than Jason Smith, he shoots just 43.9% from the field when all he has to do is score on dunks and layups, and he’s not that good of a rebounder. I do not consider 6.6 RPG from a starting center on a team as good as the Pacers as a good statistic. It was his lowest scoring season since his rookie year and his third lowest rebounding season. Is he already on the decline, or was he just never that good? The Pacers are doomed next year.