It’s been quite a few years now that Dwight Howard is unanimously chosen as the best Center and defensive player in the NBA, even if the awards don’t always show it. There isn’t going to be anything new under the sun, despite a few other centers, like Andrew Bynum and Al Jefferson, being a bit more competent when it comes to low post play and versatility of scoring.
Number 5 – Marcin Gortat, Phoenix Suns
Gortat proved last season that the Suns can have a center, although it wasn’t enough to reach the playoffs and won’t be enough this season again. Still, once he got big minutes (and he can still go up from 32 per game), he proved that he’s one of the more productive big guys in the NBA, averaging 15.4 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in his first season as a full time starter since arriving in 2007.
Number 4 – Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz
When Jefferson gets the minutes, he gets a whole lot of points, which is something that’s quite rare among big guys in this era of the NBA. Jefferson helped the Jazz reach it’s first Jerry Sloan-less postseason, averaging 19.2 points and 9.6 rebounds, showing one of the most impressive offensive arsenals a big man has in the league. His defense is still a bit lazy, but the Jazz are trying to work around that in their rather successful re-launch of a big-man driven team.
Number 3 – Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers
Just when Bynum was about to begin a new chapter as a number one guy on a new team, his knee problems come back to haunt him. Only out for three weeks, but this might become a long-term issue, ironically after the first season of his career in which he didn’t miss any games due to injury – just suspensions. He really broke out last season, showing that he might be the best offensive big man in the NBA, but that defense and attitude keep hurting him when the going gets tough. He averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, both career highs.
Number 2 – Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Probably the second best defender among NBA centers, Gasol isn’t as flashy or versatile offensively, but the most important part of the Grizzlies success since his arrival has been the defense, mostly built around his abilities and size. Gasol averaged 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds last season, but he’s much more involved now in the passing game and playmaking, showing a side of him that his brother showed the NBA a long time ago.
Number 1 – Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
He doesn’t have refined moves like Jefferson and Bynum, but what he lacks in post-game smoothness (which he has been working on with Kareem) he makes up with athleticism, which is enough to make him the best in the NBA, especially on defense. Howard puts up big numbers (20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds) each season and provides Steve Nash with an automatic alley-oop machine, but his big plus is being probably the only guy in the NBA who can shut down an offense on his own for a few minutes. He can be better on offense, but what makes Howard really special and puts him above the rest is his defensive dominance.