Our fifth and final chapter of the best-by-position preview for the 2009-2010 season, it’s Center time – The top 5 in the league – Okur, David Lee, Al Jefferson, Dwight Howard and Shaq.
Number 5 – Shaquille O’Neal, Cleveland Cavaliers
Is this Shaq’s final stop before he’ll ride off into the sunset? No longer the monster player he was in what seems a very long time ago, Shaq is still one of the best Big men in the league, when he’s healthy (like he was last season, playing 75 games, his most since the 1994-1995 season!!!!) and in the right mood. Will he be in the right mood? Hopefully for Lebron James and the Cavs, playing around King James and a legitamte title contender will squeeze just a bit more juice from the 37 year old big guy and get Lebron a stage higher than last season.
Number 4 – Mehmet Okur, Utah Jazz
The sharpshooting Turk who shot 44.6% from the three last season, along with 17 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season has developed in quiet Utah into one of the best in the league. His defense is a bit of an Achilles heel, but he sure can damage anyone who leaves him open, doesn’t matter if he’s near or far from the basket. Okur played only 2 games in last year’s early playoff exit to the Lakers, and his and his teammates disappointing performance might be the incentive needed for a better 2009-2010 campaign.
Number 3 – David Lee, New York Knicks
Lee made a huge leap last season, whether he had D’antoni’s new style to thank for or just himself. Lee averaged a career high in points (16 points per game), rebounds (11.7 per game), steals, assists and also minutes, with 34.9 minutes per game. He also started 74 games out of his 81 appearances, finally cementing a place in the Knicks’ starting five. “DaWhite” Howard became a regular double-double threat under Mike D’antoni and in general one of the more exciting players in the league. Will there also be a playoff for him this season?
Number 2 – Al Jefferson, Minnesotta Timberwolves
“Big Al” has really blossomed since moving to Minnesota from Boston, becoming one of the best offensive big men in the league, with last season, before getting injured, scoring 23.1 points per game. He’s constantly adding moves to his low post game and with the crew assembled around him, despite Ricky Rubio bolting to Barcelona, the Wolves can be a pleasant surprise and may have an outside chance in the playoff race. A small one, but still there. If Jefferson stays healthy this year, that is.
Number 1 – Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Much more than just “Superman”, Howard has become the league’s best center in the last two seasons, selected to the All-NBA first team in 2008 and 2009. Howard carried the Magic (with lotsa help) to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1995, having a fantastic playoff, especially in the Eastern Conference Semi’s and Finals against the Celtics and the Cavs. The Finals were a different story, losing to the Lakers in five games. Howard finished the playoffs with 20.3 points, 15.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. The addition of Vince Carter, Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes might be the touch needed to give the Magic their first title. Might be.