View Full Version : CBS Sportsline: Top 10 Centers

09-11-2003, 02:10 PM
Centers: Shaq stands tallest, when he wants to Sept. 11, 2003
By Mike Kahn
SportsLine.com Executive Editor

In the land of the giants, there is no player more inextricable from the limelight than Shaquille O'Neal. Whether it's clamming up when criticized or slipping into his funny/endearing mode when he's in the national spotlight, there is no escaping the fact that he is indeed the top center of the era.

Call him the Big Aristotle or the Big Toe, and however you want to brand the Lakers, how O'Neal plays this season will be the key to Los Angeles regaining the NBA title they lost last season after winning three in a row.

Houston's Yao Ming has the skills to become a perennial All-Star. (Getty Images)
Not only did the San Antonio Spurs eliminate the Lakers in the second round and go on to win the title, but Spurs oversized power forward Tim Duncan supplanted O'Neal as the top big man in the game by winning his second consecutive Most Valuable Player Award.

"That should motivate Shaq," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "When he's in shape and on his game, he controls every game like nobody else in the game. And we need that."

But it isn't just O'Neal, there are some young talented centers gradually making waves. It has been obvious in recent years that the best tall men have begun to shun playing in the post and developing their games on the perimeter. It has forced the NBA to look overseas for centers. Houston's Yao Ming, the top pick in the 2002 draft, appears to be the next superstar center with myriad talents and he is 7-foot-5, which is nearly as overwhelming as his shooting touch and passing ability.

Vlade Divac is still an effective all-around player and he has been joined by Brad Miller on Sacramento as the Kings vie for one more run at the elusive Western Conference title they've been on the brink of attaining the past two seasons, only to fall short.

Positional Rankings
Other foreign centers like Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas and San Antonio's Rasho Nesterovic are again expected to be vital contributors this season.

Then there are the guys battling time, injuries and other maladies to regain their former status among the elite.

Will Alonzo Mourning make a major impact this year at New Jersey? Will he remain in remission from kidney disease long enough to play this season? After finally getting a full year under his belt again, will Theo Ratliff be strong enough this season to become one of the best defensive players in the league again and lift Atlanta into contention?

They are two major question marks in the East.

In New Orleans, Jamaal Magloire exceeded expectations his first three seasons, but how high can he fly for new coach Tim Floyd? Has he tapped out his skills or can he continue to improve?

Eddy Curry showed all kinds of development as last season progressed in Chicago. In fact, he was beginning to look like the next great center in the Eastern Conference. Was he just a teen flash in the pan, or finally coming of age?

That's what the NBA does to players. It pushes them or suppresses them, particularly centers because they've gone through life as Goliaths, the focal points of criticism for one reason or another.

Maybe that's why Michael Olowokandi never lived up to expectations with the Los Angeles Clippers after being selected No. 1 overall in the 1998 draft. That he didn't earn more than the mid-level exception on the open market as a free agent speaks volumes. That translates into him being a bargain for the Minnesota Timberwolves, or a three-year albatross they can't wait to get out of town either.

Then again, that tends to be the deal with centers these days, unless of course one of your nicknames happens to be Diesel and we're not talking about Vin.

1. Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers: Shaq is in a class by himself when it comes to dominating the game on both ends of the floor as a center, but he has backslid among the all-time greats the past couple of seasons with a lack of conditioning and general energy. This is a big year for him in that regard.

2. Yao Ming, Houston Rockets: Yao showed flashes of brilliance last season and he certainly has the talent to be one of the best big men of the era. He has great touch, wonderful passing instincts and good shot-blocking skills. Once he adjusts to the culture and the NBA game, he should be a perennial All-Star.

3. Vlade Divac/ Brad Miller, Sacramento Kings: They've both been All-Stars, offer outside shooting and rebounding. Divac is aging and Miller is the new acquisition who will probably play with Divac while Chris Webber is still recovering from knee surgery. Time will tell how much Divac has left and Miller has to offer.

4. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cleveland Cavaliers: Last season was his best statistically, and not coincidentally, health-wise. If Z is healthy, with Ricky Davis and depending on how fast LeBron James comes along, the Cavs could climb the ladder quickly. But he's one of the few legit low-post scorers in the East.

5. Alonzo Mourning, New Jersey Nets: If he gets his strength back from a year off coping with his kidney disease, 'Zo could be second to Shaq. He also is a gamble who may or may not be able to play once training camp ends. But just based on his talent and attitude, the former All-Star deserves to be ranked in the top five.

6. Jamaal Magloire, New Orleans Hornets: His rapid development chased Elden Campbell out the door in the middle of last season. He's a good shot-blocker and terrific rebounder. He needs to continue to build on three years of improvement and take the next step to being a consistent contributor on the offensive end, too.

7. Rasho Nesterovic, San Antonio Spurs: He often was overwhelmed by the fire and impatience of Kevin Garnett in his five seasons with the Timberwolves, now he'll have the advantage of playing with the more calm Tim Duncan. Garnett hasn't intimidated other teammates, so we'll see if Rasho can use his fine skills now.

8. Theo Ratliff, Atlanta Hawks: Before breaking his wrist in Philadelphia, getting traded to the Hawks, and injuring his hip and abdomen, he was one of the top young big men in the game. Now, he's still a good defender/shot-blocker, but hasn't improved as a rebounder or a scorer. He should be stronger this year.

9. Michael Olowokandi, Minnesota Timberwolves: In many ways, Olowokandi is more erratic than Nesterovic, but the 'Wolves are banking on Garnett's energy driving Olowokandi to a consistently productive level. He has the whole package of scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking and is quicker than Rasho. Interesting.

10. Dale Davis, Portland Trail Blazers: A natural power forward, Davis has been forced to play center in the stout Western Conference, and has been solid on both ends of the floor. He's also consistent on a team filled with erratic players and personalities, which translates to leadership in Portland. For all of his limitations when it comes to hands and offensive skills, he manages to put it out every night and have numbers.

Also receiving consideration: Antonio Davis, Toronto; Eddy Curry, Chicago; Lorenzen Wright, Memphis; Elden Campbell, Detroit; Shawn Bradley/Raef LaFrentz, Dallas

*Top 10 Centers Bonus Trivia Question of the Day: How many centers in CBS' Top 10 and in the considered list have won two shot-blocking titles?

09-11-2003, 03:10 PM
Jeez, the Center position is spare these days. This is why the dallas media gets it wrong. We don't need the "big man in the middle", as everybody claims. Because when Shaq retires, such players will cease to exist.

After Shaq, you have nothing but question marks. Yao is the second best center in the league after one year (a point I don't debate) speaks volumes. 'Zo as no. 5 when he's missed 2 of the last 3 years due to injuries and no guarantee he plays this year. Ilgauskas as no. 4? Huge injury considerations. Dale Davis no. 10?

09-11-2003, 04:40 PM
Some think that Curry might be able to dominate and perhaps yao. And even then I can't see anything special about yao I just see shawn on steroids.

I do see spare all over the list after divac. I think it also shows how much raef can improve to be a top five center.

09-11-2003, 04:54 PM
or slipping into his funny/endearing mode when he's in the national spotlight,

So this includes his stupid racial comments and the like? Nothing too endearing about that... i/expressions/face-icon-small-disgusted.gif

Dirks Cuzin
09-11-2003, 06:06 PM
The answer to that bonus question is 2... Bradley and Zo

09-11-2003, 06:16 PM
The answer to that bonus question is 2... Bradley and Zo

That answer is http://www.bayoptical.com/BayOptical_Images/correct.jpg

Also, stay tuned because the Big Eddie Curry is going to be climbing up that list over the next couple of years...

09-11-2003, 07:53 PM
What?! No Bradley in the top 10? THATS CRAZY!

09-11-2003, 10:24 PM
What a sad state when Bradley nor Raef can crack the top 10 list.

09-12-2003, 02:31 AM
Originally posted by: MavsFanFinley
What a sad state when Bradley nor Raef can crack the top 10 list.

That's what I was thinking, but I didn't want to be negative i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif. This list shows why it means nothing to say we have the best backup center in the league. First of all it's not true, unless Sac starts Miller and Valde. Then when you have players like Raso and Candi in the top 10, it's clearly a weak position. Shaq is right when he says he's the last of a dying breed.

09-12-2003, 02:47 AM
As long as he lists Dale Davis, Theo Ratliff et al on that list I couldnt care less ...

Ratliff is coming off a horrible season, Davis is on the decline since he left Indiana, and guys like Kandi and Rasho benefit from the Free Agent hype. IŽd take Ty Chandler and Eddy Curry over them each day.

Oh. Btw. IŽd take Lo Wright and Erick Dampier over them aswell.

And Shawn.

Maybe even Raef i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif.

09-12-2003, 12:38 PM
I don't know a lot of those centers are on horrid teams and still put up okay numbers two years ago Raef was a 17 point 7 rebound 3 block a game guy on a bad basketball team dampier can't do that, wright can't do that. Hold on 4 of the top 10 centers in the league didn't make the playoffs come on they can't be on this list if thats so. Or the center position just isn't that important anymore as dooby suggests its all about the powerforward.

09-12-2003, 03:56 PM
The PF that plays also the 5 when the Center is there.

Maybe the future for the Center is to do the reverse thing, to switch to PF during the game.

But the old Center is vanishing, agree 101%.

09-12-2003, 04:13 PM
That list is poop.

09-12-2003, 11:37 PM
Originally posted by: madape
That list is poop.

sling it, Ape