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mary
09-08-2004, 11:03 PM
Preseason Player Rankings: Center
Sept. 8, 2004
By Mike Kahn
SportsLine.com Executive Editor
Tell Mike your opinion!


Pat Riley knows centers.


Versatile, rangy Yao Ming is the second-best center behind Shaquille O'Neal.(Getty Images)
He played in the 1970s and won an NBA title with the benefit of having Wilt Chamberlain in the middle of that version of the Los Angeles Lakers -- Chamberlain at that time was the NBA's all-time leading scorer.

In the 1980s, he coached Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the Lakers and won four more championships, and Abdul-Jabbar surpassed Chamberlain as the most prolific point producer in history.

And in the 1990s, he had Patrick Ewing lead the New York Knicks to the 1994 Finals, and Alonzo Mourning make his Miami Heat teams perennial contenders.

So when he had an opportunity to acquire Shaquille O'Neal from the Lakers, he thought about it for about, oh, two seconds. He then proceeded to deal a good portion of the Heat's exciting young core of Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant for Shaq Diesel. And he couldn't be happier.

"Players like Shaquille don't come along but once in a generation or a lifetime," Riley said during the press conference following the trade. "I believe that until you change the things you look at, the things you look at will never change. Sometimes, that is true, but as far as I've been concerned as a person in basketball, I have never and I will never change the way I look at one thing. And that is what it takes to win a championship."

Considering O'Neal already has three championship rings of his own stashed away, it's hard to refute Riley's contention. And the way the deal was perceived around the league upon completion, the Lakers automatically dropped down a level, and they went back to the well with the return of Vlade Divac.

Although it isn't as if it required the trade to the Heat to prove the obvious, but it further emphasized why O'Neal is the best center in the game and the most consistently effective since Hakeem Olajuwon began to age.

In fact, his cross-country move actually raised the level of expectations of the teams in the Western Conference that do have big frontcourts, and there are a lot of them.

The Houston Rockets have the second-most-talented big man with young Yao Ming and the Dallas Mavericks went out and worked a sign and trade to acquire an improved Erick Dampier.

With superstar power forward Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs will be even more effective with Rasho Nesterovic as the shot blocker and rebounder they need to complement him.

The Sacramento Kings have the best all-around center with Brad Miller, capable of shooting out to 3-point range, a very good rebounder and one of the best passing big men of the era.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are hoping underachieving Michael Olowokandi will get healthy and actually be a consistent contributor at center next to superstar Kevin Garnett.

And the Denver Nuggets now have a huge front line with the addition of Kenyon Martin to play next to Nene and underrated center Marcus Camby.

In this era when so many oversized players prefer to play away from the basket, it's somewhat of an anomaly to have a classic center who plants himself in the low post and can go either way with a jump shot or a jump hook. At 330 pounds and dropping, a fired-up O'Neal wanting to prove he can take another team to a title is enough to make the rest of the Eastern Conference gasp.

Realistically, he is about six inches taller and 80 pounds heavier than Ben Wallace, the All-Star center for the defending champion Detroit Pistons.


"It's difficult to put players in particular positions like we used to," Pistons president Joe Dumars said. "Ben isn't a classic center, and there aren't a lot of players these days who you would say are centers like they were when I played or even further back."

There is no mistaking what position O'Neal plays. It's more than a little obvious when he is on the floor, and the entire game changes when he heads to the bench. There just aren't any other players who control the game the way he does.

"I have always been in the same pursuit of that particular player that I know will give us the chance to wear a ring one day," Riley said. "I believe that we have definitely been blessed. Somehow, he found his way down here to Miami. He is the most talented and dominant player in the world."


Last year's rankings
2004 Rank 2003 Stock
1. S. O'Neal 1 SAME
2. Y. Ming 2 SAME
3. B. Miller 3 SAME
4. J. Magloire 6
5. Z. Ilgauskas 4
6. E. Dampier --
7. M. Camby --
8. T. Ratliff 8 SAME
9. E. Curry --
10. Rasho Nesterovic 7


Ranking the centers:

1. Shaquille O'Neal, Miami Heat: One of the best ever, and he's promising to reinvent himself with Heat

2. Yao Ming, Houston Rockets: The next best thing, taller, better shooter, needs to develop his upper body.

3. Brad Miller, Sacramento Kings: He has surprising shooting range, great passing ability and is a good rebounder; durability is the big question.

4. Jamaal Magloire, New Orleans Hornets: He is becoming more dominant every year on both ends of the floor, and his first trip to the All-Star Game last February won't be his last.

5. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cleveland Cavaliers: Although not strong, he can score on anybody, rebounds decently and will occasionally block a shot.

6. Erick Dampier, Dallas Mavericks: After a very ordinary career, Dampier came on with bests in scoring, rebounding and blocks to get a fat new contract.

7. Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons: He's by far the most undersized center in the league, but he is also the toughest, the best rebounder and right there among the best shot blockers.

8. Marcus Camby, Denver Nuggets: Lost in the amazing turnaround of the Nuggets last season and the promotion of Carmelo Anthony was the value of Camby on the boards and blocking shots. He's the key to their success.

9. Theo Ratliff, Portland Trail Blazers: He's the best shot blocker in the game when he's healthy and a good offensive rebounder who can make a difference.

10. Eddy Curry, Chicago Bulls: On paper, he's in the top five. He has all the requisite physical skills, but he has to prove he cares enough to actually compete on a nightly basis.

11. Rasho Nesterovic, San Antonio Spurs: He does all the things a guy next to Tim Duncan needs to do: hit open jumpers, block shots and rebound. He just needs to do it more.

Also receiving consideration: Mark Blount, Boston Celtics; Vlade Divac, Los Angeles Lakers; Mehmet Okur, Utah Jazz; Michael Olowokandi, Minnesota Timberwolves; Alonzo Mourning, New Jersey Nets.

grndmstr_c
09-08-2004, 11:11 PM
Big Ben's too low. Magloire's too high. Other than that, not too much worth taking serious issue with (with the possible exception of Kahn's erroneous claim that Damp put up a career high in blocks last year).

fin4life
09-08-2004, 11:25 PM
How can Alonzo Mourning even be considered... he is retiring or his team wont have him. He played 12 games last year

EricaLubarsky
09-08-2004, 11:27 PM
Originally posted by: fin4life
How can Alonzo Mourning even be considered... he is retiring or his team wont have him. He played 12 games last year

how can the Kandi man be considered? Answer: the league has no centers.

BTW Kaman was ripped off. He has the most solid skill set of the young guys.

sike
09-09-2004, 12:02 AM
would not be too surprised to see someone slip on that list (3 4 5 spots) and see Damp prove that he is more than just "ordinary"

GoMavsGo
09-09-2004, 09:33 AM
mike kahn is F*%#'n outrageously dumb.

FilthyFinMavs
09-09-2004, 06:11 PM
Ben Wallace should be right behind Shaq and Erick should be right behind Ming.

DevinHarriswillstart
09-10-2004, 08:28 AM
I don't believe Brad Miller is better then Damp. At least not vs the Mavs he didn't impress me at all. He can rebound and hit the outside shot. It's nice, but his defense is not that good. If we're basing stats on last year, here is my top 10


Shaq
Yao
Magloire
Damp
Miller
Iggy
B. Wallace (played a lot of pf, so that is why he is here)
Camby
Theo
Blount

fin4life
09-12-2004, 08:59 PM
I just realized something.... Kahn called this a top TEN list, but he listed ELEVEN!!!!!!!! What a dumbass

EricaLubarsky
09-13-2004, 01:15 AM
Originally posted by: fin4life
I just realized something.... Kahn called this a top TEN list, but he listed ELEVEN!!!!!!!! What a dumbass

LOLOL

FreshJive
09-13-2004, 05:31 AM
I think the person who started the thread called it the top ten centers list.