What makes a great NBA center? What is expected of an NBA center? Too much is often expected from schools and much of what they do goes unnoticed in the scores. This article will tackle some of these things and highlight the 3 NBA centers that are most underrated. For this analysis, only true centers will be reviewed. Many forwards often throw themselves into a game as a center, but they are not true centers.
Some of the great centers in NBA history have been noted for their dominance under the rim. Wilt Chamberlain revolutionized the game with his size and scoring ability. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had an incredible race and still holds the record for the most points in a race. Then names like Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal stand out as great centers who have left a legacy in the NBA.
However, large centers are rare. The great centers are those who dominate in goals, rebounds and defense game after game, year after year. The Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard is the only center currently displaying that kind of dominance at center position in the NBA. Now to look at the remaining centers, there are some that excel in one or two of the critical areas, but have weaknesses in other areas. The following three centers are the most underrated in the NBA today:
Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
Unfortunately, Bynum has battled injuries throughout his career and hasn’t had a long series of games where he can prove himself. Last year he played 65 games and averaged 15 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in 30 minutes each game. This year his numbers are down, but he has been recovering his way from injury and has not played the same minutes in every game.
When you play on a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, you can’t expect Bynum to score much. It is effective when asked to bid. He has a high percentage of field goals, he doesn’t deliver much of the ball, he has good hands and good footwork.
On the defensive side, he provides a great wide body in the middle to prevent penetration. He doesn’t have as many blocks / play as the others, but he disrupts the other team’s offense just with his great body and long arms. His rebounding numbers are good and he’s solid on paper or at center at defensive end.
Emeka Okafor, New Orleans Hornets
Emeka Okafor had high expectations entering the NBA and did not live up to those expectations, which has been viewed by many as a disappointment. However, he is doing very well this year with New Orleans. Too often, centers are compared to their legendary predecessors who dominated in the points column. In today’s game, centers just need to be able to complement the many wing players who are assuming the star roles. Okafor does it very well. His field goal percentage is very high, so he’s taking smart shots and playing on offense.
Okafor is also strong on the defensive side. He averages 9-10 rebounds / game year over year and also gets nearly 2 blocks / game. This is the type of production expected of a center. Filling the lane and helping defend speed in the NBA is critical to containing some of the most powerful offenses in the league, and Okafor’s athleticism allows him to meet this need for the Hornets.
One of Okafor’s weaknesses is his free kick. He doesn’t play to Shaquille O’Neal’s dominance, so this weakness is magnified in his game.
Marcus camby, Portland trailblazers
Yes, Marcus Camby is past his prime and had his time in the limelight, but he’s still not getting as much credit as he deserves at this point in his career. He averages 11.5 rebounds per game and is still a defensive force. His offensive numbers are lower than many other players, but he is a smart veteran who still helps his team on the offensive side. He has had better numbers throughout his career in almost every category than he currently has, but his performance has yet to be respected and teams have yet to account for his presence at center.
There are many other arguments in favor of underrated centers in the NBA today, but these are some of the ones who don’t seem to get enough credit for the things they do to make their teams successful.