What is it that makes a great center in the NBA? What is expected from an NBA center? Many times too much is expected of centers and much of what they do goes unseen in the box scores. This article will address the some of these things and will single out 3 centers in the NBA that are most underrated. For this analysis, only true centers will be reviewed. Many forwards are often thrown in a game as a center, but are not true centers.
Some of the great centers in the history of the NBA have stood out because of their dominance under the hoop. Wilt Chamberlain revolutionized the game with his size and ability to score. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had an amazing career and still holds record for most points in a career. Then names such as Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal stand out as great centers that have left a legacy in the NBA.
Truly great centers, however, are rare. The great centers are those that dominate in scoring, rebounding and defense game after game, year after year. Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic is the only center that is currently demonstrating that type of dominance at the center position in the NBA. Now to look at the remaining centers, there are some that excel in one or two of the critical area, but have weaknesses in other areas. The following three centers are the most underrated in the NBA currently:
Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
Unfortunately Bynum has battled injury throughout his career and has not had a long string 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 working his way back from injury and has not played the same minutes each game.
When playing on a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, you can’t expect Bynum to score much. He is effective when called upon to provide offense. He has a high field goal percentage, doesn’t turn the ball over much, has great hands and good footwork.
On the defensive end, he provides a big wide body in the middle to prevent penetration. He doesn’t have as many blocks/game as others, but he disrupts the offense of the other team just with his big body and long arms. His rebounding numbers are good and he is solid at playing the role or center on the defensive end.
Emeka Okafor, New Orleans Hornets
Emeka Okafor had high expectations coming into the NBA and he didn’t quite meet those expectations, so to many he has been considered a disappointment. However, he is performing very well this year with New Orleans. Too often centers are compared to their legendary predecessors that dominated in the points column. In today’s game, centers just need to able to compliment the many wing players that are taking over the star roles. Okafor does that very well. His field goal percentage is very high, so he is taking smart shots and playing within the offense.
Okafor is also strong on the defensive end. He averages 9-10 rebounds/game year after year and gets almost 2 blocks/game as well. This is the kind of production that is expected from a center. Filling the lane and helping defend the speed in the NBA is what is critical to contain some of the more potent offenses in the league and Okafor’s athleticism allows him to fill this need for the Hornets.
One of Okafor’s weaknesses is his free throw shooting. He doesn’t play with the dominance of Shaquille O’Neal, 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 spotlight, but he still doesn’t get 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 than still helps his team on the offensive end. He has had better numbers throughout his career in almost every category than what he currently has, but his output still must be respected and teams still have to account for his presence at the center position.
There are many other arguments for underrated centers in the NBA today, but these are some that don’t seem to get enough credit for the things they do to make their teams successful.