The NBA’s top 10 centers

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#10- Greg Monroe

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Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

Greg Monroe starts our list at number 10. Monroe will be going into his 3rd year of professional play and if his growth continues as it did from his rookie, to his sophomore efforts, we could see an emerging star. Last year he was the model of consistency, averaging 15.9 points per game (up from 9.4 his rookie season) and 9.6 rebounds per game (up from 7.5.) Monroe still needs to work on his defensive presence as he averaged less than 1 block per game last year, but given his athleticism and work ethic, with some minor adjustments, he could easily become an all-star within the next couple of seasons.

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#9-Brook Lopez

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Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

The more talented of the Lopez brothers, Brook has shown signs of offensive greatness, but he lacks the physicality to be considered a "great" center. Last year this seven-footer averaged a mere 3.1 rebounds per game, which for someone his size, receiving his minutes (27.2 p/g) is a simply unacceptable number. He makes the list because you can't ignore the 19.2 ppg he averaged last season.

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#8-Nikola Pekovic

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Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Nikola Pekovic is not only a model of manliness but also an emerging star and a key piece of a young, explosive Minnesota Timberwolves team. Thanks to his promotion last year to full-time starter, he averaged 14 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Given the absence for the next 6-8 weeks of T-Wolves star and rebounding machine Kevin Love, those rebounding numbers could go way up. Expect big things from this 6'11" 26 year old.

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#7-Joakim Noah

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Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

Joakim Noah is the Chicago Bulls longtime defensive stopper. He's averaged a double-double for two seasons in a row, and while last year, those numbers dropped slightly, to 9.8 rpg and 10.2 ppg with 1.7 bpg, that's nothing to scoff at. Considering the impressive post-players Chicago employs such as Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and formerly Omer Asik, it says something that Noah has remained the center-piece (no pun intended) of their post game.

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#6-Roy Hibbert

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Hibbert's value is perhaps best understood not through points and rebounds, but dollars. The Indiana Pacers, a small-market team with limited financial resources, didn't even flinch at matching the Portland Trail Blazers' $58 million, 4 year max offer for Hibbert. That's because finding a 7'2" big man that has improved his numbers every year in the NBA and averaged 2 bpg, 8.8 rpg and 12.8 ppg last year is a rarity. Hibbert can do a little bit of everything and his size makes him a real commodity.

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#5-Al Jefferson

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Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The Jazz don't have a lot going their way these days, but one thing they do have is Al Jefferson. Last year, Jefferson averaged 19.6 ppg, 1.7 bpg, 2.2 apg and 9.6 rpg. At 6'10", his size allows him a lot of mobility in the paint and there's no doubt that If Utah wants a chance at the playoffs this year, he's going to have to put up serious numbers.

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#4-Al Horford

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Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Last year wasn't Al Horford's best. Early in the shortened season he suffered a season ending injury. So to better understand what he brings to the always surprising Atlanta Hawks let's look at his numbers from the 2010-'11 season. 12.4 ppg and 7 rpg sounds pretty lackluster until you see the number right next to them. 3.5 assists per game makes Horford one of the best shot creators of any big-man in the NBA. His basketball i.q. is further present when you see that he shoots a career fg% of 53.7 percent. Numbers that high means that he's taking smart, high-percentage shots. If he can stay healthy, expect him and the Hawks to make some noise in the Eastern Conference.

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#3-Tyson Chandler

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Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Tyson Chandler, last year's defensive MVP proved to be a worthwhile investment for the Knicks. While they had to amnesty former finals MVP Chauncey Billups before last season in order to pay Chandler, it seems that without him, the constantly ailing Amare Stoudemire would be alone under the hoop. Not exactly a desirable set-up for any team that hopes to see success. This veteran needs to stay consistent on the defensive side of the ball, continue refining his offensive game and hope that the rest of New York stays healthy enough for a real playoff run.

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#2-Andrew Bynum

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Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Dirty player? Handicapped-parking-space parker? Say what you will about Andrew Bynum. The dude can ball. He's been the defensive anchor for a dominant Lakers team for years and now represents the main attraction for the new-look 76ers. Last year the 7-foot big man averaged 18.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg and 1.9 bpg. Those are all-star numbers, and if he can put several more seasons together that resemble that, (especially on the offensive end) while remaining injury-free, than this distinction of second best NBA center will be totally justified.

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#1-Dwight Howard

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

He's Superman, or maybe it's Iron Man now. Regardless of nickname, you get the point. This guy can fly and he's without question the most dominant center in the game. He's built like a spartan soldier except that the average height back then was something like 5'2" for an adult male and he's 6'11". It's impossible to overstate the physical nature of Howard's play, but his numbers do most of the talking. 14.5 rpg last year to go with 20.6 ppg and 2.1 bpg. He's a perennial MVP candidate and playing alongside the likes of Kobe, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol means he might have a shot finals MVP this year as well. Sure, he dragged the city of Orlando through 2 seasons of "Will he? Won't he?" but no one held it against LeBron when he did the same thing to Cleveland. Oh, everyone held that against LeBron? Sorry Dwight, guess you'll just have to live through the hating on your way to building a dynasty.

 

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

The center has experienced more change than any position in basketball. For years, contending teams had to have that final necessary ingredient if they wanted a true shot at a championship.

Bill Russell dominated for over a decade winning 11 titles with the Celtics. Kareem’s Lakers seemed at times unstoppable. There were Moses Malone’s 76ers, Bill Laimbeer’s Pistons, and of course Hakeem’s Rockets. And you can’t forget Shaq.

For a very long time, the best teams (that didn’t have Michael Jordan) relied upon a strong defensive stopper at the glass, hulking giants that could out-muscle opponents and clear space. They didn’t have to shoot because the five feet around the hoop was theirs and if you wanted in you were going to have to pay.

But gone are the days of a Center-dominated NBA. Everyone has taken note of this fact, including the leagues GM’s, and it seems that many teams of the future intend to rely on glorified Power Forwards to control the paint. There’s been an explosion of lanky big men with long arms, quick reflexes and a consistent jumper.

Just look at last year’s NBA finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. Often times, the match-up at the 5-spot was Serge Ibaka vs. Chris Bosh. Neither of them qualify as a typical center but their defensive presence, length, and shooting ability meant they were able to stretch the floor for their teams and take part in a transitional offense that many big-men would simply be too slow for.

Does this mean that the traditional center is extinct? Hardly, they’re just becoming more scarce, which in a way, increases the overall value of a player that retains those traditional post-skills.

Here, we’ll count down the top 10 predicted centers for the 2012-13 season.

The parameters surrounding a “good” center are malleable, so hopefully this list will reflect both the changing nature of the position and of the game of basketball.

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