NBA’s Best – Part 5 Centers
Since the days of George Mikan to Bill Russell, the centers of the NBA have always gotten the spotlight. Guys who only needed one name to put you in awe, Wilt, Kareem, Walton, Shaq all have dominated the league at some point, and until Michael came along, was the best path to a NBA title. (included are the players points, rebounds, and assists per game for the 2002-03 season)
HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST
Shaquille O’ Neal (27.5-11.1-3.1) was one of the top centers in the league when he was drafted in 1992, but quickly found out that Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon we’re still the best. Now on the left coast Shaq has found his dominance with three straight NBA titles and numerous other accolades. O’ Neal will certainty one day go into the NBA Hall of Fame and if he puts forth the effort, may go in with a couple more rings to his claim.
THE BEST NOT NAMED SHAQ
Rookie or not, slow start or not, Yao Ming (13.5-8.2-1.7) demonstrated that he is more then a 7’5″ clog in the middle of the lane. Ming showed his scoring prowess as well as being a adept passer and shot blocker. Now with Van Gundy to lead the Rockets, many NBA followers we be waiting to see how long before Ming establishes his dynasty. May not get the headlines the others do (accept when traded) but All-Star center Brad Miller (13.1-8.3-2.6) is one of the best around. Now throwing elbows out west for Sacramento, Miller will be a intergruel part of the Kings offensive attack, but also be asked to guard some of the best big men the game has to offer.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (17.2-4.5-1.6) put together a great year for a terrible Cavs team. “Z” got on the All-Star team despite barely playing in the actual game. Ilgauskas has always been plagued by injuries, breaking the same foot twice and missing over 2 seasons of action, if “Z” can stay healthy and keep putting up impressive numbers the Cavs may have a even brighter future. Michael Olowokandi (12.3-9.1-1.3) has been the butt of many #1 pick jokes, but he still has a upside to his game. Despite injuries and a seemingly lack of effort some nights ” The Kandi Man” still is a quality low-post scorer who can send back shots with the best of them (2.2 blocks per game). Vlade Divac (9.9-7.2-3.4) is still the best passing center in the NBA, unfortunately for him with the addition on Brad Miller, Divac’s playing time will suffer. Age and dwindling offensive numbers have started a slow decline for Vlade but never doubt his effort or his enthusiasm for the game. Ben Wallace (6.9-15.4-1.6) led the NBA in rebounding last year and is a back-to-back defensive player of the year. While all that is quite impressive what makes it stand out even more is that, Wallace is only 6’9″ which is quite undersized among NBA centers. The only thing “Big Ben” has had problems with is, combining a scoring repertoire to go with all his defensive talents. Wallace is also a liability at the foul line shooting only 45%.
Theo Ratliff (8.7-7.5-0.9) has gone from Philly to Atlanta and helped the Hawks not miss a beat when they traded Mutombo. Ratliff is always among the league leaders in blocked shots (3.2 BPG) and is also a better offensive player then many give him credit for. Rasho Nesterovic (11.2-6.5-1.5) has packed his bags to San Antonio to replace David Robinson, and try and take the pressure off Duncan. Nesterovic much like Robinson in his latter years is more of a short range jump shooter then post-up threat, but can get it down low and with so much attention on Duncan, Rasho should be able to clean up on the offensive glass.
Raef LaFrentz (9.3-4.8-0.8) spent many productive years in Denver but ever since his trade to Dallas, Raef has had nothing but problems. From his lack of rebounding and inside defense, to coach Don Nelson always hounding him LaFrentz has seen his once promising career take a turn for the worse. Dikembe Mutombo (5.8-6.4-0.8) acquired by New Jersey to help them against the bigger Western teams if they got back to the NBA Finals. Well the Nets got back but Mutombo did very little to help. Missing almost all the regular season due to injury “Mt. Mutombo” helped some against the Spurs in altering some shots, but did very next to nothing offensively. Many believe it may be time for Deke to hang up his finger wagging.
The #2 selection in the NBA Draft was a 18 year old European 7-footer named Darko Milicic. The Pistons took him with the hope we will improve their offence, especially in the post. Many people believe Milicic may have the highest ceiling of any of the NBA rookies this year, while still others see him as very overrated. Only time will tell if Milicic can come on like a Ming or flop like a Montross. Chris Kaman was the seventh overall selection in the draft by the LA Clippers hoping to use him to replace the departed Olowokandi. Kaman lit up the college ranks last year averaging a 20-10 (points-rebounds) and being a defensive stopper in the middle. He really made a name for himself by having a strong Final Four run in which, though they lost to Duke, he showed his complete came against one of the better teams in the country.
The Admiral David Robinson (8.5-7.9-1.0) in his final season in the NBA, helped lead the Spurs to their second ever NBA title. Robinson was recognized by the NBA by naming their citizenship award after him. He was always one of the best players to ever touch an NBA floor but was a better person off the court donating thousands to local charities within San Antonio, being a ambassador for the NBA and the game of basketball itself. It was quite a way for Robinson to go out with another ring, on his home court, but for a man of his integrity and good nature it was only fitting.