Allow me to clear up any controversy before we begin by pointing out that, being English, I spell the word “centre”. There’s no spelling mistake, typo or other error. Thanks for your time, folks.
Today we deal with the fifth and final part in this series as we rank the league’s best big men. If you’re not familiar with the factors taken into account to create these lists, check out the earlier articles, which can be found in the archive to the right of your screen.
Let’s get going.
1. Shaquille O’Neal
The Big Everything is still the man. The numbers may have fallen off a little, but that’s a natural consequence of his efforts to involve the team more. If there’s a defender around that contain him one-on-one, they’re certainly not making themselves known, and until the time comes when he can no longer drop twenty and ten while shooting well over fifty percent from the field, he’ll still be the best of the bigs in my books. With a few nagging injuries shaken and Miami’s roster upgraded, he’ll be in line for another year of monster dunks, violent swats and general abuse of the unfortunate souls who find themselves standing in Shaq’s shadow.
2. Yao Ming
Yo, Yao, when are you going to make it happen for real? You might be the second-best true centre in the league, but come on; there can’t be more than three or four of you. How are you going to be 7’5’’ and block only two shots a game? How can you have the highest standing reach in the league and grab only eight boards a night? How is it that you clearly know how to score yet finished last year behind Jalen Rose in points per game? Please don’t think I’m one of the haters, though. In truth, I’m a big fan, which is exactly why I want to see more from you.
I suppose I’m being unfair. You’ve shown signs of improvement, and you managed to up your averages in the playoffs, but that only made us hungrier. There’s no shame in taking second place behind Shaq, but does it need to be by so much? You haven’t done badly so far, Yao, but we’re still waiting for that extra something the scouts saw in you a few years ago.
3. Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Big Z might be Big Zzzz to some of you, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that he’s one of the few left in the league to play the pivot as it was intended to be played. Whether he’s hogging up space in the lane, knocking down jumpers from the elbow or worming his way to the hoop with surprising agility, he does all that’s expected of him. Consider also that he’s second in the league in offensive rebounds per game and that he has played in an average of eighty contests over the past three seasons, and it’s not hard to see why Cleveland is so in love with the oversized Lithuanian.
4. Ben Wallace
As a former defensive player of the year, Big Ben should be ranked better than fourth, but it’s difficult to fathom giving him a higher spot when he is yet to average ten points a game for an entire season. It’s impressive that a man so undersized (ignore the generous listing on NBA.com) for the centre position that he once tried out at off-guard could hold his own, particularly when he manages to contain players sometimes six or seven inches taller than he is. However, even a centre near the top of the league in both blocks and boards can’t hope to move higher than this when they aren’t able to put the ball in the bucket more than once a quarter.
5. Marcus Camby
The league’s second-leading shot-blocker might be nicknamed “Mr. Glass”, but when he’s on the floor and healthy, he’s still one of the most dangerous big men around. What’s more, despite the frequency of his injuries, he remains one of the more athletic fives in the league, capable of running the floor with the youngsters and finishing with a monster stuff. Just ask Greg Ostertag what happened the last time he came between the Cambyman and the bucket, and the look on his face will tell you what a threat M.C. continues to be in a league severely lacking in serviceable centres.
Note: Given that he started alongside Primoz Brezec for the majority of the year, Emeka Okafor was considered a power forward for the purpose of these rankings.
As always, you can reach me at [email protected] or by leaving a message in the comment box below. Check back again tomorrow for another special edition of The Blog. Until then, take it easy.