Ok, I’m finally going to stop being lazy and get on with third one of these. We’re going with Marc in the third spot because he was an all-star last year, and has established himself as an elite center, so I thought he deserved billing over Conley and Allen, even though they both bring quite a bit to the table as well.
Gasol is a center who can score and play great defense, which is not easy to find these days. While his tendency to shrink in the first few games of the Clippers series was disconcerting, he came on strong at the end, and nearly carried the team to victory. But where will he rank against the other centers in the league? Let’s not waste any extra time waiting to find out!
San Antonio Spurs – Tim Duncan
A natural power forward, Duncan has well established himself as the starting center for the Spurs, and the move has suited him well. His regular season numbers will never be as eye-popping as they once were, but this year’s playoffs proved without a doubt that Duncan still be an elite player, and he may be able to win another title before his career is over.
The Verdict: Roughly even, maybe an edge to Marc due to age.
Dallas Mavericks – Chris Kaman
Kaman is a fine example of how numbers can be deceiving. He’s always been able to score, and is only 3 years removed from a 19-10 season in which he was an all-star. Unfortunately, Kaman is also woefully inefficient, which was never more apparent than last season, when his win shares per 48 minutes was a dreadful .024. Kaman can score, but he brings down the rest of the team doing it.
The verdict: Significantly inferior to Marc.
Houston Rockets – Omer Asik
It’s always a risk to give such a beefy contract to a career backup, but Asik displayed a lot of potential in Chicago, and he could prove to be a key acquisition for the Rockets in the future. If things work out, he could become another Marcin Gortat, thriving in the west after spending years as a backup in the east. Then again, the Rockets could end up making a run at Bynum or Howard and the whole thing would fall by the wayside.
The Verdict: Not as good as Marc, but a lot of potential.
New Orleans Hornets – Anthony Davis/Robin Lopez
A tricky one, since we don’t know where Davis will play. If he starts at the 5, he would immediately become a top 10 center, if only because of how weak the position is right now. At the same time, Robin Lopez proved to be, at the very least, capable in Phoenix, and it might make sense to put Davis at the 4 – or even the 3. In any case, this will be an interesting team to follow next season.
The Verdict: No one here is better than Marc yet, but Davis definitely could be.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Kendrick Perkins
Certainly not a spectacular player, but he is capable of playing some very strong defense, especially when paired with Serge Ibaka in the Thunder’s backcourt. Unfortunately, his offensive numbers took another dive last year, as he put up a mere 5.1 points per game. Perkins is still valuable, but lately his career has appeared to be on a downturn.
The Verdict: Not even close to Marc.
Denver Nuggets – Javale McGee
Tons of potential, and extremely fun to watch, but still raw and immature. George Karl is certainly the perfect coach for McGee, as he can mold him into the elite center that he has the talent to become. McGee can already make dazzling plays on offense and defense, if he can learn to back that up with consistent production, he could become an all-star fairly quickly.
Not as good as Marc yet, but if Karl works his magic, he could get there quickly.
Utah Jazz – Al Jefferson
A very talented player who has spent most of career on bad teams, Jefferson finally got a taste of the playoffs last year, albeit in a brutal sweeping by the Spurs. He’s one of the best scoring centers int he league, and pairing him with Paul Millsap makes for an extremely dangerous frontcourt. Still, I’m not sure if what he brings to a team is as complete as what Marc Gasol gives you.
The Verdict: Not as good as Marc, but not an easy call.
Portland Trail Blazers – Meyers Leonard
The Blazers are going young this year, starting two rookies in Leonard, and Damian Lillard. Leonard had some good moments in the Summer League, and could prove to be a huge acquisition. However, it’s far too early to say anything definitive about his abilities in the NBA.
The Verdict: Incomplete, but the odds of playing at the level of Marc Gasol as a rookie are pretty slim.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Nikola Pekovic
A revelation last season, Pekovic freed the Wolves from the tyranny of Darko Milicic – which Grizzlies fans are all-too-familiar with – and joined forces with Kevin Love to form one of the stronger forntcourts in the league. The sample size is a bit small with Pekovic, but if he can prove last year was not a fluke, he could become one of the best centers in the league.
The Verdict: I can put him on the level of Marc yet, but if he can play like he did last year on a regular basis, it’ll be worth debating.
Los Anegles Lakers – Andrew Bynum
After a long wait, Bynum finally lived up to his potential last season, earning an all-star selection, and a second team all-NBA nod. Bynum is one of the few centers who can score and rebound. The addition of Steve Nash to the team could make Bynum even better, since this is the first time he’s ever gotten to play with a quality point guard. Bynum still has some major attitude problems, but most teams would accept that in exchange for a center of his caliber.
The Verdict: More skilled than Marc, but still a major headcase.
Los Angeles Clippers – DeAndre Jordan
Solid defense, but almost no offense to speak of, unless Chris Paul is throwing him a lob. He’s a fun player to watch, and his blocks certainly come in handy, but he’s too one-dimensional to break into the top group of centers.Clippers fans can look forward to Jordan them a giving them the occasional slam, and the occasional swat, but not much else.
The Verdict: Clearly inferior to Marc.
Phoenix Suns – Marcin Gortat
Gortat had a great season that almost no one talked about last year, being stuck on a fairly uninteresting Suns team. He can score and rebound, and with Nash out of town, he could become the center of attention in Phoenix. Gortat will likely be a top center again next season, but if the Suns don’t make a splash, he may still not get the coverage he deserves.
The Verdict: About even, maybe an edge to Marc because of the all-star nod, and the playoff experience.
Golden State Warriors – Andrew Bogut
A beast when he’s healthy, Bogut is only a few years removed from all-NBA selection, during a year on which he helped lead the Bucks to a playoff berth. If he can play the way he did then, his solid defense could change the entire culture in Golden State, and turn the Warriors into a playoff team/ Unfortunately, his health is still a serious issue.
The Verdict: right now, I’d pick Marc, but I’m curious to see if Bogut can prove me wrong.
Sacramento Kings – Thomas Robinson/Demarcus Cousins
I’m still not sure who’s going to play where on this team, but both players have tons of potential. Cousins is a notorious headcase, but he has enough raw talent to make coaches drool anyway. Robinson is in amazing shape, and could be a force on the glass. One of the rare frontcourts where both players can score and rebound, but their inexperience could hold them back.
The Verdict: Neither is better than Marc right now, either one could be.
Boston Celtics- Kevin Garnett
I think I used KG as a power forward in the Z-Bo comparison, so this may be a bit redundant, but I’m still not sure how the Celtics situation is going to shake out. Since KG played well as a center last season, it’s not a stretch to think he’ll begin this season playing that role. He’s not getting any younger, but his playoff performance was phenomenal, and if he can come even close to replicating it, Boston could be pretty scary this year.
The Verdict: I’d prefer Marc due to his age, but I would want to say that to KG’s face.
New York Knicks – Tyson Chandler
In the past two seasons, Chandler has thoroughly elevated his level of play, and become one of the best centers in the league. His amazing defense kept the Knicks in the playoffs, and if they can make a legitimate run next season, he’ll probably play a significant role. A strong defender who is ridiculously efficient on both sides of the ball, Chandler instantly improves any team he plays for. I can only imagine how much Mavs fans are missing him now.
The Verdict: About even. I wanted Marc to get the third team all-NBA spot last year, but I was cool with Chandler getting it.
Philadelphia 76ers – Spencer Hawes
The quintessenital “solid, but not spectacular” player. Hawes doesn’t put up amazing numbers, but he fits into the Sixers system well, and continues to be quietly effective. Basically, he’s one of the reasons the Sixers can make the playoffs, but he’s also one of the reasons they won’t be able to get past the second round.
The Verdict: Not even close to Marc.
Toronto Raptors – Jonas Valančiūnas
With Bargnani switching to the power forward spot, the Raptors are hoping the Lithuanian rookie can live up t the hype and make a significant impact right away. He’s certainly a great rebounder, which should help the Raptors a lot. If he lives up his promise, he could be a star, and lead the Raptors to a playoff berth. Right now, though, it’s much too early to tell.
The Verdict: He’d have to do a lot to be as good as Marc, but I’m not entirely counting him out.
Brooklyn Nets – Brook Lopez
Or as he’s known in Brooklyn, Not Dwight Howard. I kid, I kid! I kid ‘cuz I love! Seriously though, Brook is one of the best scoring centers in the league, but his jarring lack of rebounding should be a serious concern for the nets. If their lucky, he’ll either get back to grabbing 8 boards a game, or Humphries will rebound enough to make up for Brook’s problems in that area. If not, the Nets inability to snag rebounds could be a serious problem as the attempt to become a playoff team.
The Verdict: the lack of rebounding keeps him from being on Marc’s level.
Chicago Bulls – Joakim Noah
A defensive center who doesn’t offer much in the way of scoring, Noah still provides a lot of value to the Bulls. He’s a strong physical player who can grab a high volume of boards. His ability to get in other players faces may not win him any friends, but it goes a long in forming the Bulls’ identity as a tough, defensive team.
The Verdict: Not as good as Marc, but still very valuable.
Indiana Pacers – Roy Hibbert
Hibbert didn’t dominate the heat’s frontcourt in the playoffs the way people wanted him too, but he’s still a top 10 center who brings a lot to whatever team he’s on. his height gives him a natural advantage, and when he’s on his game, he can score at will. If he can avoid shrinking from major challenges, and put up a fight against teams like Miami, he could lead the Pacers to the Eastern finals. It all depends on if he can make another leap.
The Verdict: Both ere all-stars last year, but I’ll take Marc due to his superior skill and finesse.
Milwaukee Bucks – Samuel Dalembert/Drew Gooden
Not sure who the Bucks are going with here, but both players are in the same boat. They’re solid players who can contribute little things to a team, but aren’t especially interesting. Luckily, the bucks have Jennings, Ellis, and Ilyasova to provide the thrills, so whoever starts at the 5 will simply be a regulator, which is hardly a bad thing.
The Verdict: Neither can hang with Marc.
Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond
With Greg Monroe likely to become a power forward, the center role will fall on Drummond, who is extremely raw, but has loads of potential. His problem at UConn was inconsistency, but if the Pistons can get him to reach his potential, he could team up with Monroe to form an elite frontcourt, and Pistons fans will finally have something to cheer about.
The Verdict: He has along way before he can reach the level of Marc Gasol, but if he can harness his talent, he could be an extremely valuable player.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Andersom Varejao
If Varejao had stayed healthy last year, the Cavs might have hung around in the playoff race. Instead, they lost him for the year and quickly began tanking hard. Before his injury, Varejao was having a career year, and even heard some all-star buzz. If he can play at similarly high level this season, the Cavs could be a lot scarier than people think.
The Verdict: Not as good as Marc, but still quite good.
Miami heat: Joel Anthony/Udonis Haslem
The Heat’s biggest problem during the Big Three era has been a notable lack of production at the center position. No matter who steps into this role, they don’t end up doing much. Luckily, the heat have enough talent at the every other position, it hasn’t effected them. Still, they’d be a lot better off if someone could play this role effectively.
The Verdict: No one here is at the same stratosphere as Marc Gasol.
Orlando Magic – Dwight Howard
As odd as it may sound, Howard is still technically on the magic, and he might even end up playing another season for them. While Howard has not come off well during this saga, he’s still the best center in the league, and whatever team he ends up on will be getting a great player. It’s too bad he’s spent so much time jerking the Magic and their fans around.
The Verdict: Better than Marc, but much more of a hassle.
Atlanta Hawks – Al Horford
The Hawks managed to stay afloat without Horford last season, but I’m guessing they’re still thrilled to be getting him back this year. A great scorer who ranks near the top of the league in offensive efficiency, Horford will probably keep the Hawks going without Joe Johnson, and lead them to another playoff berth.
The Verdict: About even with Marc, I’ll wait to see how he recovers from injury before saying anything definitive.
Washington Wizards – Nene
The Nene-for-McGee trade was certainly mutually beneficial. The Wizards got an experienced player who could teach some things to their inexperienced youngsters. The Nuggets got a great talent who could grow in their system. It was win-win! Nene looked great during his brief time with the Wizards last year, and he may have completely revitalized his career. If the Wizards make a run at an 8-seed, he will likely be a big reason why.
The Verdict: Not as good as Marc, but certainly valuable.
Charlotte Bobcats – Bismack Biyombo
As we found out during his rookie campaign, Biyombo is an extremely raw player. He’s very athletic, but he’ still learning the fundamentals of the game. With a full year under his belt, expect him to look much better this season, and to have a better understanding of what is needed to play in the NBA. It’ll be a big surprise if he can become an elite center, but at the very least, with some polish he can become a solid defensive center, and in the right situation, he could end up getting minutes on a playoff team.
The Verdict: Nowhere near Z-Bo.
And there we have it, Marc Gasol is one of the best centers in the league. The only two I’d rank higher are Bynum and Howard, both of whom are extremely high maintenance players. The Grizzlies are highly fortunate at the center position, as they have a player who could be the backbone of their team for years to come.