Centers in the NBA

[From the FanPosts - a case for Anthony Davis at center - R]

Anthony Davis can't play center in the NBA! Oh really? Let's dive into the starting centers in the NBA last year.

ESPN Depth Chart

PER - Centers

I will skip over the variety of absolutely terrible basketball players listed as centers. Players who are backups (Tiago Splitter, Chris Andersen) or who will be moved (Greg Monroe to PF with the addition of Andre Drummond) will not be discussed. Instead we will focus on starting centers with a PER over 18.

1. Dwight Howard - Anthony Davis cannot guard Dwight Howard. Welcome to the club. The number of centers in the NBA who can hold their own on both ends of the court with Dwight Howard is limited to roughly one, who also happens to be number two on our list.

2. Andrew Bynum - Again a player that Anthony Davis (along with most starting "centers" in the NBA) cannot single cover. Javale McGee "held" Bynum to 16.7 PPG, 12.3 RPG and 4.0 BPG in their series. Slightly below his PPG for the season (which was 18.7) but above average in the other significant statistical categories for centers.

3. Al Jefferson - He put up a respectable 22.88 PER this past year. His team was swept from the playoffs. Davis would be at a significant disadvantage against Jefferson.

4. Tim Duncan - Even at an advanced age put up a 22.60 PER this past year. Duncan plays fewer minutes than the previous three listed and generally plays alongside Boris Diaw or DeJuan Blair. Duncan has been listed as a PF his entire career but has played as a "center" since David Robinson retired. Tim Duncan made any number of defenders look helpless in the playoffs and Davis would be at a disadvantage here as well.

The next starting centers on the list are Nikola Pekovic (21.47 PER), Marcin Gortat (21.21 PER), Javale McGee (19.90 PER), Joakim Noah (19.59 PER), Roy Hibbert (19.35 PER), Tyson Chandler (18.66 PER), Nene (18.65 PER), Marc Gasol (18.41 PER) Spencer Hawes (18.19 PER) and Andrea Bargnani (18.00 PER).

Of these only Bargnani (25.8%) and Nene (20.8%) have usage rates exceeding 20%. Chris Kaman (15.42 PER and 24.3% USG) will give Hornet fans a good idea of what a player with similar usage rates may look like. The point here is that of the top centers in the NBA only six are used at a rate exceeding their presence on the court to appear as a point of emphasis by their scheme.

Many of the other high performing centers function as defense/rebounding/energy players (such as Pekovic, Gortat, McGee, Noah, Chandler). Beyond the initial four few of these players make their living with their back to the basket on offense. It is not a stretch to say quite a few are limited offensively, especially on the low block.

Anthony Davis is 6'10.5" 235 pounds at 19 years old. The only offensive threats he is expected to struggle mightily against are a difficult cover for the majority of the NBA. Furthermore, the Hornets are in the beginning stages of a rebuilding project. Davis will struggle at center, just as he will struggle at PF. Being a rookie in the NBA is challenging.

New Orleans has Davis with an ideal partner. Teams with a "traditional" center will have a choice when guarding the Hornets. Put their primary rebounder on Anthony Davis where his athleticism and ball handling ability from the high post could lead to easy baskets or on Ryan Anderson roaming 23 or more feet from the basket. This will open the lane for slashers like Rivers and Gordon while providing increased offensive rebound opportunities for Al-Farouq Aminu.

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