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Analyzing the 2011 Free Agents: Centers

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This is the fifth in a five part series in which I analyze the 2011 Free Agent market by position.  As a source I used ESPN's list of 2011 NBA Free Agents and for statistics I used Basketball-Reference.  This list of Free Agents only includes players that were on a teams roster at the end of last season.  Also, please keep in mind that while I will use John Hollinger's PER (Player Efficiency Rating), this is not a be-all, end-all stat.  There are several deficiencies, particularly that it is not a reliable measure for a player's defensive acumen, so keep that in mind.

When the Kings traded for Samuel Dalembert last year and drafted DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside soon after, it was like a dream come true for the fans.  For years, the biggest need for the Kings had been an interior force down low, a great rebounder and a defensive presence on the other end.  In one fell swoop, the Kings managed to fill those needs.  Gone were the days of other teams getting layups whenever they wanted.  Gone were the days of the Kings getting out-rebounded by embarrassing margins.  

It didn't work out quite the way we wanted it to, but it was still a definite improvement.  Cousins had a bumpy Rookie year, but I'd say we were pleased with the exceptional level of skill he showcased.  Dalembert also got off to a rocky start, but once he recovered from his abdominal injury and paired up with Cousins permanently, he had a pretty good year.  He was better offensively than most realized, but more importantly cleaned up on the glass and brought a defensive presence on the other end that the team hasn't had in a long time.  

The Dalembert and Cousins pairing could end up being short lived however.  Dalembert is now an unrestricted Free Agent, and numerous reports suggest that he will look to sign elsewhere.  These reports might be unfounded, simply due to the fact that they all suggest he joins contenders who can't offer him more than the MLE, if the MLE even exists in the new CBA.  The simple truth is the Kings can offer him more money than anyone else out there.

Luckily for us, if it doesn't work out with Dalembert, there are other people we can throw our money at, arguably better than Dalembert.  If this year's Free Agent class is strong in one thing, it'd have to be Centers.

Name

Age

PER

MPG

PPG

TS%

DRB%

ORB%

BLK%

AST%

PF per36

TOV%

USG%

Greg Oden ®

24

19.5

22.1

9.4

0.613

25.5

15.7

5.1

4.6

6.4

16.7

19.7

Marc Gasol ®

27

17.6

32.7

12.6

0.596

19.9

8.8

3.5

10.5

3.7

15.3

17.4

Nene Hilario

29

17.4

29.6

12.3

0.605

18.3

8.4

2.3

10

4.1

15.9

18.1

Tyson Chandler

29

15.5

27.6

8.3

0.599

24.2

12.7

3.8

4.4

4.1

18.2

14.1

Samuel Dalembert

30

15.1

26.1

8.1

0.553

25.5

12

5.6

3.2

4.3

17.3

15.3

Dan Gadzuric

33

14.5

14.8

4.7

0.509

21.6

13.4

4.4

4

5.8

12.8

16.2

Theo Ratliff

38

14.3

25.3

7.2

0.546

17.1

8.8

7.2

3.7

4

15.8

14.1

Erick Dampier

36

14.3

24.6

7.5

0.537

20.1

12.8

4.2

5.4

4.3

17.4

15.4

Jeff Foster

35

14.2

20.7

4.9

0.53

22.7

15.3

1.5

6.9

4.4

14.7

12

DeAndre Jordan ®

23

14

19.5

5.6

0.61

22.6

11.8

5.1

2.9

4.6

19

13

Hamed Haddadi ®

26

14

6.1

2.4

0.506

28.2

14.8

5.9

6.7

7.2

13.9

19

Jamaal Magloire

33

13.8

22.1

7.5

0.585

24.2

11.3

3.2

4.5

4.4

17.6

17.9

Chuck Hayes

28

13.1

20.1

4.4

0.534

21.3

11.4

1.6

9.3

4.7

15.7

10.9

Spencer Hawes ®

23

13

22.6

8.4

0.499

20.3

8.3

3.1

11.3

4.1

15

19.6

Vladimir Radmanovic

31

12.8

23

8.5

0.533

15.3

4.7

1.2

9.7

3.4

13.1

18.1

Aaron Gray

27

12.8

11.4

3.6

0.533

22

13.6

2

9.1

6.7

18.5

16.6

Tony Battie

35

12.7

21.4

6.2

0.521

19.1

9

3.1

4.8

4.5

12.6

14.5

Kwame Brown

29

12.6

22.5

6.8

0.524

19.7

9.3

2.1

6.7

3.7

16.6

15.9

Joel Przybilla

32

12.3

20.3

4

0.571

25.8

11.5

5.5

3.4

4.9

21.9

10.5

D.J. Mbenga

31

10.8

6.7

1.8

0.49

16.2

9.6

6.9

3.8

6.6

17.1

14.7

Melvin Ely

33

10.6

16

5.3

0.497

15.3

8.4

2.6

7.1

4.6

16.4

18

Solomon Jones

27

10.6

10.9

3.1

0.542

15.4

9.2

3.9

5

6.6

16.5

14.1

Alexis Ajinca

23

10.1

7.8

3.1

0.479

18.6

5.9

3.7

3.9

7.3

12.1

22

Francisco Elson

35

10

15.4

3.7

0.511

18.5

8.1

2.7

5.4

5

17.4

12.9

Hilton Armstrong

27

9.6

11.8

3.1

0.53

16.2

9.6

3.4

4.4

5.8

21.7

14.6

Kyrylo Fesenko

25

8.2

8.3

2.3

0.49

18

10.5

3.9

5.3

7.3

17.9

15.3

Jason Collins

33

7.3

21.9

3.9

0.475

14.2

7.2

1.9

6.5

4.9

17.7

10.5

Hamady Ndiaye ®

25

5.3

5

0.9

0.681

7.4

2.8

4.8

0

8.1

22.6

7.3

Statistics used are career averages to give a larger sample size.  Players with  ® next to their name are Restricted Free Agents.

Right off the bat you can see a clear hierarchy in the quality of the Centers available.  Marc Gasol, Nene Hilario, Tyson Chandler and Samuel Dalembert are the best of the bunch.  We'll lump in DeAndre Jordan with that group as well because he had a career year last year and is also the youngest player on the list.  

Before we get back to those guys, let's take a quick minute to look at Greg Oden, because his presence at the top of this list is notable.  His Advanced Statistics are phenomenal.  When he has had a chance to play, he's been a terrific rebounder, efficient scorer and outstanding shot blocker.  Perhaps the only thing he's had trouble with on the court is foul trouble.  All those injuries make him a risk not worth taking however.  It must be especially tough for Blazers fans to know just how much of an impact Oden can have when he actually plays, but he can't.  To me, that's worse than drafting a guy who is a bust just because he sucks.  It's a sad situation and I hope for Greg's sake that he's able to recover long enough to have a decent career.  Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

When you look at this group of guys, its clear that Gasol and Nene are the most talented offensively.  Not only are they efficient offensively, but they're also the best passers and least turnover prone.  Chandler and Jordan are also efficient scorers, but mainly because they're only points come off of dunks, putbacks, etc.  Chandler has developed an alright mid-range jumper as well although he doesn't shoot it much.  Jordan is very one dimensional offensively.  He literally almost never shoots outside of 9 feet.  According to HoopData, 89.5% of Jordan's career FGM came at the rim and 7.6% from 3-9 feet.  That's not a lot of versatility (His FT shooting is also terrible, sub 50%).  Dalembert is the least efficient of all these guys (although still better than the average player), mainly because he takes more jumpers.  Surprisingly he's also less turnover prone than Chandler and Jordan, which is impressive considering his brick hands.

On the glass, Dalembert and Chandler lead the pack.  In fact, the only player on this list with a higher Total Rebound Rate than Dalembert is Hamed Haddadi, and he's benefiting from a small sample size and playing garbage minutes. Jordan is also a good rebounder, if a step below both Chandler and Dalembert.  Gasol and Nene however are both below average rebounders for a Center, which might be surprising to many of you.  In fact, their rebounding rate is very similar to Spencer Hawes', who you might remember.

Defensively its hard to rank these guys because defensive stats are hard to come by.  Dalembert and Jordan are by far the best shot blockers of the bunch, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're the best defenders.  In fact, according to 82games.com, the Clippers have been a better defensive team the last three years when Jordan has NOT been playing.  Gasol probably comes next, although unlike Jordan, the Grizzlies were better defensively with him on the court, although not by too much.  What is important with Gasol however is that he has improved defensively each of his three years in the league, when he was a minus defender coming in.  Chandler and Dalembert both have reputations as shot blockers but they've also evolved into very good defenders as well.  Nene is the worst shot blocker, but he's also a really good defender, and can guard both PFs and Cs.

Offense and Defense are just one part of the equation you have to consider.  The other is durability.  Chandler and Nene have had the most problems with injury throughout the years.  Chandler has a bad reputation with injuries, but he's only had 3 really bad years with injuries: 2003-04, 2008-09, and 2009-10.  In every season other than those he has played 70+ games, and even in the injury shortened season he was able to play half or more of the season.  Nene missed a lot of time between 2005 and 2008 dealing with testicular cancer (not exactly a recurring injury), but other than that has been relatively healthy the last three years. Dalembert has been the healthiest in recent memory, putting together 5 straight seasons of 80+ games (with only last years not being a full 82).  Gasol and Jordan have both missed some time, but not with major injuries.

Of course, Gasol and Jordan also add some complications with their Restricted status.  I'm pretty sure that Memphis will match any offer for Gasol, including a max contract (Michael Heisley has not been shy of handing out big extensions).  Jordan might be more available but he's also the least attractive option to me.  

I think there is a good chance one of these guys is a King next year.  We have the cap space, we have the need, and we have an ownership group who said they will spend this offseason (I know, I know, we'll believe it when we see it).  

After that group of guys the quality drops off dramatically.  Spencer Hawes is probably the best and I'm not being facetious.  We should either spend a bunch of money trying to get one of those guys in the top tier or not at all.  Save the cap space for a lopsided trade or something.

These arguments are all pointless anyway.  We have Hassan Whiteside after all.  Why do we need anyone else?