Ranking the best centers in the NBA heading into the 2014-15 season

While the league is still guard oriented there are plenty of gifted young centers in the game today.  Some made huge strides a year ago and this year should be no different as some will have more of a chance to play big roles on their respective teams.  With that progression and the added responsibility to lead as well as the return of some established stars from injury, this should be a banner year at the center position.
Here is a look at who the best centers will be in 2014-15.
15. Omer Asik, New Orleans Pelicans: Asik has a new home and plenty of opportunity to shine. After coming to New Orleans during an offseason trade from the Houston Rockets, he should see plenty of more time on the floor and will be a perfect fit next to Anthony Davis. He is a rebounding machine on both ends of the floor and a solid finisher around the rim.
14.  Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz: Favors has new teammates, a new coach, a new contract and plenty of responsibility on your shoulders going forward.  For the Jazz to be successful in 14 – 15, he not only needs to be the backbone of the defense, but also needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end and put up big numbers. Following a breakout season last year, there is no doubt that he can make such steps as Utah tries to rebuild.
13.  Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic: Although Vucevic isn’t great on the defensive end of the floor, he is one of the best rebounders in the game today. He is also exceptional with his back to the basket and finishing around the rim. If he can stay healthy for the entire season, he will be the best player for the Orlando Magic.
12.  Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: Drummond would be much higher on this list if not for the fact that the Pistons have an absolutely loaded frontcourt. He will see plenty of minutes on the floor, but playing next to two guys who are out of position will limit what he could do offensively. Where he will excel is on the defensive end of the court where he will clean the glass and block plenty of shots.
11. Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves: With the departure of Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the interior scoring load will fall on the shoulders of Pekovic. He is a wide-bodied banger who knows how to use his size and strength to get great position and finish around the rim. Already is solid on the glass, look for his rebounding totals to soar without Love next to him.
10. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets: Lopez was off to a fantastic start for the Nets last season before an injury ended his year. He has great touch with his back to the basket, but also has a solid face up game. Although he isn’t a great rebounder, he is also effective on the defensive end because of his length and his ability to block shots.  If he can round into form early in the season look for him to push for another all-star appearance.
9.  Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers: After being a key piece on a team that made back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, Hibbert will have to carry much more of the load with the departure of Lance Stephenson and the injury to Paul George. He will need to be much more aggressive on the offensive end while continuing his great defensive play for the Pacers to have any shot at making the playoffs.  Those added responsibilities will allow him to improve his numbers drastically from a season ago.
8.  Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: Gasol will be the key to the success for the Memphis Grizzlies in a tough Western Conference. He is one of the best two-way centers in the NBA today. He can score in the paint and in the mid-range.  He can also create open shots for his teammates with the ability to pass out of the double team. As good as he is on the offensive end, he is better on defense for the simple fact that he is always in the right place.
7.  Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls: After a remarkable season that saw him win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year and earn all-NBA first-team, much less will be asked of Noah this time around with the addition of Pau Gasol and the return of Derrick Rose.  Noah is the ultimate glue guy who can do a little bit of everything on the floor. He is a presence in the lane on defense who can block shots and hit the glass. He also does a great job in the offensive rebounding department to go along with his exceptional ability to pass the ball.
6.  Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks: After a tremendous start to his NBA career, Horford has been sidelined with injuries the last few seasons.  If he can return to form, he will once again place his name among the game’s elite front court performers.  He is very balanced offensively with the ability to hit the 15-foot jumper as well as finish around the rim. He also does work on the defensive end because of his ability to rebound and block shots.
5. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Hornets: Jefferson would be much higher on this list if he had the ability to play any kind of defense.  Although he is improved in that area, he doesn’t have the natural athleticism to hang with the most athletic players in the NBA today. Where he does excel is on the offensive end where he has the biggest array of post moves in the game. In fact, his remarkable post moves and ability to hit the glass where the main reasons why he finished last season as the all-NBA third-team center in ’13-14.
4.  DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings: After putting up solid numbers in his first few years in the league, Cousins took a huge step forward in last year once he figured it out where he could be the most effective. While he has a decent face-up game, he is at his best when he gets deep post position because of his ability to finish around the rim. he is also a beast in on the glass because of his size and strength. With a more pass-happy team this season, he should be even better as the Kings try to make a run at the playoffs.
3. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: His numbers may go down as San Antonio will continue to limit is minutes, but that won’t limit his effectiveness when he’s on the floor.  Duncan is that special kind of athlete who knows how to step up when it matters most.  He can still work the block on offense as good as any big man in the league and create contact.  He is the heart and soul of defending championship Spurs team and will be until he retires.
2. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat: The departure of LeBron James may not be a great thing for the Miami Heat, but it will do wonders for how effective Chris Bosh is.  During his first four years with the Heat, he had been relegated to nothing more than a spot up shooter so that James and Dwyane Wade had space to maneuver going to the basket. With James gone and Wade no longer the kind of athlete he used to be, Bosh will be the one to carry the load as Miami tries to make another run in the Eastern Conference.
1. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets: After a year getting adjusted to playing in a new system with a new go-to guy, Howard should be much better this year with the Rockets.  He is reminiscent of the old school type of NBA center. He does most of his work on offence with his back to the basket because of his brute strength and ability to finish at the rim. On defense, he is a rebounding and shot-blocking force because of his athleticism.
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