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Thread: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

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    Default Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Computers suck?

    NBA centers represent a disappearing position, stricken from the All-Star ballots just last season. I've received a few queries about using traditional positional designations as a basis for ranking players, and I understand the concerns. However, I'm not in the camp of those who believes that positions no longer exist.
    Percent of WARP by height, 3-point era
    Height 80s 90s 00s 10s
    6-3 and under 20% 26% 25% 24%
    6-4 to 6-6 20% 19% 18% 14%
    6-7 to 6-9 33% 27% 31% 29%
    6-10 and above 27% 27% 26% 32%

    There's no denying that there has been an evolution of where NBA production and value comes from over the years. That has been perhaps the dominant theme of this rankings series. Consider this chart, which breaks down WARP by height during the 3-point era.

    The average height in the NBA has barely changed over time, but the value derived from big men is higher than ever. What's disappearing is the prototypical 2-guard, who offers neither elite quickness nor elite length. Although the league is getting increasingly small, big men are as important as ever, whether you call them centers or not.

    As the depth charts have filled, so have the forecasts generated by ATH coalesced. ATH, you may recall, is the projection module of NBAPET, my system of integrated spreadsheets for tracking, evaluating and forecasting all things NBA.

    With the pieces falling into place, let's take an early stab at ranking players by position. Keep in mind that assigning a primary position to a player in today's NBA is often more art than science. Players are ranked according to ATH's forecasted WARP, or wins above replacement level, which accounts for a player's efficiency, volume of production and team context.

    Here are the projected top 10 centers for the 2013-14 NBA season:

    PG | SG | SF | PF | C

    Howard

    1. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 13.2

    Howard is coming off his worst season since his rookie year, and ATH has him bouncing back to a level roughly equivalent to his third season. Because of his history of back trouble, you can't dismiss last year's dip in rebound rate as a fluke. However, his block rate was higher, so not all the athletic indicators were down. Howard's foul-drawing rate is always hard to read because of how often he is intentionally fouled, but it was strong last year as well. In his last fully healthy season, Howard put up 20.5 WARP, and that's the championship-caliber center the Rockets hoped they signed this summer.
    Drummond

    2. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 10.1

    Drummond was a monster in limited minutes last year and he was a monster during the Orlando Summer League. Obviously, the ATH system is highly enamored of his abilities. Much of his projected value stems from huge block and rebound rates. He's also a standout in foul-drawing and steals, which makes him 4-for-4 in the categories ATH looks at as athletic markers. Like many a raw, athletic big man before him, Drummond's weak spot is at the line, where he is forecast to hit just 37 percent of his free throws this season.

    Drummond's playing time projection also is murky. I've got him as the starting center on Detroit's depth chart, with Greg Monroe moving over to the 4 and Josh Smith to the 3. If that alignment doesn't work out because of spacing problems, new coach Maurice Cheeks will have some hard decisions to make.

    Cousins

    3. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.7

    Cousins has become gradually more accurate from the field as his career progressed but his overall value, strong as it is, is held back by traits identified with lack of discipline: shot selection, turnovers and fouls. The important thing is that the trends in all these areas have generally been positive, with the exception of turnovers. Cousins needs to stop undermining his court time with foul trouble, but if new coach Mike Malone can use Cousins in a way that accentuates his strengths, the upside is immense.

    Horford

    4. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.3

    After an injury-shortened 2011-12 season, Horford was mostly healthy last year and had a typical Horford season. During three of the past four years, he has posted winning percentages between .558 and .565, marking his career .603 season in 2010-11 as an outlier. Horford can approach that level of value simply by fixing a strangely broken free throw stroke after shooting 9 percent worse than any other season of his career. Perhaps the loss of confidence at the charity stripe explains why Horford became more jump-shot oriented than ever before.

    Noah

    5. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.1

    Noah became a central figure in Chicago's offense last season in Derrick Rose's absence, with the offense often running through Noah's fine passing skills from the high post. That led to a spike in assist rate that won't be repeated with Rose back in action. At the same time, a return to typical levels of usage and a focus on offensive rebounding can up Noah's efficiency and help him avoid a slight, age-related decline. One thing seems certain, and coach Tom Thibodeau has said as much: Noah's minutes will be managed more carefully in the coming season.

    Monroe

    6. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons

    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.0

    We're still trying to figure out what Monroe will be, and with Drummond ready to break out, this is the time to find out. Monroe's WARP totals in three seasons thus far have been 6.6, 12.3 and 8.4 respectively. Last season, Monroe's efficiency fell because of his lack of a consistent face-up shot and insistence on trying more of them. Over a third of Monroe's attempts as a pro have come outside the vicinity of the rim, and he's hit just 32 percent of those shots. He needs to become a midrange threat to fit with Drummond and take advantage of his solid passing skills. Monroe improving his stroke might be the most important piece of Detroit's puzzle.

    Jefferson

    7. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats

    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.8

    Sometimes I think we become so fixated on what Jefferson isn't good at -- defense -- that we lose sight of the fact that he's a very good interior scorer during a time in which that skill is in short supply. It feels like Jefferson has been around a long time, but in fact he's almost the same age as Noah. Sure, Jefferson needs to excise some of the bad jumpers out of his game but then again, he's always stuck on bad teams starving for the points. Unfortunately, that may not change right away in Charlotte.

    McGee

    8. JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets

    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.3

    Statistically, McGee was underused by George Karl last season, but the fact of the matter is that Denver's starting five functioned better with Kosta Koufos in the middle. Well, Koufos is gone, as is Karl, and this is the season we'll find out if McGee can turn his fine part-time production into a full-time, star-making role on a good team.

    Gasol

    9. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.2

    Gasol really came into his own last season and his projected decline is one of the more perplexing results ATH spit out this summer. It's not a defensive regression -- his defensive rating is actually forecast to improve from 106.1 to 105.4. At 7-1, 265 pounds, Gasol is part of a distinct historical group, one that portends a regression in athletic factors at age 29. He's still a fine player, but the Grizzlies can't really withstand a four-win decline from him.

    Bosh

    10. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

    Projected 2013-14 WARP: 6.8

    Bosh is a jump-shooting big man, soft on the boards and isn't an elite rim protector. He's also capable of doing much more than he's asked to do on the Heat; just how much is no longer clear after his three seasons as the third option in Miami. One of the most interesting stories in the Miami season will be whether Dwyane Wade is babied through the regular season, and if so, whether Bosh will be able to pick up the slack.

    Next five: Anderson Varejao, Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez, DeAndre Jordan

    The solid but unspectacular rankings of four of these five centers can be explained by age, injuries, a skill set too slanted toward one end of the floor, or all the above. But all of them can help teams win.

    The one player I want to pinpoint here is Lopez, who I think subjectively should be in the top 10. Lopez went from two seasons of just under a .500 winning percentage (in 82 and five games, respectively) to .629 last year. The most impressive part of that gain was his improved rebounding and shot-blocking, and I'd be surprised to see him regress as ATH forecasts him to do. Like all the Nets, his usage rate is projected to fall because of the new lineup, but if Jason Kidd is smart, he'll keep the offense focused around Lopez and Deron Williams, while Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett fill roles. If that happens, Lopez is easily a top-five center.

    Also notable: Roy Hibbert, Andrew Bynum

    The players I get the most guff about are the ones freshest in our memories. Hibbert was so good against Miami in the Eastern Conference finals that we forget how rough most of his regular season was, when he hit just 44.9 percent on 2-point shots. Two of Hibbert's last three seasons have been similar, so ATH's pessimism is understandable. While his offensive performance is variable, Hibbert is clearly one of the most valuable defenders in the league and I still think we have a way to go to properly value that kind of player statistically.


    As for Bynum, I think we all understand what's holding back his projection. Keep in mind Bynum's 2011-12 WARP, before last year's missed campaign: 12.1. A healthy Bynum is an All-Star player.
    Last edited by DJVendetta; 08-09-2013 at 05:32 PM.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Get the **** out of here with that ****.

    The stats are LYING!!

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    WTF?!? Roy is in the running for best center in the league.

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    Default

    I can buy an argument that Roy is not THE top center.

    I could even understand an argument that he wasn't in the top 5, though I would disagree.

    Not even in the top half????

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    Default

    Drummond? Really? *Facepalm*
    Stop quoting people I have on ignore!

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    The author said himself that the system that he uses (ATH and WARP) has a way to go before properly valuing a player like Hibbert.

    So, we should just take them for what they are. Inaccurate projections that may or may not happen.
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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    I'm not gonna get too upset about these rankings because they are completely irrelevant, but this is comical. The only Pacers that cracked the top 10 at any positions are Granger at 6 and Paul George at 7 for SFs... See an issue there? What's even more frustrating is that Kawhi Leonard gets ranked as the 3rd best SF.

    David West wasn't even considered a top 15 PF... meaning he is a below average power forward. This stuff is a joke and shouldn't be taken seriously by anyone.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    What the heck is "WARP"? Sounds like the call letters for a 60's underground radio station.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    For what it is worth I do think a lot of people tend to forget Hibbert's regular season around here. Roy is absolutely great on the defensive end and inconsistent at best at the offensive end. We had Miami, NY and Atlanta in the playoffs and Hibbert feasted on weak front lines. Where should Hibbert be ranked? I am not really sure.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    So the Pacers were the 3rd best team in the NBA, even though none of our players were even in the Top 6 at their position. LOL. Javale McGee over Roy Hibbert is an absolute JOKE. This guy is a moron! Good thing I don't pay for that insider BS!

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    This list is hilarious.

    I would say:
    1. Dwight
    2. Hibbert
    3. Lopez
    4. Gasol
    5. Bynum

    Can't believe I forgot Gasol the first time.
    Last edited by PGisthefuture; 08-09-2013 at 10:15 PM.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Roy
    Dwight
    Marc Gasol
    Noah
    Duncan
    Lopez
    Bosh
    Horford
    Jefferson
    Bynum
    Garnett
    Pau Gasol
    Chandler
    Cousins
    Monroe


    Drummond hasn't proved anything yet.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    I'm convinced that Warp is compeletly useless. The title is "Projected top centers", if this guy thinks this is any indication of what the top centers will be next year then he's a fool. The odds of Hibbert being in the top 3 are almost 100%.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Quote Originally Posted by joew8302 View Post
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    For what it is worth I do think a lot of people tend to forget Hibbert's regular season around here. Roy is absolutely great on the defensive end and inconsistent at best at the offensive end. We had Miami, NY and Atlanta in the playoffs and Hibbert feasted on weak front lines. Where should Hibbert be ranked? I am not really sure.
    I haven't forgotten how bad he played during the first half of the season but he was our best player after the all star break and the only consistent player we had for the last 25 games or so. It wasn't just the playoffs that Roy played well in, he carried this team at the end of the season.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Quote Originally Posted by Pacerized View Post
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    I haven't forgotten how bad he played during the first half of the season but he was our best player after the all star break and the only consistent player we had for the last 25 games or so. It wasn't just the playoffs that Roy played well in, he carried this team at the end of the season.
    And he was dealing w a wrist injury during the time he sucked last year...

    I am not impressed with this WARP(ed) stat...

    I would honestly rather hear his own personal biased opinions...
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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    I feel as if I lost some grey matter reading that POS. Gasol is also underrated. No way is Horford that high. Josh Smith is the only reason we didn't absolutely destroy the Hawks.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Roy Hibbert isn't in the top 10? This is honestly the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen
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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Just remember in the words of the immortal Bobby Knight...Rankings are for sportswriters and we all know they don't know anything about basketball.
    I would rather be the hammer than the nail

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Quote Originally Posted by joew8302 View Post
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    We had Miami, NY and Atlanta in the playoffs and Hibbert feasted on weak front lines.
    New York and Atlanta were not considered to have weak front lines defensively before we played them.
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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alabama-Redneck View Post
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    Just remember in the words of the immortal Bobby Knight...Rankings are for sportswriters and we all know they don't know anything about basketball.
    their profession is only a step above prostitution after all

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Hibbert is just about the perfect center for the way the Pacers are built. Defensively, he IS the perfect center for us. Offensively, we use him very well, although an improvement in efficiency would certainly further enhance his overall value to us.

    But, let's use a hypothetical for a moment to compare him to every other center. Would other teams take Hibbert in trade for their starting center if Hibbert's salary and remaining years on contract exactly matched that of their own center?

    Really, how many teams do you think would refuse such a trade. I'm guessing not more than 4 or 5.

    And with that, you have your answer. Certainly top 8; most likely top 4-5

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Drummond is a really good young player with tremendous upside, but no way he's #2. I don't care what system you're using.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    People remember this list is based solely on a statistical analysis. Statistically Roy didn't have a strong season so obviously he isn't going to be ranked very high. If this was done based on opinion instead of stats I doubt there would be many who wouldn't have him as a top 3 center.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Quote Originally Posted by Eleazar View Post
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    People remember this list is based solely on a statistical analysis. Statistically Roy didn't have a strong season so obviously he isn't going to be ranked very high. If this was done based on opinion instead of stats I doubt there would be many who wouldn't have him as a top 3 center.
    Actually, it is based on opinion. The inventor consciously decided what stats would and would not be included in his model. We have no idea what biases, if any, influenced the formation of the model.

    One must always consider that stats can be applied in many ways, some noble and some devious. So, the value of his statistic is solely determined by the strength and value of the model, not merely in the fact that it is based on statistics.

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    Default Re: Projecting Top 10 Centers in the NBA (ESPN Insider)

    Quote Originally Posted by Nuntius View Post
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    New York and Atlanta were not considered to have weak front lines defensively before we played them.
    If you say so dude.

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