2013 NBA Free Agency Preview: Centers

We’ve shifted our focus here at DRaT from the NBA Finals onto the NBA off-season. Geo begins his position-by-position free agent preview series with the big guys.

dh
Dwight Howard
Age: 27
Last Contract: 5 yr/$83,235,900
Last Year’s Stats- GP:76 MPG-35.8 PPG:17.1 RPG:12.4 FG%.578 FT%:.492 BLK 2.4
Last Year’s Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Player Analysis- Dwight Howard was under much scrutiny throughout most of year, mainly because of his inconsistent play along. He handled the previous off season very poorly, never giving a real straight answer about where he would like to end up, keeping the media guessing. Unfortunately for Howard, he was playing injured for much of the season, which clearly affected his overall play
Personally, I believe he came back a little too early from his back injury. Dwight had major back surgery before the season and was very pressured to return as soon as possible. Back injuries are very serious and in most cases need a lot of time to heal. It also did not help that rumors kept going around about his relationship with Kobe and how they really did not see eye to eye. It seemed that going from a small market team like Orlando to one of the biggest markets of the NBA was a difficult transition for the big man.
In Howard’s defense, he still lead the league in rebounding and was an All-Star; he simply was not his dominant self that we saw in Orlando the past few years.
Dwight’s dominance might very well be behind him because of his reliance on his athletic ability, but I would like to see him play a full year with minimal health problems. Howard was able to effect games with his defense alone, altering layups and forcing players to take difficult jump shots. He was also able to throw down multiple thunderous dunks and incredible alley-hoops on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see these that often last year.
Throughout the season, one could tell that he lost a step. He was having trouble helping on drives which is something he used to be exceptionally good at. I really feel this was directly due to his chronic back issues. If Howard really focuses on getting healthy this offseason, I truly believe we will be able to see more of the old Dwight we were used to.
I find it hard to believe that D12 won’t be in a Laker uniform again next season. When you look back on a stars career, it is not good to have been with multiple teams in a short span. This often creates a red flag and makes people ask “why was he on so many teams?” or “Does he have character issues?” That being said, I feel like he will test the market and see what is out there, but he will end up back in purple and gold.
Likely Teams- Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks

AB

Andrew Bynum
Age:25
Last Contract: 4 yrs/$57,200,000
Last Year’s Stats- N/A
Last Year’s Team: Philadelphia 76er’s
Player Analysis- The young and talented Andrew Bynum was unable to suit up last year due to a knee injury. The 76ers might have executed one of the worst trades in the past decade, giving up a top three rebounder, (Nikola Vucevic), an elite perimeter defender (Andre Iguodala), and young talent (Moe Harkless). This single trade may have set their franchise back a few years, which is unfortunate because they have such a talented point guard in Jrue Holiday. Bynum had some setbacks as well, one in which he was simply bowling on a random night.
Many analysts and fans seemed to question Bynum’s work ethic, and I really cannot blame them at all. The big man lacks determination and really made it seem like he didn’t mind if he had to miss the entire season. What is so frustrating is how talented Bynum really is. When healthy, he was arguably the top big man in the league. He has incredible touch around the rim and is able to alter many shots on the defensive end. It was very sad to see Bynum never get healthy last season. The 76ers really could have been a threat in the weaker Eastern Conference.
If I am a GM, I really don’t know if taking a chance on Bynum is the right move. He has a history of injuries which is alarming for a seven footer and he also has some character issues. Also, he still has not had the chance to prove that he has what it takes to be “the guy” on a team. Talent wise, Bynum is worthy of a max contract, but he has surely not earned it yet. There will be a team out there who ends up taking a risk on him, praying he can play like he has in the past. If he is able to become healthy again, signing Bynum would be an instant help to any team.
Hopefully, Bynum will take this offseason very seriously and to whatever it takes to become healthy again. When injury-free, Bynum is a force and a matchup nightmare for almost every team today.
Likely Teams- Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Bobcats

AJ

Al Jefferson
Age:28
Last Contract: 5 yrs/$65,000,000
Last Year’s Stats- GP:78 MPG-33.1 PPG:17.8 RPG:9.2 FG%.494 FT%:.77 BLK 1.1
Last Year’s Team: Utah Jazz
Player Analysis- Al Jefferson is one of the more underrated bigs in the league today. With an array of very polished post moves along with a consistent midrange jumper, Jefferson is a huge threat on the offensive end. Although he is a liability on defense, if paired with the right power forward he will be a great addition to a team.
Tough big men with superior post skills seem to be a dying breed in the NBA, mostly due to the recent transition to the “small ball” style of play. Jefferson is in the prime of his career at 28 years of age, and he has showed no signs of breaking down. He is a reliable big man game to game, and will be a much cheaper option than Howard or Bynum.
Any team that lands big Al will be very satisfied with their signing. Although he may not be a number one option, he is still a huge threat in the post and can cause a lot of havoc in the paint. The only real knock on Jefferson’s overall ability is his defense. Al is not a great shot blocker, only averaging just a hair above one block per game. Teams are not reluctant to attack the rim when he is on the floor, which may turn some teams away from him if they are seeking a defensive anchor.
Look for a team like that Charlotte Bobcats to go after Big Al. They are in need of a stud post player and some star presence.

Likely Teams- Charlotte Bobcats, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets

NP
Nikola Pekovic
Age: 27
Last Contract: 3 yrs/$12,960,000
Last Year’s Stats- GP:62 MPG-33.6 PPG:16.3 RPG:8.8 FG%.520 FT%:.744 BLK .8
Last Year’s Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Player Analysis- Pekovic might end up being one of the better deals this free agency from the center position. He is not as “sexy” as a player like Dwight, but he puts up very respectable numbers and is an effective center in this league. Some of his numbers might be slightly inflated due to the absence of Kevin Love for most of the season, but I still believe he can put up stats like these in the future. Although Pek isn’t much of a shot blocker, he is able to clog up the middle with his big frame.
Another part of Pek’s game that teams will like is that he shoots a solid percentage from the field (52%) and is a good free throw shooting big man, making just fewer than 75%. Post players that are capable of finishing at the line are very valuable in this league. Centers like DeAndre Jordan or JaVale McGee are never able to be on the court at the end of games because their free throw shooting is so poor. As long as you don’t overpay Pekovic, I feel like he could be one of the steals of this year’s free agency.
Likely Team(s)- Minnesota Timberwolves

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