Over the past decade, one of the ongoing trends in the NBA has been a dearth of quality centers. You know the type: more space eater than actual talent or more perimeter drifter than physical presence. With an influx of skilled, young big men however, that trend is beginning to taper off.
Detroit's Greg Monroe is a versatile left-hander who can handle the ball, play in the paint and help direct an offense from the high post as a gifted passer. Memphis center Marc Gasol is of the same breed. Gasol is a true 7-footer who excels both in the paint and away from the basket, because he's so skilled.
While Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler are often considered the league's premier crop, we cannot forget about Atlanta's Al Horford either. A shade under 6-foot-10, Horford is a tad undersized but makes up for it with a blend of tremendous strength, sheer physicality and a versatile skill set. In the half-court game, Horford -- still just 26 years old -- shoots nearly 52 percent from the floor and has become one of the most reliable and efficient big men in the league.
Let's take a look at the NBA's top 10 centers.
Dwight Howard, LA Lakers
It's still far too early to label the D12 Lakers experiment a failure, but when you consider that Howard has taken nearly 1/3 less shots as Kobe Bryant, things have clearly gone awry. Even still, Howard averages 16.5 points and 12 rebounds and remains an elite interior defender, both on the ball and as a help-side shot blocker.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Old and forever reliable, Duncan splits time at both the four and five spots in a Spurs offense that may be the league's most interchangeable in terms of positions. While he doesn't play heavy minutes anymore (under 30 actually), Duncan still averages 17 points and almost 10 rebounds on one of basketball's few contenders. At 36 years young, he will be an All-Star for the 14th time and is posting highest Player Efficiency Rating (25) of his career.
Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
Recently tied Knicks' franchise record with his third straight 20-rebound game. Excellent on-ball, help side and pick-and-roll defender has arguably become the league's best rim protector, ahead of Dwight Howard. Is also leading the NBA in field goal percentage, at a healthy 67 percent and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Perhaps the NBA's best passing big man, Gasol averages nearly 4 assists per game while maintaining his normal high efficiency rating as a shooter. Per <a href="http://www.hoopdata.com/player.aspx?name=Marc%20Gasol">Hoopdata.com</a>, the 28-year-old Gasol is converting a career best 51.2 percent from the 10-15 foot range.
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Terrific two-way player who doesn't have any weaknesses, Horford is excels on the block, where he converts a robust 46 percent of his post-up attempts, per Synergy. The next step in his growth is to become a more efficient pick-and-roll option, which should come in time, given his deft shooting touch out to 16 feet.
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
Not flashy and not a frequent highlight reel member, Monroe gets it done with a rare and diverse skill set. According to Hoopdata.com, no player in the NBA attempts more shots at the rim (7) and very few big men feature Monroe's passing ability. What's more impressive than his 3 assists per game is that he's doing so on a Pistons team with meager perimeter threats.
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
Lopez has validated the four-year, $60 million contract he signed in the offseason by averaging 19 points and posting a career best 25.36 PER. Great shooter and improved rebounder who loves to face up and excels in pick-and-roll.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
This picture sums up Noah, who is one of the game's best irritants. Noah is a terrific rebounder, an excellent defender and despite his awkward shot, very effective from 15 feet as well. Better yet, he's emerged as first rate passer from the low block and high post, averaging nearly 5 assists per game.
Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz
Really good interior scorer with abundance of moves. Phyiscally imposing nightmare who doesn't always get enough of his talent, but still a top flight center because he's such a talented scorer.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Enigmatic talent posting impressive numbers (17 and 10) albeit on putrid team while shooting under 45 percent, a terribly low clip for a center. Cousins has so much ability but, as HuffPost learned from his college coach John Calipari, he was the hardest player he's ever had to coach.
Omer Asik, Rockets -- Excellent defender and capable interior scorer who also leads the league in rebounds per 48 minutes. Asik signed Houston's three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet last summer which the Bulls elected not to match; that looks like a bargain right now. Andrew Bynum, 76ers -- Very hard to quantify given his injury and question marks for the rest of the season. However, when healthy, Bynum is a top three center who can score at will and defend the paint. Tiago Splitter, Spurs -- One of the league's most improved players, Splitter finishes everything around the hoop, converting 60 percent of his field goal attempts. Marcin Gortat, Suns -- Limited dexterity but can really shoot it and uses bulk very well inside. Roy Hibbert, Pacers -- Disappointing season after breakout year but remains a plus center given his rebounding and overall defensive presence (nearly 3 blocks per game).
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