2012 NBA Free Agency IV: True Centers Worth Paying, Plus The Ones Who Got Maxes


The number one center on this year’s free agent market, against only small odds given it’s the NBA we’re talking about, remains completely available.

I’m talking about JaVale McGee. How is he number one?

JaVale McGee’s new-and-improved rebounding the past two years really propel him to the top of my list when paired with his outstanding ability to block shots (4 per 48 minutes, career). He’s not very good on offense, but he’s not killing you. His blocks are great, he’s improving year-to-year, he’s seven feet tall, and he can rebound. That’s a darn good center in today’s NBA. Add in that he’s young, and has Tremendous Length and Freakish Athleticism, and I’m very confused why no one’s offered him a boat and a boatload of money.

McGee is restricted. Denver traded for him and will likely match anything, because of sunk cost and all, but I would make them pay for him. $8-$10 million a year might even land him on your team. And I’d rather pay Javale McGee that amount than max out a player who might not be much better.

I’ve shown a not-so-pretty JaVale video previously so here’s a video of a night the Wizards based their offense around JaVale McGee alley-oops.

Roy Hibbert’s my second-best get, mainly because you could see the max contract coming. (Portland offered, and Pacers matched, a max for Hibbert this past week.) While he’s also been steadily improving I’m not ready to hand out that money to even a seven-footer with his upside. My main argument is this: so far, McGee rebounds, blocks, and shoots better, and he’ll very likely cost much less. Am I missing something?

Marcus Camby is a great player to gamble on. Don’t count him out at 38 years old—in his age 36 and 37 years he pulled an average of 19 boards per 48 minutes. (Click here to see some more old players your team shouldn’t overlook.)

Three years, $13 million is a bit long to give to an older guy. I’d rather stay one or two years at the most. But when you’re locked in cap-wise the way New York is, if a good player’s knocking at the door for cheap you take it. Even if he only gives you 2 years, $6.5 million a year for a premier rebounder isn’t bad at all. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll get enough minutes to earn his pay, given they’re paying $55 million a year to two bigs and a wing who plays the 4 pretty frequently.

Omer Asik has also recently earned a nice contract. The Rockets bought him away from the Bulls, though Chicago can match if they want. 3 years, $25 million isn’t bad if he can keep producing at the clip he’s at. Plus you’re getting 2 flop attempts per game from your seven-foot center, so there’s that.

Aaron Gray, Hamed Haddadi, and Greg Stiemsma are guys to take a flyer on for cheap. Stiemsma and Haddadi were able to block the ball but have less than 2000 minutes between them; Gray’s small sample size indicates he (and Haddadi too) can rebound pretty well. Teams that need to fill out the roster: why pay some random mediocre-to-terrible Veteran Experience guy when you can pay the Great In A Small Sample Guy and hope, if called upon, his luck continues?

Great in a small sample becomes great in larger small sample before injuring knee. (nikk_la; wikipedia.org)

Finally there’s Brook Lopez. I think paying a max contract to someone who played five games the previous year is probably a bad idea. I think paying a max contract to a center who doesn’t rebound well is also probably a bad idea. Two wrongs don’t make a right but two probably a bad idea’s make a terrible idea. I’m also pretty sure they were bidding against themselves, but, not having the phone number of the other bad GMs I can’t confirm this.

Which brings us to my team’s fan-favorite big man Spencer Hawes, who, like most of the others on this list, is said to be some amount taller than seven feet tall. He also recently re-upped as the Sixers locked in his services for 2 years, $13 million, which is pretty expensive for a career year that didn’t occur during a rookie deal. The lockout-shortened season did not solve Hawes’ injury woes, but his opening month or so was actually quite great and powered his final numbers through a much more career-average finish to the year. Were I in charge, I would have let him walk; but were I in favor of re-signing him it would need to be another one-year deal, to see if he can sustain for a full season the level of production he flashed in early 2012 before his injuries.

If none of the remaining true centers float your boat or fit your needs—Asik if you’re Chicago, otherwise Gray, Stiemsma, Haddidi or McGee—there’s always the power forwards that can cover the center spot. Kris Humphries—you knew it was coming—is still available. Other options include(d) Lavoy Allen (re-signed by the Sixers), Elton Brand (amnestied by the Sixers), Tim Duncan (re-signed by the Spurs), Jordan Hill, Anthony Randolph, Kevin Garnett (re-signed with the Celtics), Chris Kaman (reportedly signing with the Mavs), Jason Thompson, and James Singleton. And Pau Gasol was going to be traded last year until David Stern interfered, so perhaps he’s still on the trading block.

But of course, last but not least, you can trade for a center, by joining in the Dwight Howard Indecision.

stats via The NBA Geek

Matt Rogers - Bio coming soon.

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