Top 10 Free Agent Centers

Top 10 potential free agent Centers this summer for the Dallas Mavericks.

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As the Dallas Mavericks playoff hopes are beginning to be questioned and trade rumors swirling around the team and the rest of the NBA, it is a good time to revisit the most important topic for the team which is upcoming free agency.

The Mavericks will have an estimated $57 million in cap space this coming summer (which already assumes Barnes opts IN to his $25M Player option and Powell opts IN to his $10M player option), a number that as of today estimates to be the second most in the league. The Mavericks only have 7 players under contract for nest season and only 4 under contract beyond next season.

Player Option, Team Option

Player Age 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Harrison Barnes 26 $25,102,512
Dwight Powell 27 $10,259,375
Luka Doncic 19 $7,683,360 $8,049,360 $10,174,391
Dennis Smith 21 $4,463,640 $5,686,677
Jalen Brunson 22 $1,416,582 $1,663,861 $1,802,057
Ryan Broekhoff 28 $1,443,842
Ray Spalding 21 $1,416,852 $1,663,861 $1,802,057

We have tremendous young talent with potential future MVP Luka Dončić, the game changing speed and athleticism of Dennis Smith Jr, sharpshooter Harrison Barnes, and proven winner Jalen Brunson.  Also of note is that the Mavericks own restricted free agency rights over Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber, who are 25 and 26 respectively, and have proven to be very effective parts of the rotation this year.

With such a strong young core of players, quality organization, and proven Championship coach I expect Dallas to be major players for some top level talent, which there is plenty of this summer.

Of the few players that we actually have under contract for next season, none of them are Centers (Unless you count Powell as a Center, which I do not).  DeAndre Jordan signed a one year “see how it goes” contract in the summer of 2018 to finally join the Mavs after the twitter debacle a few years earlier when he signed with the Mavericks then changed his mind and stayed with the Clippers.

With the lack of team success so far this season, and the fact that he spurned the organization before, it is easy to say that DeAndre returning in 2019 is less than a sure thing.  Good for Mavs fans though, the 2019 free agent class of Centers is good and fairly deep.

 

RFA – Restricted Free Agent
UFA – Unrestricted Free Agent
PO – Player Option
TO – Team Option
Career Earnings – Money earned by NBA salary through the 2018-2019 season, does not include 2019 Option amount.

*Warning: there may be explicit language in highlight videos.

Vucevic

1.  Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

Type Age  2018 Salary  2019 Option  Career Earnings
UFA 28  $ 13.3 M N/A  $       56.5 M
Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
 ’18-’19 43 31 53% 38% 76% 11.9 3.8 1 1.1 2 20.2
Career 499 29.9 50% 33% 73% 10 2.3 0.8 0.9 1.7 15.3

The casual NBA fan probably does not know about or thin much of Nikola Vucevic and the reason for that is that he plays for the Orlando Magic.  He is a really good scorer, rebounder, and passer but has been wasting 6 years in Orlando after being traded from Philadelphia as part of the Andrew Bynum deal that started the 76ers tanking process.  I would love to see what Vucevic could do with a team around him, the best player he has played with is probably Victor Oladipo, and that was in his first few years before the became the player he is today.

Vucevic a legitimate 3 point shooter, great rebounder, can score in the low post and then defend on the other end.  To start the year I thought that the Mavericks may be able to a good deal on Vucevic because of the situation in Orlando.  But Vucevic is having a monster year and has played himself into a big contract this summer.  He is putting up big numbers in points while being extremely efficient, is the leagues 10th leading rebounder, is 4th among Centers in assists per game with a good assist to turnover ratio, and is a solid rim protector at 7’0″ 260 pounds.

I am not sure the Magic are going to come at Vucevic with a big offer as they are building around a core of Aaron Gordon (PF) who they just gave a big contract to, Mo Bamba (C) #6 pick in 2018, and Jonathan Isaac (F) #6 pick in 2017.  With all 3 of their core players being in the frontcourt I find it unlikely they will want to invest major resources in Vucevic since they are so far away from being contenders.  This seems like a great opportunity for the Mavs to swoop in and lock up a legitimate starting center for the next 3-4 years while he is in his prime.

2018-2019 Top Games

Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
 12/28 TOR 71% 0 0% 75% 19 8 2 1 1 30 36.3
 10/20 PHI 67% 4 100% 100% 13 12 2 0 2 27 33.6
 11/25 LAL 50% 3 38% 100% 15 7 2 3 3 31 31.5
 11/18 NYK 67% 2 67% 100% 10 9 0 2 3 28 30
 11/17 LAL 65% 2 40% 80% 13 0 2 0 3 36 29.6

Cousins

2.  DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State Warriors

Type Age  2018 Salary  2019 Option  Career Earnings
UFA 29  $   5.3 M N/A  $ 84.6 M
GP MIN FG% 3P% FT% REB AST BLK STL TO PTS
 ’17-’18 48 36.2 47% 35% 75% 12.9 5.4 1.6 1.6 5 25.2
 ’18-’19 1 15 46% 75% 50% 6 3 1 1 1 14
Career 535 32.4 46% 34% 74% 11 3.2 1.2 1.4 3.6 21.5

This is the most talented guy on this list. Cousins has proven he can be an absolute dominant force no matter who he is matched up against. Just look at his stat line from 2017 and you can easily see he is on a different level then most other Centers. But his style of play, mindset, and injury history is was makes me hesitant to make him the top Center on the market.

Cousins, a.k.a Boogie, tore his achilles in January of 2018, an injury that will most likely keep him out for a majority of this season.  I can’t believe Boogie is already back on the court, and after just 1 game and 15 minutes played I am ready to declare him the second best Center prospect on the market this offseason.  A pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop between Luka and Cousins would just be downright unstoppable.  Cousins is a monster down low

Even 100% healthy I don’t know that Cousins is type of Center the Mavericks are looking for.  Although he is an elite scorer, inside and out for his position, Frankly, he dribbles too much.  As of today (Dennis Smith Jr situation pending) the Mavericks have two primary ball handlers as the building blocks of their team and bringing in a big man who tries to do too much and habitually is among the league leaders in turnovers (5 per game in 2017-2018), seems risky.  The 5 assists per game looks good until you see he has a negative assists to turnover ratio for his career.  If he can prove that he can play into a team concept, offensively and defensively, while a member of the Warriors this year then I can easily see Cousins ending the year as the top Center on the board.

 

Gasol

3. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Type Age  2018 Salary  2019 Option  Career Earnings
PO 33  $ 24 M  $ 25.6 M  $ 155 M
Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
 ’18-’19 44 33.8 44% 36% 76% 8.4 4.5 1.2 1.4 2.3 15.4
Career 760 33.7 48% 35% 78% 7.7 3.4 0.9 1.5 2.1 15.2

Gasol does it all. He has anchored one of the top defenses in the league for years, can score inside, can score outside, and he distributed with the precision of a guard.

Gasol being 33 is a little bit concerning but I think his game will age very well. He has never been one to beat opponents with speed or athleticism, he wins with skill and savvy.  Marc is having a great season, still holding down the center of the Memphis defense, is a great secondary distributor averaging 4.5 assists with a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, and still a productive scorer when he needs to be.

Trade talks are starting to swirl around Gasol as Memphis is sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference and have a Center of the future in Jaren Jackson, Jr.  The more turmoil surrounding Gasol’s situation with the Grizzlies the more chance that he turns down his player option next year and moves on to greener pastures.  He would also be a great mentor to Luka Doncic, being that he is from Spain where Luka has spent the last 6 years playing for Real Madrid.

2018-2019 Top Games

Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
 11/27 TOR 71% 4 67% 75% 4 4 2 2 1 27 26.8
 11/18 MIN 62% 4 57% 60% 13 3 2 3 2 26 26.6
 11/25 NYK 48% 3 50% 50% 8 4 2 5 0 27 25.4
 11/23 LAC 58% 1 33% 80% 13 7 0 1 1 27 25
 1/9 SAS 56% 3 60% 71% 14 3 1 1 1 26 24.2

Career Highlights

 

Horford

4.  Al Horford, Boston Celtics

Type Age  2018 Salary  2019 Option  Career Earnings
PO 32  $ 28.9 M  $ 30.1 M  $ 160.7 M
Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
 ’18-’19 34 24.6 47% 36% 85% 7.6 1.4 1 1 1.5 9.8
Career 320 17.7 54% 36% 72% 5.9 0.7 0.5 0.8 0.9 6

Al Horford is a complete basketball player that does whatever the team needs to get the win. I don’t need to see big numbers from Horford to know that he is doing his part and contributing to overall team success.  His shooting efficiency is great and he doesn’t rack up assist numbers but he knows how to move the ball within the team concept leading to shots 2 or 3 passes later.

Horford is a similar age to Marc Gasol, similar player options available to them, but right now it is hard to see Horford leaving Boston as they are one of the few elite teams in the Eastern Conference and just made it to the Finals without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward.  Horford to the Mavs seems very unlikely but I would love to have this winner on our team.

2018-2019 Top Games

Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
 11/21 NYK 64% 2 100% 75% 7 5 1 3 0 19 23.6
 1/16 TOR 75% 3 75% 100% 7 1 0 2 2 24 21
 12/6 NYK 67% 0 100% 12 3 0 4 2 19 19.9
 11/26 NOP 53% 3 75% 100% 4 3 3 1 1 20 17.9
 1/7 BRK 86% 0 0% 9 5 1 1 1 12 16.8

 

Jordan

5.  DeAndre Jordan, Dallas Mavericks

Type Age  2018 Salary  2019 Option  Career Earnings
UFA 31  $ 22.9 M N/A  $ 131.4 M
Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
 ’18-’19 44 31.1 64% 69% 13.9 2 0.7 1.1 2.4 10.9
Career 794 28.2 67% 9% 46% 10.8 0.8 0.6 1.7 1.4 9.5

DeAndre Jordan, as usual, has been ripping down rebounds this season, 2nd in the entire NBA in rebounds per game behind Andre Drummond. Along with that, DeAndre has also put together his best free throw shooting season ever, increasing 10 percentage points over last season.  He does not have much offensive game but his pick-and-roll chemistry with Luka Dončić is getting better and better each game. Although he is still an elite rebounder, now on the other side of 30 and $130M in his pocket, DeAndre does seem to be the same 3x All-NBA, 2x Defensive Player of the Year, devastating lob-man that he used to be.  If DeAndre is looking for $20 million a year for multiple years I think we would be best off to part ways.

The turnovers are also an issue.  I have heard some refer to him as a good passer but I would beg to differ, as shown by his negative assist to turnover ratio.  He loves to throw backdoor passes whether they are open or not, trying to thread the needle like he is Chris Paul.  Sometimes it works, often it does not.  He is also a lazy outlet passer that can lead to bad turnovers and easy transition threes for the opponent.

He still has probably the most vicious dunk of all-time on an alley-oop delivery from Chris Paul.  I don’t think he can get up like this anymore, but being a Mavs fan and season ticket holder, I hope he proves me wrong.

2018-2019 Top Games

Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
 10/20 MIN 80% 0 86% 10 1 2 5 1 22 26.8
 10/28 UTA 80% 0 100% 19 9 0 1 2 12 21.6
 10/26 TOR 50% 0 89% 15 5 0 1 2 18 20.9
 12/20 LAC 67% 0 75% 22 4 1 0 0 11 20.4
 12/2 LAC 55% 0 57% 23 3 1 1 1 16 20

 

Whiteside

6.  Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat

Type Age  2018 Salary  2019 Option  Career Earnings
PO 29  $ 25.4 M  $ 27.1 M  $ 74.6 M
Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
 ’18-’19 36 26 53% 13% 45% 12.4 0.8 0.6 2.4 1.6 12.8
Career 307 26.7 57% 24% 61% 11.5 0.6 0.6 2.4 1.6 13.5

Hassan Whiteside was a 2nd round draft pick (33 overall) by the Sacramento Kings in 2010 after racking up 182 blocks in 34 games in his only season at Marshall University.  He only played 19 games with Sacramento in 2 seasons then was out of the NBA for the 2012 and 2013 season.  In 2014 he signed a preseason contract with the Memphis Grizzlies but was cut a month later, eventually finding a home with Miami.

Whiteside is an elite shot blocker and rebounder. He is currently the 3rd in the league in blocks and 8th in the league in rebounding in just 26 minutes per game.  On a per 36 minute basis he is the top rebounder in the league with 17.1.  His free-throw shooting is just god awful at 45% and he really doesn’t have any offensive game outside of dunks and put backs. But when it comes to rebounding and protecting the rim there are few better.

Whiteside has a player option this off-season and it is not too crazy to think he will turn down the $27 million.  He is 29 years old and it may be good for him to ink a longer term deal while he is healthy and on the under side of 30.  There is also the drama between he and head coach Eric Spoelstra which culminated in Whiteside receiving only 15 minutes per game in the 5 game playoff series in 2018 against Joel Embiid and the 76ers.  During the series Whiteside gave the following quote “It’s bullshit It’s really bullshit, man. There’s a lot of teams that could use a center. Shit. That’s bullshit.”

2018-2019 Top Games

Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
 11/7 SAS 56% 0 0% 82% 20 2 0 9 1 29 33.9
 12/2 UTA 65% 0 17% 20 2 1 3 1 23 24.2
 1/4 WAS 69% 0 60% 18 0 1 2 2 21 21.7
 11/10 WAS 60% 0 0% 75% 14 3 1 4 1 15 19.5
 10/24 NYK 53% 0 60% 14 0 0 3 1 22 18.8

 

Kanter

7.  Enes Kanter, New York Knicks

Type Age  2018 Salary  2019 Option  Career Earnings
UFA 27  $ 17.5 M N/A  $ 90.4 M
Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
 ’18-’19 41 26.5 54% 35% 82% 11 2 0.4 0.4 1.9 14.4
Career 557 22.3 54% 30% 78% 7.6 0.8 0.4 0.5 1.6 11.9

Kanter has a nose for the basketball and a knack for scoring around the rim but he does not provide much on defense.  He has never averaged more than .5 blocks per game and is not known as much of a floor spacer.  He started the year pretty hot but has since cooled of in terms of scoring.

Any team looking for great low post scoring and rebounding would really appreciate the skills of Enes Kanter.  He is talented and will make a lot of money this offseason, but I don’t think those checks will be signed by Mark Cuban.

2018-2019 Top Games

Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
 11/5 CHI 57% 0 0% 88% 24 7 1 0 4 23 27.9
 10/19 BRK 67% 0 0% 100% 10 2 1 0 0 29 27
 12/8 BRK 77% 0 60% 14 3 1 0 0 23 24.4
 11/25 MEM 56% 0 0% 50% 26 3 0 0 2 21 20.9
 11/18 ORL 50% 0 0% 100% 19 3 0 1 4 21 19.5

 

Jonas

8.  Jonas Valančiūnas, Toronto Raptors

Type Age  2018 Salary  2019 Option  Career Earnings
PO 26  $ 16.5 M  $ 17.6 M  $ 61.9 M
Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
 ’18-’19 30 18.8 58% 30% 82% 7.2 1 0.4 0.8 1.3 12.8
Career 470 25.1 56% 37% 79% 8.4 0.7 0.4 1 1.5 11.8

With Jonas you know exactly what you are getting.  He has been in the league for 6 full seasons, and excluding his rookie year, Jonas has averaged between, 11 – 13 points, 8 – 10 boards,  and 0.8 – 1.3 blocks.  He is a big body and a good free throw shooter for a big but I cannot foresee the Mavs spending at least $18 million a year on a guy to average 12 points and 9 rebounds for the next 3 years.  He has been a part of some great regular season Toronto Raptor teams but has never taken his game to the next level in the playoffs.  The Mavs need to be looking for big time championship level players and I just don’t think that is Jonas Valančiūnas.

2018-2019 Top Games

Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
 12/5 PHI 69% 0 0% 89% 8 2 0 0 0 26 23.1
 11/21 ATL 75% 1 50% 63% 13 2 0 1 2 24 22.4
 10/22 CHO 88% 0 75% 10 2 2 2 0 17 21.6
 12/7 BRK 67% 0 0% 67% 8 0 0 1 0 24 19.4
 11/10 NYK 75% 1 100% 60% 10 1 1 1 1 19 18.6

 

Lopez.jpg

9. Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks

Type Age  2018 Salary   2019 Option   Career Earnings 
UFA 30 $3.4 M N/A  $121 M
Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
 ’18-’19 44 27.6 44% 38% 81% 3.9 1 0.5 2 1 12.1
Career 680 31 50% 35% 79% 6.6 1.5 0.6 1.7 1.9 17.6

Lopez is an elite 3 point shooter.  Not just for the Center position, but league-wide as well.  Just look at his top games of the season and you can see that he can change the game from beyond the arc.  To match up with his 3 ball, Lopez is also a pretty good rim protector, standing at 7’0″ 270 lbs.  The huge downside of Lopez’s game is his inability to get a rebound.  Having a Center that averages just 3.9 rebounds per game scares the daylights out of me.

He was a big time scorer for the New Jersey and Brooklyn Nets for years, averaging at least 19 points per game 6 out of his 9 years with the team.  He will no longer be asked to score like that every night, but he has still shown the ability to fill it up from time to time.  He is a key member of the best team in the league and has played himself into a bigger contract than the 1 year/$3.4 million contract he is on this season.

2018-2019 Top Games

Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
 11/11 DEN 59% 8 62% 4 1 1 2 1 28 22.6
 11/10 LAC 50% 6 50% 100% 4 2 2 3 0 20 20.3
 1/1 DET 54% 7 58% 80% 3 0 0 2 1 25 19.6
 1/7 UTA 83% 3 75% 100% 8 1 0 3 1 15 17.4
 12/29 BRK 47% 7 47% 100% 2 0 1 1 0 24 16.8

 

McGee

10.  JaVale McGee, Los Angeles Lakers

Type Age  2018 Salary  2019 Option  Career Earnings
UFA 31 $2.4 M N/A $57.5 M
Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
 ’18-’19 39 22.5 59% 17% 67% 6.7 0.8 0.7 2.3 1.5 10.8
Career 597 17.1 56% 10% 59% 4.9 0.4 0.4 1.5 0.9 7.7

JaVale McGee has never really found a home in the NBA.  He was drafted 18th overall by the Washington Wizards in 2008, spent 4 years there before being traded to the Denver Nuggets.  After that McGee bounced around to Philly, Dallas, Golden State, and now the Los Angeles Lakers.  Although he can sometimes get a bit out of control (to put it mildly), he still has the tool to be an elite rim protector and rim runner and a solid rebounder.  This season, McGee is second in the league in blocks per 36 minutes.

McGee has been playing for near minimum contracts for the past 4 years so it doesn’t seem like it would take much to sign him on as a part of your frontcourt rotation.

2018-2019 Top Games

Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
 10/25 DEN 63% 0 100% 7 2 1 1 0 21 20.2
 10/24 PHO 62% 1 50% 50% 6 2 1 4 0 20 19.9
 12/15 CHO 90% 0 50% 6 0 1 3 1 19 18.7
 11/14 POR 75% 0 100% 4 0 2 2 1 20 18.4
 10/18 POR 83% 0 75% 8 1 1 3 0 13 16.6

Below is probably the best highlight film of anybody on the list.  When you watch this video it seems absolutely STUPID that this guys is being paid just $2.3 million this season.

But then there is this…

And suddenly it all makes sense.  A year with the Golden State Warriors and some time spent with the King in LA seem to have made a good impression on JaVale, his numbers so far this season are impressive.  His freakishly long arms make rim-running oops and blocked shots just second nature for him.  If nobody is going to pay more than $5 million for this guy I suggest the Mavericks do.

Other Free Agent Centers

There are still some other notable free agents that may not be a franchise changing Center but could provide some great value as part of a frontcourt rotation.  Some names to keep in mind are Dewayne Dedmon, Willie Cauley-Stein, and of course our guy Tyson Chandler who had a good showing against the Mavs earlier this season.  Then again, the Mavs can always opt to bring back The Baller, the Tunisian Tower, Salah Mejri.

Player Team Type Age 2018 Salary 2019 Option
Bismack Biyombo CHA PO 26 $17,000,000 $17,000,000
Robin Lopez CHI UFA 31 $13,503,875
Tyson Chandler PHX UFA 36 $13,000,000
Marcin Gortat LAC UFA 35 $12,000,000
Kosta Koufos SAC UFA 30 $8,219,750
Dewayne Dedmon ATL UFA 30 $7,050,000
Boban Marjanovic DET UFA 31 $7,000,000
Dwight Howard WAS UFA 33 $5,470,425
Aron Baynes BOS PO 31 $5,193,600 $5,453,280
Willie Cauley-Stein SAC UFA 25 $4,696,875
Kyle O’Quinn IND UFA 29 $4,449,000 $3,825,360
Nene Hilario HOU PO 36 $3,651,480
Ekpe Udoh UTH UFA 31 $3,280,000
Amir Johnson PHI UFA 32 $2,393,887
Zaza Pachulia DET UFA 35 $2,393,887
Greg Monroe TOR UFA 29 $2,165,481
Nerlens Noel OKC PO 24 $1,757,429 $1,988,119
Salah Mejri DAL UFA 33 $1,567,007
Ivica Zubac LAL RFA 22 $1,297,506
Khem Birch ORL RFA 27 $1,096,929
Jordan Bell GSW RFA 24 $1,096,929
Thomas Bryant WAS RFA 22 $1,096,929

As mentioned above, we don’t have any Centers under contract for next season so we are going to have to be in play on a few of these guys.  Maxi Kleber is another name to consider.  He will appear in the Power Forward article but he could easily be classified as a Center.  I think he is a player the Mavs want to bring back, depending on what he demands in restricted free agency could change the equation for the Mavericks fairly quickly.

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Free Agent Centers

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