An NBA center is an integral position on the team. They're the last line of defense and have the best opportunity to create fast breaks and easy baskets. Offensively, they usually have the best shooting percentage and can get quick points with minimal effort. A high-level center can often be the difference between a playoff team and a team with an early vacation. Although there are tons of great centers such as DeMarcus Cousins, Andrew Drummond, and Anthony Davis, there are all sorts of poor centers who can't put one foot in front of the other.
It's amazing that these players have found places where they can get 25 minutes per game. They often turn the ball over too much or can't even corral an entry pass in the first place. There's a multitude of ways that a center can perform poorly and this list is going to show all of them. If your team's starting center is on this list, you should probably hope that the front office is looking for a replacement. In this article, if a player was good before 2010, but declined drastically, they're eligible for this list. So, let's look at the NBA's 15 worst starting centers since 2010.
15 Anderson Varejao
Anderson Varejao is like the B+ version of Joakim Noah. Both players are great antagonizers and constantly do all the dirty work that other players won't. However, Varejao simply isn't a good basketball player and one of Tthe main reasons is that he flops entirely too often. I don't like seeing flopping in any sport, by any player. If my favorite player does it, then I want them penalized. Varejao is one of the premier floppers in the NBA and seems to try it on every possession. It's sad, it looks dumb, and it's an insult to the integrity of basketball. Varejao doesn't realize that if he flops and doesn't get a call, then the player he was defending gets a wide open shot! So it's a double whammy.
At least if he set his feet and tried to contest a shot, there's a chance that he could alter it. He's a great rebounder, but he's going to be remembered more for throwing his body around every which way than his hustle plays.
14 Tyler Zeller
The Tyler Zeller experiment didn't end up working in Cleveland and it doesn't look to be doing much better in Boston. Surprisingly, his Per 36 Minutes stats are pretty good. However, he would average five fouls in each contest and come pretty close to fouling out every game. It seems that the biggest problem with Zeller is that he's inconsistent. In one game he'll look like a guy who can average 18 points and nine rebounds per game, but the next game he'll look like a guy who can only average four points and two rebounds per game. At the NBA level, that kind of play is unacceptable, and will lead to less playing time. It'll put a bad taste in the coach's mouth and it won't endear Zeller to Celtics fans. This upcoming season is crucial in Zeller's development. He might get some more starts if the Celtics decide to play Al Horford at power forward, but this might truly be the year that Zeller ends up riding the bench.
13 Cody Zeller
Here comes the other half of this subpar duo of brotherly love! It's Cody Zeller! Strictly speaking about statistics, Cody Zeller's numbers don't quite measure up to his big brother's. Perhaps that's because Cody is better defensively. It's also likely because Charlotte had some better scoring options in the past few years and Cody doesn't have to be relied on to put the ball in the basket. Regardless, he deserves a place on this list. Doing his best to imitate his big brother, Cody averages a solid four fouls per 36 minutes that he's on the court. That's not an awful number, but it did increase from the year before. Zeller is likely to get more time on the court next season and this is something he needs to work on. His coaches aren't going to be happy if he's got three fouls by halftime or five by the beginning of the third quarter. He's going to need to bulk up a little bit in order to deal with some of the larger centers he's matched up against too.
12 Larry Sanders
Walking away from the NBA might have been the best decision of Larry Sanders' life. He was battling drug addiction and had many different run-ins with the front office. He got hurt in a club fight as well and it seemed as though his mind was anywhere but on the court. With the gift of hindsight, all of these off-court problems likely contributed to the fact that Sanders wasn't a very good basketball player with the Bucks. He averaged 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in his five seasons, and was finally showing some potential before leaving the league. However, this potential doesn't discount from the fact that Sanders was the 15th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. A pick at that spot usually contributes a little bit more than Sanders did over his short career. Sanders also never played a full season in the NBA and actually never played in more than 71 games. All of his seasons were impacted by suspensions and other matters. Since he's walked away from the league, Sanders has release a rap video and probably won't come back.
11 Spencer Hawes
He has transitioned to a power forward role the last two seasons, but for the early part of this decade, Hawes was a starting center for the Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers. Man those fans must have been happy to see him become somebody else's problem. After staying inside the arc for most of his first six seasons, Hawes decided in 2013/14 that his job offensively was to fire as many threes at the basket as possible. Surprisingly, he made 41% of them, which is solid. But, on the 59% that he missed, there was nobody else in the paint that could rebound the ball. On the defensive end, he's flat-footed and, for a guy who's over seven feet tall, doesn't protect the rim and block shots well. He also only averages 5.9 rebounds per game. This is likely because he's hightailing it down the court in order to spot up and chuck a random three pointer. In recent years, his shooting has decreased, which means the bench is in his future.
10 Miles Plumlee
Here's an entry that falls into the "gets paid way too much" category. Plumlee signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this month and I just about spat out my deer jerky when I saw that. How in the world can teams see that he's not a good player! He could be a decent guy off the bench, but that's not the case in Milwaukee. He'll likely get a bunch of minutes and do absolutely nothing with them. Like many centers, he's a terrible free throw shooter. His career free throw percentage of 55% is going to show when the Bucks lose 17 games by five points or less. So far in his career, he hasn't really done anything to show that he's worth $12.5 million per year. Miles Plumlee is the exact definition of a backup center getting paid starter's money. This is going to be a very important year for him. He's going to have to prove his worth and if he turns in another subpar season, Bucks fans are going to be calling for him to get out of town.
9 Tiago Splitter
For a guy who measures in at just under seven feet and weighs 245 pounds, Tiago Splitter gets bullied around way too much in the post. It doesn't matter if it's at the offensive or defensive end. He'll get blocked attempting layups and isn't a great rebounder at the other end of the court. If you're the biggest guy on the court, you'd better be good at grabbing the ball! It's an essential skill to have. Splitter doesn't have to be leading the league in rebounds, but some improvement would be nice. He averages just over five per game for his career. That's kinda sad for such a big body.
Admittedly, he's quite creative on the offensive end with his passing and general basketball IQ, but that's not enough for him to consistently get a lot of minutes. At this point in his career, it's unlikely that he's going to have some random resurgence and pack on 15 pounds of muscle. What Atlanta sees is what Atlanta gets.
8 Samuel Dalembert
Yet another entry on this list that falls into the "he's not a starter, but he'd be great off the bench" category. Samuel Dalembert had a long career in the NBA and some of it was surprisingly good, but the tail end of it was just rough. He was a starter all the way up to when he left the NBA after the 2014-2015 season. I definitely agree that he deserved to be a starter in the prime of his career (2006-2010), but, after that, he started getting hurt and his play declined as well as his health. However, Dalembert kept starting the majority of games and he simply wasn't the same person. He might have been more productive if he limited his starts and his minutes, but he consistently was playing around 20 minutes per game in the twilight of his career.
On top of that, Dalembert goaltended a lot. It seemed that he was good for one every game. He didn't have good offensive skills and was mostly just a big body who could collect putbacks.
7 Gorgui Dieng
Gorgui Dieng needs to put on some muscle. He's only 241 pounds, which is fine for a power forward, but a little too small for a center. However, he's too slow moving his feet to be a good defensive power forward. So, he's suck in a conundrum. This is a shame because Dieng isn't that bad of a player. His per 36 stats actually aren't bad offensively. He's an excellent free throw shooter for his size as well, which is definitely the exception. However, he's just not very good defensively. This all goes back to his size. He's not big enough to battle in the paint with other bruising centers. He gets bullied around and although he blocks a good amount of shots, that's not enough and doesn't make up for his shortcomings. Like many other players on this list, Dieng would probably be best as the first big man off the bench. He could be used for mismatches and can play at 110% for 16 minutes rather than getting abused for 25 minutes.
6 Bismack Biyombo
Oh my goodness, I can't believe that Biyombo is still getting starts for teams. He's still pulling in over 20 minutes per game. Obviously that's because he's an excellent rim protector and gobbles up rebounds like they're jelly beans. All of that is very good. Teams need at least one guy who can make opponents scared to drive the lane. For as strong as his rebounding and blocking are, his offensive game is the exact opposite. His hands are some sort of combination of a brick and a Butterfinger candy bar. Sure, he's improved offensively, but when you're the seventh overall pick in the draft, you're supposed to at least be acceptable. Biyombo doesn't need to go out and start putting up 15 points per game, but some sort of output would probably make his teams a little happier. He became a fan favorite in Toronto during last season's playoffs for his heart, but we're certain that Raptors fans will be a lot happier with Jonas Valanciunas patrolling the court next year.
He just got signed to the Orlando Magic for this upcoming season, but is he worth $17-18 million per year? I doubt it, but we'll find out.
5 Omer Asik
Let's get down to the bottom of why Omer Asik is on this list. He has one of the worst contracts in the NBA. He made $9.2 million this past season and is scheduled to average $11 million over the next four years. Absolutely incredible. I remember when he was with the Chicago Bulls and wanted some astronomical increase in salary from $1.8 million to something like $8 million and their front office said no. Of course, Houston's front office said yes, and then New Orleans' front office said yes and gave him some more money! All that cash for 4.0 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game in 2015/16. Don't let Asik's excellent 53.1% shooting percentage fool you. He only averages 2.1 made field goals per game. It's likely that one or both of those is a dunk because Asik's offensive game is horrendous. If he manages to corral the entry pass, he's likely to flail around and throw the ball off the backboard because he has no control of his body. What a waste of all that money.
4 Timofey Mozgov
Speaking of incredible contracts, Timofey Mozgov's takes the cake. He's scheduled to make an average of $16 million over the next four years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Let's keep in mind that Mozgov hasn't proven a thing and that the signing is a gigantic gamble. Mozgov hasn't averaged over ten points per game for a season in his career yet. He also isn't much of a shot blocker or a defender. Essentially, he's a fourth scoring option disguised as a second scoring option. Last year was his worst since beginning his career, but he got paid like a starter? He should probably be coming off the bench for a team like the Lakers, but he'll likely end up playing the most minutes of his career. Mozgov is slow and physical, which doesn't compute with the core of the Lakers. Unless he's in the process of losing 20 pounds this offseason, Mozgov isn't going to be able to keep up. Good luck to the Lakers, but this is going to be a problem.
3 Andris Biedrins
Andris Biedrins had plenty of chances and was given so much time to improve, but he never made it to the levels that he should have. He gained and gained confidence up to the 2009 season before falling dramatically once the 2009-2010 season began. It's almost like he forgot what made him so successful the previous season. Due to that, his confidence crashed and he was never the same player. He was one of the worst free throw shooters in history as well. On top of that, he also used to rack up fouls, which would mess with his confidence even more, causing his game to decline. He also said that he wanted to retire by age 30, which likely caused him to stop pushing himself to get better in practice. That's an awful attitude to have in a team sport. It seemed like a multitude of reasons kept Biedrins from excelling in the NBA, but this entry can get boiled down to his lack of belief in himself.
2 Zaza Pachulia
Zaza Pachulia is one of the veterans on this list, which isn't a good thing. Generally, the worst centers are young players who haven't had enough time to develop or are stuck in the wrong system. This isn't the case with Pachulia. He's been in the league since 2005. He's been playing some mediocre basketball for a decade now and has racked up a ton of money for doing so. It's honestly amazing that he's been a starting center on a lot of teams. Last year in Dallas, he started 69 games and had a completely unremarkable season. He's not effective on the offensive end, due to him struggling with entry passes. This means that teams can't run the pick and roll with him, and Pachulia doesn't have much of a post-up game. So, what's the point of having him on the court for long periods of time? He's one of the worst rim protectors in the NBA and isn't very athletic. His basketball IQ isn't enough to save him from this list.
1 Kendrick Perkins
Thankfully Kendrick Perkins isn't getting starters minutes on any team. He used to though and that boggles my mind. His post-up game is nonexistent, but that didn't stop him from trying. Whether he was moving so slowly that he would be called for a three-second violation or throwing up some hail mary hook shot, Perkins was always entertaining to watch. However, if you were a fan of the team he was on, there was probably a lot of screaming and cursing instead. Perkins is a big body, which is great for defending centers who want to post up. But, he's too slow to get out and stop centers who want to shoot from farther than 10 feet away. Since there are tons of guys who can shoot mid-range jumpers very well, it's strange that Perkins used to get 26 minutes per game. Many people say that stats don't tell the whole story and, while that is true, there aren't many fans who would choose to have Kendrick Perkins as a starter on their teams, especially since he's slowed down since 2010.