Centers

The center is expected to do just about everything. He should be able to score in the low post and rebound well. He should also be able to pass well, finding cutters when double-teamed. The best centers are also especially good defensively, playing the opposing low post scorers, getting their hands in the passing lanes, and blocking shots.

First Class

Akeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets): No surprise in his top ranking, but he's not as great as Chamberlain, Russell, Abdul-Jabaar, or Walton were at their primes. Olajuwon is a very good defender, blocking shots and stealing passes with great frequency. A year after people were making a fuss about Michael Jordan having 200+ steals and 100+ blocks, Olajuwon got very little notice for being the first to ever have 150+ steals and 200+ blocks. Three out of Olajuwon's four years in the league, the Rockets have been among the top five defensive teams. Oddly, the one year they weren't (14th), they had their best season, going to the Finals to lose to Boston in '86. That season coincidentally was Olajuwon's best offensively, not by a significant amount, but it was recognizable. In Olajuwon's four years, his floor %'s have been, starting in '85, .530, .538, .533, and .530. The league floor %'s in those years have been .543, .538, .542, and .540, respectively. Despite being below the overall league floor % three of four years, Olajuwon's floor %'s have been higher than most centers in the league, which should tell you that centers haven't been very good scorers in recent years. But, for comparison, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar's floor %'s in those four years have been .596, .585, .560, and .532, respectively. It's taken until Abdul-Jabaar was 41 before the consensus best center in the league could match The Great Goggled One's scoring ability.

Second Class

Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks): First, it was Ewing. Then, it was Daugherty, Robinson, and Manning. Lottery prizes that winners have had to pay a fortune for. What's Ewing getting? $2 million a year? Did Daugherty top that? Robinson definitely did. Manning's price was originally announced at above $3 million. That's impossible to be kept in perspective. Can't count that high. Can't even count the zeroes after the three.

I've never once complained about athletes being overpaid, but I've also never spent twelve months at a ten dollar an hour job either. I've been a kid watching games on TV or freeloading off my parents to go to Warrior games. My hard earned money was, in most cases, hardly earned. No nine hour days with another two hours on the freeway. No $500 suits or $200 shoes. No coffee breaks in overly smoky rooms with people talking about Marty and Linda coming over for dinner tonight. No bosses to chew me out. No job stress. And very few sack lunches. I've mowed lawns, encoded land use for a small city, and done some environmental research at UCLA - all pretty cushy jobs. There were two weeks washing dishes that I'd rather forget, but the Monday to Friday, eight to five, January to December gig that 90% of working Americans put in is foreign to me. The people who do that are the ones who understandably complain about 22 year old athletes who cruised through classes and suddenly get $2 million a year to play games.

These working people, though, are, for the most part, the ones who pay that $2 million. "For three million dollars, he's got to be good," - that is what people say around L.A. when they go out and buy Manning, err, Clipper tickets now. Danny Manning is going to get his multimillion dollars because he's not only a good player, but a special interest to fans who can't comprehend how good the player is and how much money he is getting paid. These working fans could pay six bucks for a Siskel and Ebert thumbs up movie or pay ten bucks for some girls in bikinis wrestling in a mud pit, shelling out another five bucks on obligatory drinks. There are a lot of comedy clubs in L.A., too. Night clubs, movie stars' houses, amusement parks, shopping malls, and beaches are other options. People in L.A. do lots of other things besides paying $15 for basketball games. With around three million people in L.A., though, it takes less than one in one hundred to sell out a basketball game. The Clippers will sell out more than the Jordan-Clipper game this year and Manning will be the reason for that. It was a similar situation in New York when Patrick Ewing arrived. People stood in line for tickets then and they will do it now in L.A. for Danny Manning.

Ewing was the first of the baby millionaires won in a lottery. He probably sold more tickets before stepping foot in Madison Square Garden than he has since. The hype before that first lottery was disgusting with more media coverage than is given to second round playoff games. If every article written about him increased Ewing's asking price a hundred dollars per season, he'd be making another million per annum. The day of the lottery was a lot like Christmas with a stern father handing out presents one a time. Every kid was wondering who would get the big gift in the corner. Each unwrapped his present, smile with some satisfaction, not daring to cry, then waited to see who would get the bit one. Big Davey got it, tore off the wrapping paper, and found jersey #33 and a bright future.

The Knicks got slowly introduced to their gift as Ewing missed 51 games due to injury his first two seasons. It was like reading the instructions for two years before the gift was fully assembled. But Patrick Ewing is now in full working order. He's starting to make dreams become reality and he's starting to earn his paychecks.

Moses Malone (Atlanta Hawks): Atlanta picked him up in the hopes he'll do for them what he did for Philadelphia his first year there - take them easily through the season into the playoffs, where his rebounding should take them to the top. Unfortunately, though, Malone is now 33 and on the down side of his brilliant career, which peaked in that Championship season of '82-83. Malone had a career worst in rebounding per minute last year for the second year in a row. He's still a good rebounder, but he's only going to get worse in Atlanta.

Malone is still a good scorer, scoring on 53.9% of his possessions last year. He should tremendously help the low post scoring problems the Hawks had last year with Jon Koncak, Tree Rollins, and Kevin Willis. His age may be a problem here, though, too. After the '86-87 season, some people were comparing him to Larry Smith, saying that they both missed layups too much, but that they were good enough to get offensive rebounds to save the possession. The comparison was out of line for plenty of reasons, primarily because Larry Smith made layups exclusively, shooting 54% (Malone shot 45%) with most of his misses coming on shots that need more touch or arc. Malone makes enough simple shots and has the ability to make short jumpers, making him a more versatile offensive center than some. But Malone's field goal percentage has dipped a bit and he's not drawing quite as many fouls as he used to, which has been his most effective weapon throughout his career. I estimate that there is about a 50-50 chance that Malone will continue to slide offensively or that he'll have a good year next season. If it's a good year, the Hawks should be Champs.

Third Class

Brad Daugherty (Cleveland Cavaliers): 'Softy'. He's got a soft touch on his shots and passes, but also won't bang hard for rebounds and doesn't block shots.

Playing around with Daugherty's numbers: Making reasonable (and possibly conservative) estimates of Daugherty's future development, we can show that he is very likely going to be a much better offensive player than Olajuwon or Malone has been. Last year, Daugherty made 551 of 1081 shots for 51.0%. Based on his college numbers (62.0%) and rookie production (53.8%), he might be expected to shoot about 54% in the NBA (projecting to 584 field goals made if 1081 field goals attempted is held constant). Daugherty made 378 of 528 free throws last season for 71.6%. Estimating free throw percentages is difficult beyond a certain degree of accuracy. A player who enters the league shooting 70% from the line probably won't ever shoot 85% from there, but will likely shoot better throughout his career, improving as he ages. Whether he'll shoot 71% or 78% is anybody's guess. If Daugherty shoots 71.6% the rest of his career, it would be a reasonable assumption, so we won't fool with it other than to say that shooting 78% would make only a small difference in his floor %, raising it by about .010. Daugherty is a good passer, as Abdul-Jabaar has been, passing for 333 assists last year. Whether he'll improve is unknown, but in a best season, he may have over 400. Using 333 is as good an average as we can get, though, so that will be used. Daugherty still commits quite a few turnovers, 267 last year. Turnovers, though are certain to go down with experience. Conservatively, he'll commit 250 turnovers in an average season. (This turnover estimate is based on a decrease of turnovers as a percentage of possessions. If he takes a more active role in the offense, he'll commit more turnovers, but his field goals, free throws, and assists will go up as well. I've held those at constant levels here to just get a floor % and lowered turnovers to a lower percentage of his current possessions level.)

 FG  FGA   FG%  FT FTA  FT% AST  TO  PTS PPG
 584 1081 .540 378 528 .716 333 250 1546 19.3

Scoring possessions= 774
Total possessions= 1396

Putting the above base stats into the floor % formulas, using Cleveland's team '87-88 team numbers, Daugherty ends up with 774 scoring possessions in 1396 total possessions, for a floor % of .554, better than Olajuwon's best of .538 and essentially the same as Malone's best of .555. This .554 figure represents an estimate of Daugherty's average floor % for his career and is quite impressive. In his best year, Daugherty's floor % will probably be up around 59 or 60 percent and he'll be scoring more than 20 ppg with his 17 possessions per game. Reasonably, he'll be using more possessions as he improves so he may actually look more impressive. Within three years, Daugherty should be the best scoring center in the NBA unless David Robinson picks the game up in a hurry.

James Donaldson (Dallas Mavericks): Some broadcaster said that he was a good offensive center, one of the best in the league. With a career scoring average below ten points per game, Donaldson certainly bring thoughts of Abdul-Jabaar or even Bill Laimbeer to mind. In my never-ending pursuit of truth in broadcasting, I had to check out the claim.

Donaldson is, in fact, a pretty good offensive player. His career field goal percentage is almost 59%, which says a lot in itself. His floor %'s have been very good, too, averaging about .560 with a high of .617 in his first year in Dallas. That '87 season in Dallas was far and away his best, scoring over ten points a game as efficiently as anyone in the league. The problem with Donaldson's offense is that it's not very active. He shoots rarely and plays very conservatively. On a team with several other scorers, he's very valuable, but teams that need a good deal of efficient offense can't afford to have him.

In other areas, Donaldson is also pretty good. His rebounding doesn't compare to his teammate Tarpley's, but no one's does. He led all centers in rebounds per game in '87 and could do it again if Tarpley weren't around. He's not an especially potent shot blocker, which is surprising from someone 7'2", but he's not completely flat footed and ranks about average among current centers.

If Tarpley improves as much as he can, Donaldson may be shipped off to his fourth team. Dallas got him for Kurt Nimphius, but could get a lot more for him now.

Mike Gminski (Philadelphia 76ers): He's almost never been on television because he's played with the Nets almost all of his career, but my vague memory of him is that he's a Bill Laimbeer type of player - a jump shooter who can't jump to block shots, but who is tall enough to pull down lots of defensive rebounds and who also shoots very well from the free throw line. Both players entered the league in the '80-81 season, though Laimbeer is actually two years older at 31 because he played some in Italy. Both players are also listed at 6'11" and 260 lbs.

The biggest and most important difference between the two players is in their field goal percentages. Laimbeer's shooting is an asset (50.3% lifetime) while Gminski's is a liability (46.9%). Another important difference is in free throws. Gminski makes up a little ground on Laimbeer that he loses in FG% by going to the line more often and shooting well from there. Laimbeer is the better rebounder, especially on the defensive end, but doesn't block as many shots and commits lots more fouls.

The overall similarity between the two players may not be as high as I originally thought, but it is situations like this that bring up the idea of a method to objectively (numerically) measure similarities between players. Bill James has devised a method for doing this with baseball players and it's a future project of mine to devise a similar one.

Bill Laimbeer (Detroit Pistons): Piston fans insist Laimbeer has never started a fight in his career, always suffering the first blow then retaliating. The mauling of Larry Bird in the '87 playoffs was an 'accident'. Robert Parish decked him in a later game and wasn't even called for a foul, they complain. The Piston fans like Laimbeer's bad boy image, but they claim it's hardly deserved.

The center position would never have gotten its name if Laimbeer had been the first. He's never the center of the offense, launching more perimeter jump shots than any sort of low post shot. Defensively, he does guard the opposition's biggest player, but he rarely blocks shots or scares little guys out of the middle. Though his style is very different than the traditional center, he has been very successful. That success plus his impact on Detroit's winning make him much more valuable than almost any other big man without low post moves (i.e. Mark Eaton, Manute Bol, Alton Lister).

Robert Parish (Boston Celtics): It looked like he was done for the day when he injured his ankle against the Pistons in Game Six of their playoff series. He later came back for a minute, then left again. His hopes of playing again in that series were gone. The Celtics hopes of winning that series disappeared at the same time.

He's been a key member of the Celtics for as long as he's been with them. When he arrived for the '80-81 season, he pushed Larry Bird and the rest of the team over the top to their first Championship of the '80's. In the '87 season, the Celtics were 0-2 without him, 4-1 without McHale, and 5-3 without Larry Bird. In '88, Parish missed eight games, of which I could only find four. The Celtics went 3-1 in those games, but the three wins were against league losers New Jersey, San Antonio, and Phoenix, all three coming by one point. He was called 'the most important member of the Celtics' by Basketball Digest's Mike Weber last year because of the Celtics' losing record in the games in which he didn't play. That's a strong statement considering the other players on his team; a statement that, if true, means there are many problems in all current methods of evaluating players. Perhaps the Celtics have difficulty replacing Parish on a single game basis, but it is very hard to swallow that a Celtic team without Parish would be worse over the course of a season than a Celtic team without Bird.

Danny Schayes (Denver Nuggets): No press on this guy. Hardly know he's around. He just snuck up on the rest of the NBA about two years ago; he was under a rock before that.

Schayes is the most efficient scoring center in the NBA now. His .588 floor % is fine for any position, but at center, it's way out in front of everyone else. This isn't the first year he's scored so well, so it's probably not a fluke. In '87, his floor % was .571, second best among centers. Schayes' scoring hasn't gotten much attention because he's done a lot of it from the free throw line. Moses Malone scores that way, but got so much attention from being an incredible rebounder that he was never unnoticed. Schayes never rebounded too well before last year and was previously noticed as Dolph Schayes' son more than as Danny Schayes the center.

Schayes had 361 field goals last year and 407 free throws, making him one of only four regulars to score more free throws than field goals. Players who make their living getting fouled would seemingly get hurt more often than other players, but it doesn't appear to be the case. Moses Malone and Adrian Dantley have been around for over ten years apiece and haven't been injured more than a normal player. There's more to check on this issue, but it's probably a good bet that Schayes stays fairly healthy through the length of his new good-paying contract.

Schayes is only an average defensive center because he blocks only an average number of shots. Centers who play on championship teams are generally better than average defensively, indicating that Schayes' value may not be this high. On the other hand, the Detroit Pistons got to Game 7 against the Lakers with an average defensive center in Bill Laimbeer. The Pistons, though, had great defensive big men coming off the bench; the Nuggets don't have that.

Fourth Class

Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (Los Angeles Lakers): He's been written off almost every season for the past six for being too old. Finally, it can be done with some basis. Kareem says he's retiring at the end of the '88-89 season and the stats, for the first time, say he should. Starting in '79-80, his floor %'s to present have been .589, .588, .578, .589, .568, .596, .585, .560, and .532. Last year was the first year he ever had problems scoring and they were pretty obvious as he tried in vain to keep his streak of double figure games alive. He still scores better than about two-thirds of all the NBA centers and still explodes for good scoring nights as he did in Game Five of the Finals. And he is still a winner as he showed with his clutch free throws in Game Six of the Finals.

Who is going to replace him? Mychal Thompson and Mike Smrek are the present candidates. Neither scores as well as Kareem. Thompson is a better rebounder than Kareem (Smrek isn't), but doesn't match up with other NBA centers in rebounding. Thompson is about Kareem's equal in blocking shots, which means he's about average. Smrek loves to block shots, blocking them at the same rate as Pat Ewing, but Smrek also picks up a foul every four minutes, which is worse than Darryl Dawkins ever did. Neither Thompson nor Smrek appear to be a solution to the center problem facing L.A. The Lakers are going to have to either restructure the offense (and pray) or get a young center in the draft (and pray real hard).

Randy Breuer (Milwaukee Bucks): Breuer may be better than his stats indicate, especially defensively. It was against the Bucks and Breuer that Abdul-Jabaar first flirted with losing his consecutive double figure scoring streak last season. It was also against the Bucks and Breuer that the streak fell. The Bucks were also the only team in the NBA that the Lakers didn't beat.

Breuer's individual stats place him about or below average among centers in everything. With his 7'3" stature, he should be a good shot blocker, but he's only average. If he doesn't block shots, he should be a good rebounder, but he's slightly below average. If he doesn't bang for the boards or block shots, he should score like Brad Daugherty, but he's average in most of the scoring categories.

The Bucks drafted Tito Horford this year in the second round, hoping that he'll be much better than average. He's a head case with natural talent like Chris Washburn, but the NBA teams have learned that natural talent doesn't survive on its own in the pros, which kept Horford available for so long. If Horford settles down to listen and learn, they say he's got the ability to be a great one.

Kevin Duckworth (Portland Trail Blazers): Most Improved Player. I think it was Dave DuPree who didn't even mention Duckworth as a candidate for MIP in his article for Hoop magazine, remembering Duckworth's teammate Jerome Kersey, but seemingly just overlooking Duckworth.

Duckworth's offense is what looks so promising. His floor % of .523 is impressive for a second year center out of a small-time school. He scored 15.8 ppg, shooting 49.6% from the field and doing well from the free throw line.

Duckworth isn't much of a shot blocker, which hurts his value on the Blazers because they could really use one, finishing 21st in the league in blocks. He's not a strong force on the boards either, though he's been known to occasionally dominate them. In college, he wasn't much of a rebounder, so he probably never will be one in the pros. Fortunately for Duckworth, many of his teammates are very versatile and pitch in where Duckworth is weak. Steve Johnson also makes a decent backup.

But who really cares about Duckworth? We want to see the Russian, Arvidas Sabonis, play. If he understood English better, he might start right away next year, but he'll probably have to struggle through training camp and the early season before he picks up the Blazers' system. It's fun to guess at how Sabonis will do against the rest of the NBA and it's strange to hope that he'll do well. Previous experiments with foreign players have failed miserably, but Sabonis appears to be different. Hopefully, CBS will show a couple Portland games next season so that we can see him play, bad or good, as he may be.

Mark Eaton (Utah Jazz): Pitiful offensively, but the most important part of Frank Layden's amazing defense. He gave Abdul-Jabaar fits in their playoff series and is probably the most feared NBA player around Southern California. At the end of the Finals, people were still saying that they'd rather have the Lakers face the Pistons again than meet Stockton and 'that monster Mark Eaton'.

He'll be among the top four shot blockers of all time (actually, only since '73, when blocked shots were first officially recorded) by the end of the first week of next season and may finish his career as the leader if Abdul-Jabaar really does retire at the end of next season. His blocks have been decreasing, though, from a high of 8.64 per 48 minutes in his rookie year of '82-83 to 5.34 per 48 minutes last year. Defensive skills, because they require more energy than offensive skills, tend to decline faster and that is what Eaton is beginning to suffer from. If he continues to lose his blocks at his current pace, he'll be pretty much useless in two or three years...

Which makes it a good thing that the Jazz reacquired Jose Ortiz from Spain and drafted Eric Leckner with their first pick. Neither can rebound very well, but both can apparently score well. Another scorer in the lineup will definitely help the Jazz, but that would mean losing Eaton's defense. Either Ortiz or Leckner had better be pretty good both offensively and defensively or Utah is not going to get a title, even with Stockton and Malone doing so well.

Steve Stipanovich (Indiana Pacers): In 1983, the 14-68 Houston Rockets ended up with the first and third picks in the draft, which turned out to be Ralph Sampson and Rodney McCray, a center who became a forward and a small forward. The second pick in the draft was Indiana's and the Pacers took seven footer Steve Stipanovich, who wasn't a great rebounder but a good offensive player in college. In 1988, the 17-65 Los Angeles Clippers ended up with the first and third picks in the draft, which were Danny Manning and Charles Smith, a center who may become a forward and a small forward. The second pick was Indiana's and the Pacers took seven footer Rik Smits, who wasn't a strong rebounder but a good offensive player in college. If no one has started a book on strange coincidences, this is a good time to start one... Wouldn't it be funny if Smits turns out as unspecial as Stipanovich?

Fifth Class

Greg Anderson (San Antonio Spurs): 'Cadillac' should be a power forward, but didn't do terribly filling in at center until David Robinson jumps ship with the Navy. He probably should have been chosen over Armon Gilliam on the All-Rookie Teams. He shot better, rebounded better, and blocked more shots. Anderson seemed to contribute more to the Spurs than Gilliam did to the Suns.

Once Robinson joins the team, Anderson should be the starting power forward, Alvin Robertson should be the shooting guard, Willie Anderson may be the point guard, and Petur Gudmundsson may be another forward. Maybe the team should then change its name to the San Antonio -Sons.

Benoit Benjamin (Los Angeles Clippers): The best thing Gene Shue did for the Clippers was to say that he didn't expect anything from Benjamin. If Benjamin didn't earn his job, he wasn't going to play. He wasn't going to get any preferential treatment because he was a seven foot center who was drafted third behind only Pat Ewing and Wayman Tisdale in '85. Don't count on him and he won't disappoint. It worked. No one expected much from him, making what he did do (block shots well and set a PR for assists) seem like cake.

Ken Norman had a very good summer league season, which prompted The Sporting News to say, "With Danny Manning and Charles Smith joining him, the Clippers will have one of the quickest front lines in the league." There was no mention at all of Benjamin. TSN apparently expects a front line of Norman, Manning, and Smith, indicating that they don't expect anything from Benjamin again next year. He isn't so irritating when he's forgotten...Did someone say Bring on Greg Kite?

Dave Corzine (Chicago Bulls): How many is this now? Eight? Notice that the last several centers have very precarious holds on their starting spots. Abdul-Jabaar has his because of his reputation and because he's promised to retire in a year. The Lakers are looking for a replacement for him now. Breuer is developing into a steady center, but the Bucks drafted a talented center in Tito Horford in hopes that he'll unseat Breuer. Duckworth was Most Improved last year, but Arvidas Sabonis may turn out to be Superman and replace him. Eaton's age is affecting his only asset and the Jazz took precautionary measures by acquiring Ortiz and Leckner. Stipanovich may lose his spot to the number two pick in the draft, Smits. Anderson has the San Antonio center position only until Robinson arrives. Benjamin wasn't even mentioned by TSN as a starter for the Clippers after Los Angeles drafted Manning. Now, Corzine's spot is hardly a sure one with Chicago drafting Will Perdue on the first round. For next season, neither Corzine nor Perdue should be expected to produce much. Which one gets the starting spot may come down to whoever can pass to Michael Jordan the best.

Joe Kleine (Sacramento Kings): It's debatable whether Kleine really deserves to be starting over LaSalle Thompson and Jawaan Oldham. Floor %: .508, .474, and .462, respectively. Points per game: 9.8, 8.0, and 5.5. Rebounds per 48 minutes: 13.9, 16.3, and 15.4. Blocks per 48 minutes: 1.42, 2.79, and 5.58. Each player has weaknesses and strengths different from each of the others. If they were a starting rotation of baseball pitchers, one would be a fastball pitcher, another a knuckle-ball pitcher, and the other a curveball pitcher, eternally frustrating opposing hitters. Bill Russell said, "They're so different it's hard to believe they play the same position."

The Kings need help both offensively and defensively, which doesn't make the center choice any easier. Defensively, the Kings were third to last, indicating that Oldham's blocks would be very valuable. His poor offense would probably keep the ball out of his hands and in the hands of Kenny Smith, Otis Thorpe, or one of the unproven Kings. Only Thorpe is a proven scorer, so Oldham's presence would likely kill an already hurting offense. Thompson would be a modest improvement, adding some rebounds and scoring while losing some on the blocks. He's also four years younger than Oldham. Kleine was an Olympian, is younger than both Thompson and Oldham, and is a back-to-the-basket scorer who appears to be the most promising of the three if the whole Sacramento team were better. If some of the young guards can improve the defense of the Kings, Kleine should turn out to be an OK center. If the defense stays bad, Kleine's not really helping the team and may lose his job, especially to Oldham.

Alton Lister (Seattle SuperSonics): The disappointment he was for the Sonics last year after a surprisingly good first year with them keeps him at a low rating. In a lot of ways, Lister's two seasons in Seattle have been very similar. He's shot 50.4% both seasons, has been around 49% in his floor % and averaged about 3.7 blocks per 48 minutes. He actually improved his rebounding in '87-88, but instead of scoring 11.6 ppg, he scored only 5.6 ppg in '88. Instead of shooting a weak 67.5% from the line, he shot a Rodmanish 60.6%. Instead of being a solid rebounding and shot blocking center who complimented the offense with some decent scoring output, Lister became an overpaid moderately valuable starter. Coming off the bench, Lister would be valuable like a Mychal Thompson, Jim Petersen or John Salley.

Ralph Sampson (Golden State): Sampson has never been ranked so low in his life, but he deserves it now. He hasn't played well since '86 and played badly enough last year to appear as though he should retire. He shot 43.8% with a floor % of only .448. About the only redeeming feature of his season was a career high in free throw percentage of 76.0% (his previous best was 67.6%). Don Nelson may eventually make him a star in the league, but Sampson has to settle down, do what he's told, and want to win...Manute Bol was an interesting addition to the team, giving the Warriors Twin Towers like no one has ever seen. At the very least, the defense should improve tremendously next season because it won't be last in blocked shots as it was last year. If Bol can make it out of Washington before getting pulled over for drunk driving again, he should become a somewhat respectable citizen of the Golden State.

Sixth Class

Tim McCormick (New Jersey Nets): He isn't a bad scorer; in fact, he's a better scorer than most of the fifth class centers and better than a couple fourth class centers. What makes him so bad is his defense and rebounding. He very rarely blocks shots and rebounds only marginally better than some guards. In today's game, centers don't have to do either as well as they used to, but McCormick isn't even close. In New Jersey, McCormick has Buck Williams helping him out with the rebounding chores and Roy Hinson blocking shots, so McCormick's weaknesses may not hurt as much as they could. Unless he scores more next year, though, he is basically dead weight.

Mark West (Phoenix Suns): He shot 55.1% last year and blocked 3.36 shots per 48 minutes indicating that he has potential. He committed a high number of turnovers and missed a lot of free throws, though. His talents and weaknesses would suggest a young player, but West is 28 years old, bringing up doubts about whether he can get any better. There is no one in Phoenix to replace him as Alvan Adams is on his last legs and the Suns didn't draft anyone who fits the mold of an NBA center. Dean Garrett (when healed), Tim Perry, Armon Gilliam, Eddie Johnson, and Tom Chambers form a deep and potentially very good forward group, meaning the Suns may use a lot of three forward lineups.

Others

Charlotte Hornets: Dave Hoppen? I don't know who it could be. With all the guards the Hornets have taken, they apparently don't care who it will be.

Miami Heat: Maybe Rony Seikaly should start each game at both power forward and center. If that fails, Scott Hastings, John Stroeder, or Hansi Gnad will draw straws.

Washington Bullets: I have no clue whatsoever to who will start at center in Washington. They traded Manute Bol and said it was time to go on without Moses Malone, leaving them with their tallest players being John Williams and draftee Harvey Grant, who are both 6'9"...When the Sixers got rid of Malone in '86, they dropped from 54 wins to 45. When the Rockets got rid of Malone in '82, they fell from 46 wins to 14. The Good Old Pull a Number Out of the Hat Method of predicting a team's record came out with 43-39 for the Bullets, but that was before Malone was set free. I just tried it again and came out with a 29-53 season.

                  Per 48 minutes    -----  Scoring ----
Player  	AST  REB  BLK  STL  FG%  PPG Poss. Fl% 
A. Olajuwon 	2.8 16.3 3.64 2.75 .514 22.8 824 .530   

P. Ewing 	2.4 12.7 4.62 1.96 .555 20.2 734 .527
M. Malone 	2.0 15.8 1.28 1.05 .487 20.3 739 .539   

B. Daugherty 	5.4 10.8 0.91 0.78 .510 18.7 748 .530
J. Donaldson 	1.3 14.4 1.98 0.76 .543  7.0 265 .543
M. Gminski 	2.3 13.2 1.91 1.04 .448 16.9 631 .522
B. Laimbeer 	3.3 13.8 1.29 1.09 .493 13.5 530 .546
R. Parish 	2.4 13.0 1.74 1.14 .589 14.3 465 .548
D. Schayes 	2.3 14.7 2.04 1.37 .540 13.9 525 .588   

Abdul-Jabaar 	2.8  9.9 1.91 1.00 .532 14.6 520 .532
R. Breuer 	2.2 11.7 2.27 0.98 .495 12.0 431 .515
Duckworth 	1.4 12.4 0.69 0.67 .496 15.8 537 .523
M. Eaton 	1.0 12.6 5.34 0.72 .418  7.0 249 .402
Stipanovich 	3.3 11.8 1.23 1.60 .496 13.5 524 .537   

G. Anderson 	1.9 12.4 2.95 1.31 .501 11.7 421 .491
B. Benjamin 	3.8 11.7 4.97 1.11 .491 13.0 425 .456
D. Corzine 	3.2 10.9 1.96 0.74 .481 10.1 383 .514
J. Kleine 	2.2 13.9 1.42 0.67 .472  9.8 364 .508
A. Lister 	1.5 16.6 3.71 0.72 .504  5.6 214 .491
R. Sampson 	3.5 13.3 2.54 1.18 .438 15.6 360 .448   

McCormick 	2.7 10.6 0.52 0.73 .537 12.0 396 .543
M. West 	1.7 12.0 3.36 1.08 .551  9.7 356 .481

Basketball Hoopla, 1988, L. Dean Oliver