Today’s NBA center looks a lot different than he did 20 years ago. Dexterity, athleticism, shooting and even ball-handling are often required. Can you switch onto wings and guards? Can you score facing up rather than with your back to the basket? Are you a threat from 3-point territory? These are the terms that dictate the modern five today. Here are Yahoo Sports’ top 10 free-agent centers:
1. DeMarcus Cousins
Before tearing his Achilles, there was no question that the Pelicans were going to offer Cousins, who averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists, a five-year maximum contract. But Anthony Davis played like an MVP without him and then New Orleans swept Portland in the first-round of the Western Conference playoffs. Cousins is a phenomenal player, but he’s limited defensively, doesn’t protect the rim, can’t play fast and is recovering from a serious injury. That’s not to say he shouldn’t get big-time dollars — because he will — but it may not be from New Orleans. The Pels could either let him walk, give him a two-year deal or perhaps orchestrate a sign-and-trade.
Fits with: Pelicans, Mavericks, Lakers
2. Clint Capela (restricted)
Capela was fantastic for the Rockets in the playoffs, highlighting his rare defensive versatility, shot-blocking and gazelle-like rim-running capacity. The native of Switzerland still has enormous potential given his rare size, length, coordination and overall athletic ability. He will be one of the most coveted free agents on the market. Capela’s 65.2 percent shooting — almost entirely in the paint — led the league.
Fits with: Rockets, Mavericks, Lakers, Suns
3. DeAndre Jordan
Jordan — who has a $24.1 million player option with the Los Angeles Clippers — may have had his lowest block rate, but he’s still a valuable rim protector and powerful finisher who ranked second in the NBA (behind Andre Drummond) with 15.2 rebounds per game. Jordan, a two-time All-Defensive First Team selection, remains a valuable roll man, finishing in the 84th percentile for points per rolling possession, down from 99.1 the previous year but still very good.
Fits with: Clippers, Mavericks, Lakers
4. Jusuf Nurkic (restricted)
Nurkic is a solid five, a physical presence who allowed the Portland Trail Blazers to invert the floor a little bit because of his extended shooting range and adequate passing ability. “Nurk” is a very good rebounder as well, collecting nine per game last season. If he can become a more consistent performer, Nurkic has the tools to become one of the better centers in the NBA.
Fits with: Trail Blazers, Kings, Wizards, Pelicans
5. Brook Lopez
Lopez remains one of the more skilled — if not physically imposing — centers in the league. He can shoot (34.5 percent from 3-point range) and pass, while also providing a shot-blocking lift. However, 41 percent of his field-goal attempts came from 3-point land last year, which will be too high for certain roster constructions. The Lakers hold his Bird Rights, which means they can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him.
Fits with: Lakers, Nets, Hawks, Bulls, Spurs
6. Greg Monroe
Monroe is a non-shooter, but he’s still an effective scorer, passer and rebounder despite lacking explosiveness and quick-twitch leaping ability. His per-36 averages are still very good — 19.2 points, 12 rebounds and 4.3 assists — yet he’s started just 14 games the past two seasons. The former Georgetown standout can still provide a lift in a backup role.
Fits with: Celtics, Pelicans, Thunder, Cavs, Grizzlies, Spurs
7. Kyle O’Quinn
A valuable reserve who grinds defensively and has improved his range as a respectable pick-and-pop guy to 18 feet, O’Quinn can easily give 12-15 quality minutes a night. He shot a career-best 58.2 percent for the Knicks last year.
Fits with: Knicks, Suns, Wizards, Bulls
8. Amir Johnson
Johnson is a crafty veteran who can still play a little. A physical rebounder and defender, he is a valuable reserve for a contender or a young team in need of a vet.
Fits with: 76ers, Bulls, Nets, Hawks, Raptors
9. Aron Baynes
Baynes morphed into a knockdown 3-point shooter during the playoffs, which would add considerable value should he continue that trend. A physical center who guards the post well, the Aussie’s limited dexterity and lateral quickness make him more suitable for a reserve role. It appears to be all but a formality that Celtics GM Danny Ainge will retain Baynes.
Fits with: Celtics
10. Nerlens Noel
This is a make-or-break year for the former Kentucky star. Noel turned down a four-year, $70 million offer from the Mavericks last year and has yet to realize the potential that made him the sixth pick in the 2013 draft. A natural shot-blocker with quick feet and even quicker second-jump ability, Noel could still help a team in the right situation.
Fits with: Warriors, Spurs, Wizards, Suns, Pistons, Kings, Hawks
Other notable free agents: JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney, Jahlil Okafor, Brandan Wright, Zaza Pachulia, Alex Len, Channing Frye, Marreese Speights
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Jordan Schultz is an NFL, NBA and NCAAB insider/analyst for Yahoo Sports.