Denver Nuggets vs NBA: Ranking JaVale McGee, the centers

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The center position will be anchored in Denver by JaVale McGee this season. The moves made this summer to give McGee this opportunity have been controversial. We will find out this season if the team will sink or swim with McGee.

The point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, and power forwards have been ranked - if you missed them, PGs here, SGs here, SFs here, and PFs here. Andrew Feinstein, Colin Neilson, Jeff Morton, and I are figuring out where the team's projected starters of Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari (yes, he's hurt but we're still ranking him), Kenneth Faried, and JaVale McGee rank. A bench option or two might also make our lists.

Below we are breaking down the center position and where JaVale McGee fits into the mix. During McGee's first two seasons in Washington he started in just 33 of his 135 games played and averaged 15.2 and 16.1 minutes per game, respectively. During his final season-and-a-half with the Wizards, McGee started in 115 of his 120 games played - including 40 of his final 41 games with the team. His minutes per game climbed to an average of 27 per game.

With the Nuggets, McGee has only started in five of his 99 regular season games for the team and in two of his 13 playoffs games. The starting job appears to be his to lose in Denver now. It will be imperative for McGee to improve upon his play under Brian Shaw and the plan all along has been to see what Denver can do with McGee as the team's full time starter.

The numbers in parenthesis to the right of a few players - that is where we had them ranked last season - some may have risen and some may have fallen.

Keys: (--) = stayed the same in rankings from last season and (C) is if we had the guy ranked at center last season. Jeff and Colin did not partake in the center rankings last season, so there are not rankings for their spots moving up or down.

NBA Centers
Andy Colin Jeff Nate
1 Dwight Howard (--) Dwight Howard Dwight Howard Marc Gasol (3)
2 Marc Gasol (4) Marc Gasol Marc Gasol Dwight Howard (1)
3 Joakim Noah (5) Roy Hibbert Roy Hibbert Joakim Noah (6)
4 Pau Gasol (PF) Al Horford Brook Lopez Roy Hibbert (9)
5 Al Horford (6) Joakim Noah Joakim Noah Brook Lopez (12)
6 Al Jefferson (8) DeAndre Jordan Al Horford Al Horford (10)
7 Tyson Chandler (9) Andrew Bogut DeMarcus Cousins Tyson Chandler (--)
8 Roy Hibbert (7) Al Jefferson Andrew Bogut Nikola Pekovic
9 Brook Lopez (10) Larry Sanders Tyson Chandler DeMarcus Cousins (11)
10 DeMarcus Cousins (PF) Brook Lopez Anderson Varejao Pau Gasol (PF)
11 Greg Monroe (13) Pau Gasol JaVale McGee Al Jefferson (8)
12 JaVale McGee (--) Nikola Pekovic Nikola Pekovic Larry Sanders
13 Larry Sanders JaVale McGee Larry Sanders Marcin Gortat
14 DeAndre Jordan (11) Andre Drummond Omar Asik DeAndre Jordan (--)
15 Nikola Pekovic DeMarcus Cousins Pau Gasol JaVale McGee (13)

Andy's Take: Nuggets fans were hoping by now that McGee would crack the top-10 on this list, but unfortunately he remains just outside it. And not because the top-10 centers in the NBA right now are particularly good (they're not), but because McGee showed little to no improvement last season. Whether you blame McGee for that or former Nuggets head coach George Karl, it won't matter this season as Karl is gone, the Nuggets starting center from last season (Kosta Koufos) is gone and along with those departures go the excuses. It's time for McGee to crack the top 10!

Colin's Take: Dwight cried and fart joked his way right out of Los Angeles. His physical gifts are still unparalleled, though, and exceed only those of Marc Gasol and Hibbert. While I would love to put McGee higher, he has a ways to go to prove that he can eliminate the bad plays while shoring up his fundamentals. Theoretically, JaVale's tools will allow him to be one of the most dominant athletic centers in the league when he learns to harness all of them at once. Theoretically.

Jeff's Take: I can't in good conscience put McGee into the top 10 until he shows that he can be consistent, without the mental lapses, all season long. He is going into his 6th season in the league and needs to start making advances. Now is his shot. As for Howard at the top ... you can't tell me that when he is engaged that he isn't the best center in the league. Marc Gasol is a close second and Pau is too old to be in the top 10 anymore.

Nate's Take: I consider my top-3 centers to be the top tiered guys with the rest of the league trying to catch them. Marc, Dwight, and Noah are special players, with Hibbert coming into his own. Marc proved to be a force on defense and in scoring and being a distributor on offense. I loved Lopez's aggression on the offensive end, but starting with him you get centers that all have some flaws in their game. Perhaps we scrutinize the center spot more than others, but the elite stand out. It's crazy that Andrew Bynum has fallen off so much, but he has a lot to prove in Cleveland.

McGee has a ton to prove this season. We must see if his asthma will allow him to play 25-35 minutes per game on a nightly basis. How bad does McGee want to be an elite center? Something held him back from cracking the Nuggets starting lineup. Was it Karl? Was it McGee? We will find out now. I moved DeAndre Jordan past JaVale and McGee barely made my top-15 list this season. He has the potential, but does he have the desire? I don't put a ton of stock into per-36 projections, but if McGee can stiff the 18 points and 9.6 rebounds his 2012-13 per-36 suggest - we'll all be pleasantly surprised.

The Verdict: Howard misses out on a consensus number one spot as Marc Gasol gets the nod from Nate. Jeff gives McGee the highest ranking at 11th, Andy at 12th, Colin at 13th, and Nate the lowest at 15th. Pau and Cousins get the most inconsistent rankings on the board and Larry Sanders shows that people are paying attention to him in Milwaukee.

One guy that nobody ranked: Jonas Valanciunas. He might prove to be the center to watch this season. Colin is the only one to put Drummond on his list, Jeff is the only guy to list Asik from the Rockets, and Nate is the only guy not to downgrade Gortat. The center spot is yet another tricky position to rank with lots of moving parts.

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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