S : Best in the game (LeBron)

A+ : Right on heels of best player (Durant)

A : Top 5 player

A- : Top players at their position/Potential All-NBA players

B+ : All-Stars

B : Good starters/fringe All-Stars

B- : Good starter

C+ : decent starter

C : fringe starter/bench player

C- : good bench player

D+ : average bench player

D : Fringe rotation player

D- : bad player

F : not NBA caliber

Factors: production+efficiency+talent (emphasis on this year but whole career taken into account)

*Note: There is no specific order within each tier

- Previous Position Breakdowns -

I took a break from these rankings to break down Eric Bledsoe's game, but now I'm back to take a look at and grade the final position: centers.

As a reminder, for the purpose of these grades/rankings, I am not looking at last season in a vacuum. I am trying to give an idea of where each of these players stands in regards to each other after last season. One poor season doesn't sink a player's stock if the rest of his career paints a different story, the exact opposite is true as well. However, I am not factoring potential into my rankings, meaning rookies are graded as NBA players and do not garner special consideration because of their youth.

I'm probably making this more complicated and subjective than it needs to be, but I suppose that only makes for more discussion. With that being said, on to the rankings.

Tier 1 (A-)

Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Even with a bad back playing in a system that he didn't really fit in, Dwight Howard still put up a big double-double season and led the league in rebounding. Full strength Dwight is an A on this scale as one of the most dominant players in the league.

Tier 2 (B+)

This is a really solid group of excellent centers. Brook Lopez is the best scorer in this group, but the other five make up for being a lesser scorer by being great defensive players. They all get it done in their own way but they most certainly do get the job done.

Tier 3 (B)

Cousins_mediumMandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

In his old age and based on his last couple years with Boston, I've classified Kevin Garnett a center. He'll be moving back to power forward this year in Brooklyn so we'll see how that goes. KG isn't quite what he once was but he's still a solid player that can impact the game on offense, defense and on the glass. DeMarcus Cousins is a tremendous talent but his attitude issues and inefficiency mean I can't put him any higher on this list.

Tier 4 (B-)

Defensive dynamos, relentless rebounders and prolific post scorers make up this tier of players. None of them are complete centers, but all of them are very talented and are definite starters.

    Tier 5 (C+)

    Pierre_mediumMandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

    Okafor and Nene are both best at the five, but even playing together they're playing pretty well in Washington. Kanter and Valanciunas are both young players who have flashed their talent in limited roles but are primed for a break-out campaign in 2013-14. Splitter is a player who has been very effective in his limited role in the San Antonio system. JaVale McGee is weird and hard to rank. The physical tools and at times the numbers are unbelievable, but the basketball IQ is unbelievable in a completely different way.

    This is where Marcin Gortat belongs at this point. Some continues to say that Gortat is atop 1- center, but I have 17 players ahead of him and another six on the same level. Gortat is a good player and would start for many teams, but overall he's just not that special.

    Tier 6 (C)

    These are solid role players that can start for a team with strong players elsewhere in the line-up, but are likely better coming off the bench.

    Tier 7 (C-)

    Kaman_mediumMandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Back-ups that can step on the floor and hold their own in the paint are valuable for teams, and all of these guys bring one or two skills to the table that makes them effective.

    I searched for a picture of former Sun Jermaine O'Neal in our photo editor, but for some reason no pictures of him in a Suns jersey popped up. So instead you get Kaman beard.

    Tier 8 (D+)

    Most of these are young players still trying to find their role in the NBA. Oh, and Kendrick Perkins.

      Tier 9 (D)

      Slava_mediumMandatory Credit: Rick Osentaski-USA TODAY Sports

    • Joel Anthony
    • Nazr Mohammed
    • Johan Petro
    • Andris Biedrins
    • Timofey Mozgov
    • Bernard James
    • Brendan Haywood
    • Ryan Hollins
    • Cole Aldrich
    • Slava Kravtsov
    • All of these guys are marginal NBA players at this point.

      Tier 10 (D-)

      These guys aren't really all that good at basketball, but at they do have one thing going for them: they're very tall. Byron Mullens was one made basket away from pulling a Beasley last season (more shot attempts than points). New Sun Miles Plumlee made just five of his 21 shot attempts in only 55 minutes of action.

      The 2013-14 NBA season is quickly coming upon us, and the Phoenix Suns' first preseason game is less than two weeks away. However, if you consider yourself a die-hard fan and yet can't still name all of the players on the Suns right now, don't feel too bad...you're far from alone. In fact, I also had to cheat by looking at an official roster while writing this piece.

      Heck, even the official roster still has Diante Garrett listed as part of the team (he signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder on August 29th).

      After a whirlwind of activity over the past few months by Ryan McDonough and company, and rightly so, it's difficult to remember all of the additions and subtractions.

      Sure, you can remember acquiring Eric Bledsoe, but what about Viacheslav Kravtsov?

      Although the Suns' roster is certain to change again before the start of the regular season begins, let's take a look at the current Phoenix Suns roster as they get set to begin training camp...as it stands for the time being, at least:

      Guards:

      Incoming: Eric Bledsoe, Dionte Christmas, Archie Goodwin, Malcolm Lee, Ish Smith

      Outgoing: Jared Dudley, Diante Garrett

      Eric Bledsoe, PG/SG

      Shannon Brown, SG

      Dionte Christmas, PG/SG

      Goran Dragic, PG

      Archie Goodwin, SG

      Malcolm Lee, SG

      Kendall Marshall, PG

      Ish Smith, PG

      You read that right. That's eight...count them...eight guards currently on the roster. This group isn't just likely to change again before the season officially begins, it's guaranteed to.

      Forwards:

      Incoming: Channing Frye* (returning from ailment), Gerald Green, Alex Oriakhi, Miles Plumlee

      Outgoing: Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Luis Scola

      Channing Frye, PF/C

      Gerald Green, SF

      Marcus Morris, SF

      Markieff Morris, PF

      Alex Oriakhi, PF

      Miles Plumlee, PF

      P.J. Tucker, SF

      Like the guards, you should expect to see some more change to this group before the actual season begins.

      Centers

      Incoming: Viacheslav Kravtsov, Alex Len

      Outgoing: Hamid Haddadi, Jermaine O'Neal

      Marcin Gortat

      Viacheslav Kravtsov

      Alex Len

      While this is the Suns' position of least depth, the return of Channing Frye still gives the Suns additional flexibility at this position. They could choose to hold onto Kravtsov as a cheap third option and trade Gortat before the trade deadline, or it's possible that Kravtsov doesn't make it past training camp...time will tell.

      What's next?

      The sum total of all the moves the Suns' organization made over the off-season has left us with this group of mostly fresh faces. If you were keeping a tally, that's only seven (eight if you count Frye) players of the 18 total who are currently listed on the Suns roster who played for Phoenix last season.

      While this roster is certain to see more movement before the start of the regular season (if nothing else, cutting at least three players to get to the maximum allowable of 15), this should hopefully give you a good idea of who you need to be rooting for, starting on Oct. 7th.

      Alex Len is a bit of a mystery man to many fans. In a summer replete with lots of action from the Suns, the #5 overall pick FROM THREE MONTHS AGO has almost been lost in the shuffle of all the moves the team has been making. Good thing Bright Side of the Sun is here to remind you all about him.

      Alex Len is a 7'1" 20 year old with a lot of raw talent and tremendous potential. He possesses a rare blend of size, mobility, offensive polish and defensive presence and has the capacity to be the franchise center that the Suns are very much hoping he will become. Injuries, lack of consistency and an ill-fitting offensive system limited his production in college, but he he was still a highly regarded prospect entering the draft because of his skill-set and potential. In fact, he was even considered to be a strong candidate for the #1 pick up until the draft began because of performances such as this:


      Ultimately, the Suns picked Alex Len 5th overall, with Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek pointing to his potential to be a complete, two-way center. Alex has been recovering from stress fracture surgeries on both of his ankles this summer and two weeks ago, he shared some good news on Twitter:

      It's go time! #GoSuns pic.twitter.com/86aXncuboU

      — Alex Len (@alexlen) September 12, 2013

      I recently had the opportunity to speak with Alex and discuss many things about his health, goals, interests and more. In this segment of my two-part exclusive interview feature, Alex shares how he's doing before he heads off to Flagstaff for the Suns' training camp:

      Q: How are you feeling physically?
      A: I'm feeling good. I've started playing. I've been playing for two days already, playing pick-up games. My ankles are feeling good and I'm ready for training camp so I'm looking forward to it.

      Q: Are you back to 100% and totally cleared to play?
      A: Not 100% yet. When I play pick-up games, I start every game but they pull me off to the side after a couple minutes because they don't want me to overdo it before the season, you know? I haven't played for about 5 months so I'm out of shape. Training camp is going to be a lot of running just to get in shape, get my wind back.

      Q: A lot of people don't know exactly what to expect from you this year. You're a big man with a great skillset and I think you have a very high ceiling. Even your draft stock was tough to get a hold on - a lot of people thought you were going to go #1 overall. The Suns obviously ended up picking you with their #5 overall pick. So what can you tell fans to expect to see from you in your rookie campaign?
      A: Rookie year will be a bit different for me because I'm coming off two surgeries on my ankles. It's going to be really tough for me but I'm just going to play as hard as I can and bring a positive energy to do whatever I can for the team. Whatever coach asks me to do, I'll be ready. When my name gets called, I'll be ready.

      Q: Fans are really excited about having two talented rookies in Phoenix this year. Both you and Archie Goodwin were first round picks and will be solid, young building blocks for the team. Any thoughts on what you both have to do in your rookie season?
      A: All we can do is just get better, just try to learn everything we can. There are a lot of really good, smart and experienced people around us like Coach Hornacek so we just have to try to learn something new every day.

      Q: You mentioned Coach Hornacek. You obviously have limited experience with him at this point but what are your thoughts on him so far?
      A: Coach Hornacek has been watching the scrimmages. I talked to him and he definitely wants us to play a really fast, high-tempo game because like I said, we got a lot of really athletic guys. So far, he just wants us to go up and down when we scrimmage and play high tempo.

      Q: How do you think you fit into such a fast-paced offense?
      A: I think it fits my game well. I can run, definitely, and I can block shots and make good outlet passes which lead to fast-breaks.

      Q: You mentioned you just started scrimmaging with teammates. How has that been?
      A: It's been good. Almost everybody's back, I think, except the overseas guys. Dragic is not back yet but I think he gets in on Saturday. Guys are just trying to find a feel for each other. With a new team and a new coach, it's a big learning experience. So far, I really like the team. We're really young. From how I understand it, fans don't really expect us to be really good this year but I think we can make some noise. We're pretty athletic, too. We got a lot of athletic guys and I think it's going to be fun.

      Q: Let's step off the court for a moment here. A story that a lot of people seem to like about you is your relationship with your girlfriend, Essence. As someone also currently in a long-distance interracial relationship, I'm also very supportive. Can you talk about how she has helped your transition into the NBA?
      A: She's helped me a lot. She helped me more when I just got to college because I didn't speak English that well and she helped me a lot with that. In the tough times in college, too, like when I didn't play well or something, we always went to the gym to just get shots up and things like that. She actually gets into town today.

      Q: I'm glad to hear that. Now let's go from love to hate. At Maryland, you were obviously part of a good, old-fashioned rivalry with Duke. As a Phoenix Sun now, how do you feel about LA teams?
      A: Oh yeah, I know the Phoenix Suns and LA have been rivals. They don't like each other since, I don't know, a very long time. Now I'm on the Phoenix Suns so I gotta hate them too!

      Q: You just won a lot of points with Suns fans. They're going to love hearing that. You're already a hit, Alex.
      A: [laughs] Thanks man.

      In Part 2 of the interview (to be published early next week), Alex Len elaborates on the skills he's focusing on developing and discusses his favorite movies and hobbies.

      NBA preseason power rankings are beginning to leak with teams just days away from opening training camp. The Phoenix Suns will hold a media day Monday before heading to Flagstaff for the week, and...

      [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

      After a summer in which the Suns turned over most of the roster - getting temporarily worse while attempting to create a more sustainable future - there remain some important questions as training camp looms.

      Will Channing Frye play?

      After being cleared to resume workouts by some of the best heart doctors in the world, Frye still awaits word from the Suns as to whether he will rejoin the team as an active player. If they are going to make an announcement, it appears most logical that announcement would happen this week. Media Day is Monday, with training camp starting the day after. There appears to be no reason to avoid the decision any longer.

      Frye has a guaranteed contract for $6.4 million this season, third-highest on the team behind Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat, and a player-option for $6.8 million next season. Athletically, he is also the third or fourth best player on the roster at this time. While others may have higher upside, Frye brings much-needed shooting, low-post defense and maturity to team in desperate need of those skills.

      Yet, Channing himself said the recovery process would be a slow one. In an exclusive interview with Kris Habbas, Frye said he would not take the court until he knew he could provide a positive contribution. Since a shoulder dislocation in April 2012 - his second in two years - and the heart enlargement, Channing started at ground zero just two months ago with his conditioning. He is certainly not at NBA caliber, and may not be the old Channing until spring.

      But with the Suns in rebuilding mode, they could use a steadying force in the locker room and on the bench. Frye, 30, would be the oldest player on the team and has a positive, forward-thinking outlook on life that could help when times get rough. Some contributions as a bit player early in the season would still allow the Suns to evaluate youth while getting a bit of shot-making off the bench next to rookie Alex Len.

      Will Eric Bledsoe sign a contract extension?

      So far, and true to form, the only contract extensions from the 2010 Draft so far have been MAX extensions - John Wall and now Paul George. Additionally, strong rumor has DeMarcus Cousins getting a MAX extension of his own, thanks to new owners willing to spend to keep the best talent.

      Generally, the only other rookie-deal extensions signed by October 31 (after which, extensions cannot be offered until next summer) are those north of $10 million per year.

      Eric Bledsoe profiles at this point to about $8-9 million per year, and that's assuming he improves to being a solid NBA starter. Jeff Teague of the Hawks just got $8 million a year this past summer. But Bledsoe might prefer to compare himself to Ty Lawson, who got $11 million per year after being a three-year starter in Denver.

      Will the Suns "overpay" Bledsoe, assuming he was only held back by the presence of Chris Paul in LA? Or will Bledsoe take a lesser amount for the guaranteed long-term contract and investment in him as a starter?

      Most likely, those answers are no. Bledsoe is most likely to wait until next summer to let the free agent market set his value after a year on big minutes in Phoenix.

      Is Alex Len 100% cleared for training camp?

      Rookie center Alex Len resumed running on a treadmill in late August, was cleared for basketball activity several weeks ago and recently cleared for "contact". It is unclear, though, whether Len has been playing pickup games with the rest of the team this month. Those games are completely unstructured and full of running, which may not be conducive to his early rehab.

      Generally, we don't hear of players' true availability until training camp is underway. At that time, the players are either on the court of they're not. I am very curious whether Len truly is cleared for full participation in camp.

      What's the Suns mantra this season?

      Ideally, the players, coaches and front office will all be signing the same tune - whatever that tune is - next week when the media descend on them in a 2-hour free-for-all on Monday.

      In a perfect world, that tune makes logical sense to fans and media as they come out of the players', coaches and GM's mouth.

      Last year, that was not the case. While Dudley, Dragic, Gortat and the front office talked of surprising people and fighting for the playoffs, their vision did not ring true to many of those listening.

      While last year was an attempt at retooling, this year is truly one of rebuilding. Over the summer, the new GM replaced three skilled players - Luis Scola, Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley - with a collection of youth and potential with little current NBA skill.

      While the "NBARank" process is just as flawed as any subjective projection model, it's a good barometer of this year compared to last year. Historically, this kind of projection is more kind to the "known quantity" of NBA veterans than youth. A year ago, more than 100 writers collectively decided that the Suns had SIX players who would make any team's top-7 rotation (ie. top 200 in a 30-team league). And that team, without a superstar or go-to player - was projected to finish 14th or 15th in the West, something the Suns obliged when all the games were played.

      This year? Three of those six players are gone (Dudley, Scola, Beasley) while a 4th dropped way down (Channing Frye). The rankings are only listed for 225-500 so far, yet ALL BUT THREE current Suns players are listed in the bottom 253 in the league. In a 30-team league, that means 13 of your Phoenix Suns are no better than the 8th-12th man in an average team's playing rotation. Only Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic and new acquisition Eric Bledsoe are deemed good enough to play in any team's top-eight rotation, coming into the season.

      On a lighter side, the Suns seem to have a brighter future than they did a year ago. They have risen two spots in ESPN's "Future" Rankings, with the highest score in the Draft category. Players and management went up a tiny bit as well. Not something to celebrate, per se, but it's a good indication that the national media feel much the same way as the locals - crappy present, promising future.

      1. Phoenix Suns (13.0 WARP from draft picks)

      The Suns have amassed more first-round picks than any other team in the league. In all likelihood they will have three first-round picks next year (Indiana and Minnesota owe them future first-rounders) and two in 2015 (when they get a pick from the Los Angeles Lakers via the Steve Nash trade). Of course, the most valuable of all are Phoenix's own. SCHOENE projects the Suns as the league's worst team in the tougher Western Conference, and estimates they head into the lottery in the No. 1 spot more than 60 percent of the time. While that doesn't guarantee the No. 1 selection (the Suns land that an estimated 22 percent of the time), it would mean getting one of the four top prospects in 2014's deep draft. Phoenix figures to spend one more season near the top of the lottery, and could have two 2015 lottery picks depending on how the Lakers fare in free agency next summer.

      Still, what will the players and management say next Monday as camp opens? It's really difficult to say, out loud, "we expect to lose 60 games". In fact, Dragic has already said at Eurobasket that he hopes the team fights for the playoffs. And Channing said to Bright Side that he and the other veterans expect to win every game.

      It will be an interesting dance with the media this season, that's for sure.

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