#10 – Jeff Wilkins (1980-86)
Coming in at number 10 is Jeff “The Franchise” Wilkins. Hot Rod Huntley gave Wilkins the “Franchise” moniker as a joke after a string of performances that were well beyond his mediocre ability. Wilkins was, indeed, an incredibly average center. The fact that he’s even on the list indicates the lack of talent the Jazz have garnered (with a few exceptions) at the 5 position – there may not be another team in the league (excluding recent expansion) with a weaker field of players at center than the Jazz. But somebody has to be at the end of this list and Wilkins did have two average-to-good years with the Jazz from 82-84, and that is enough to send him into Lower The Rim immortality. Wilkins was a 10-7 guy for two pretty bad Jazz teams. He could pass a bit and play some D but he moved onto San Antonio (one of the teams that he had displayed his “Franchise” like skills against), when Mark Eaton took over the starting job, and was never really heard from again. Jeff Wilkins: the worst center ever to appear on a top-10 list. But find me somebody better to put in here… I dare you.
#9 – Felton Spencer (1993-96)
The lumbering 7-footer was not a bad player until he blew the Achilles. A second team all-rookie guy for the T-Wolves, he came to the Jazz as successor to Big Mark Eaton, and gave the the team a good year plus a tiny fraction. He was an 8-and-8 guy for two very good Jazz teams (the Spazz won 60 the season Spencer popped the ankle) but could not get back to that level after the injury. Felton Spencer: the second worst center on any top-10 list. Heyooo!
# 8 – Rich Kelley (1983-85)
At #8 we add Rich Kelley to the collection of miss-fit toys that is the history of Jazz Center-ship. I mean look at this guy – he looks more like an English Lit. professor at a liberal arts college than a baller in the rough and tumble years of the NBA. But don’t judge by the cover fella’s, Kelly could play a bit. Drafted 7th, first round, by the New Orleans Jazz out of Stanford (of course, could have been Duke, or Harvard, etc. for this guy), Kelly would show much higher on this list if we included the New Orleans years in the contest. As it is, Kelly returned to the Jazz, after stints with several teams, in 83 and was significant in helping the team become 83-84 Midwest Division champs. Kelly was a very good offensive rebounder and a better than average passer from the 5 spot. Although not in his prime in his second time around with the Jazz, he makes the list because of presence on the milestone 83-84 Division Championship team and because… well, there just isn’t any body else to add in these bottom three or four slots (quiet down you Greg Foster fans – he’s not making the list). Kelley went back to Stanford for an MBA after the NBA – naturally – Snyder would have liked this guy.
#7 – Enes Kanter (2011-15)
Oh boy. What to do with Enes Kanter? Kanter is the highest drafted Center in Jazz history. He likely has the third best offensive game of any Jazz big. The defense was bad, however, very bad. And the attitude left a sour taste on the way out. But this is science baby, and we can’t let our feelings get in the way of mathematics and all of the linear regression models that have gone into building this list. So I’m putting the Kanter Man at #7 – defense be damned.
Kanter’s stats per 36-minutes are very shinny (about 17 and 11). Ok, he couldn’t stay on the court for 36 because he didn’t play defense. But hey, the big-headed Al Jefferson couldn’t play D for the Jazz either and he’s going to show up a lot higher on this list and any list you slackers would make. And Kanter is the only guy on this list so far who’s got a PER greater than 15. Kanter will get booed every time he visits the ESA, but his niftiness around the rim and toughness on the offensive boards for a couple of years gets him into this mix.
#6 – “Gentle Ben” Poquette (1979-83)
The mild-mannered one lent his well-rounded game to some pretty cruddy Jazz teams in the early Utah years. And I admit — that the team could not win more than 30 games in any year with Poquette on the court does not support his cause at #6. But I’ve seen all these guys play (via time travel of course… I’m not that old, really) and it just seems to me that he should be here. Poquette did not have the talent and athletic ability of, say, Enes Kanter, who’s below him on the list. But Gentle Ben could play at both ends — he still ranks 5th in blocked shots per game for the Jazz. And he had two solid years, including his final season with the team, when he was statistically better and more productive than anybody below him on the list. Yet like the rest of the big men below him (except Kanter), Poquette did little after leaving the Jazz — he moved out, and the Jazz moved up… with Big Mark. So once again, not the most supportive of his cause on our list, but it is true that Lower The Rim is a lover of the more gentle giants, like Tim Duncan, Arvydas Sabonis, and the Tom Arnold version of Roseanne Barr, post engagement pre marriage.
#5 – Gerg Ostertag
I think that most observers — even Ostertag to himself — would say that the big guy’s career was, overall, disappointing… less than what it should have been. But the same could be said for most of us, I presume. And to his credit, Ostertag was the starting center — on most nights — for the 64-win 96-97 team that could only be stopped by Michael Jordan. He played for the Jazz through many winning seasons, and many of them as the starting 5. And so he must be here on the list… at number 5 — right in the middle — not great and not awful (well, not awful most nights), just big old Fred Flinltsone-on-the-calf Ostertag. There was nothing extraordinary about Tag’s game except his uncanny ability to frequently descend into, albeit ever-reemerge from, the Iron Maiden that was Sloan’s dog house. At worst he couldn’t catch a bounce pass to save his own mother, and at best, well… he could rebound a little, and he does show up in the top five of many Jazz defensive-per-game categories including blocked shots. Yet his lasting impact remains, however, that which gives most middle-aged Jazz fans reason to sweat on draft day when they see a big, white, lumbering center sliding their way.
#4 – Rudy Gobert
Gobert has had about three months of spectacular play in his short 2 years with the Jazz – hardly enough, one might think, to land in the top 5 of an NBA team’s best-at-position list. However, let us reflect on those three months and note, after sufficient scrutiny, that they were better than anything the guys below him had to offer in their entire careers. Thus, I place the thin Frenchman at #4 without apology – heck, if I were doing this list in 2017, he might be #2 and you guys are thinking that same thing. Jazz Fan knows the glorious story of Gobert blowing up after Kanter-to-OKC mid-season, and while part of the reason the Jazz surged could certainly have been the general improvement in team chemistry, the greater credit goes directly to Gobert and his marvelous length and quickness at the rim. Statistically, the turnaround from one of the league’s poorest defensive teams to its best in a matter of weeks is unprecedented (ok, I have no idea whether it’s unprecedented or not – you guys search it out and get back to me) and the bulk of the change is because of RG(whats his uniform number?).
In any case, here comes the Stifle Tower.
#3 – Al Jefferson
The best offensive center to play for the Jazz, hands down. But possibly the worst defensive center the Jazz have ever had – or maybe second worst, or maybe it’s a tie. Ok, some of that hoooorrrrible defense against the
pick and roll may have been Corbin and his coaching staff’s fault – Jefferson looks better defensively now that he’s with Charlotte. But still, as far as Utah is concerned, Al Jefferson cared much more about one side of the court than the other. The Jazz won just over 50% of their games during Jefferson’s 3-year stint, but they were never real contenders for anything, and were never trending upward with Big Al in the post. Jefferson hasn’t taken any of the teams he’s played very far but his superior offensive ability and numbers can’t be denied. We reluctantly stick him and his ridiculously large head at #3.
averaged over 17 points per game and nearly 8 rebounds a game – with D-Will and AK-like PER numbers.
Okur was tougher than the talking heads gave him credit for – he wasn’t just a stand-outside Euro Center, he could bang and board when called upon. But the long-range shot was what made him a wonderful fit for the, at that time, Boozer-post-up and drive-and-dish Jazz. He would repeat in his post-game interviews, in his cool Turkish accent, that his teammates just told him to “shoot de ball… so I shoot de ball”. Maybe they told him that or maybe that is just what he heard – but he could shoot de ball. Memo is # 2.
it’s not even close. The Jazz have only had one center other than this man make an All Star Team. That said, Eaton would probably be on every team’s top-3 list because of the impact he had on the defensive end of the game. Eaton changed the way teams played offense. Eaton averaged over 4 blocks per game four years straight from 83 and 87. For reference, DeAndre Jordon hasn’t averaged over 2 blocks per game during his career – Dwight Howard hasn’t made it over 3 blocks per game in any year. Eaton averaged 6.7 blocks per game during the first series of the 84-85 playoffs. He was a key figure in the Jazz ascension to respectability before Stockton and Malone arrived. Eaton was voted to the NBA All Defensive Team 5 consecutive years (first team three of those years) – he’s one of only 4 Utah Jazz players to be named to the All Defense Team. As noted, nobody’s really close to him here at the top of this mediocre heap.