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Mark Blount is a top 5 center in the East.

There, I said it. But I'm serious. This may be an indication of Eastern deficiency, but I don't think he would be horrible out West either. Now, I'm not making a case for an All-Star appearance or anything, but people seem to be heaping a lot of blame on a guy for signing what is actually a market-average deal for a center with his skill set.

Getting back to my statement; look at the Centers in the East. O'Neal is clearly still the cream of the crop. Ben Wallace is a bit out of position, but gets the nod at center every year on the All Star ballot. Z in Cleveland is money, when healthy. Then what? Kelvin Cato? Brenda Haywood? Primo Brezec? I don't know exactly how to rank them, but doesn't Mark Blount belong in that middle-tier group?

On a good night he's a difference maker. On a bad night, he's invisible. And there's the rub. Like the team in general, Mark is a streaky player. He went through one stretch of 5 games where he couldn't come up with more than 4 boards. That is just inexcusable for a center. Then he goes out and hauls down 16 and we don't know what to make of him. This is just one of the reasons that stats are not a great indication of his value to the team.

It doesn't help that his famous hands of stone just don't let him do things he should be able to (given his size). Balls literally go off his forearms and shins. Why on earth would a ball hit those parts of your body unless you completely forgot how to use your hands? I sometimes wonder if he has an issue seeing the ball.

One area where he has been steadier in is his scoring. I don't think the team is counting on him for offense, but they do seem to be looking for him much more often this year. That short jumper from the free throw line is his shot. I don't know if I could call him "automatic," but he's starting to make teams adjust.

Aside from that, I would make a case that Blount does a number of little things well (and a few little things poorly). He can switch on defense and get back to his man rather quickly (which is why O'Brien loved him). He sets picks, dives for loose balls, and takes charges. He even provides some veteran leadership in a tough-big-brother sort of way. I would have to say that he's not a bad passer for a big man.

On the other hand, how is it that he consistently gets beat on rebounds? (I mean, other than trying to catch the ball with his forearms) I tend to doubt that he isn't willing to box out. All that takes is remembering to do it and working hard. What I think he struggles with is the knack for knowing where the ball will bounce. Rodman got half of his rebounds simply by understanding where the ball would ricochet better than the other guys. It's an instinct, and maybe it's an instinct that eludes Mark. That doesn't mean that he'll never be a 10 rebound a game guy. It just means that he's going to have to work all that much harder to get there.

I guess that is why I've always been easy on him. He just works so hard, and you can tell, and you can't help but have respect for someone like that. He's not an All-Star, but he's a legit center. That is something that teams like the Sonics would love to have, and that is why I'm glad we have him locked up for the next few years.

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