There is a debate about it, who is the best center in the NBA?
Center Is Subjective
When I say that Center is subjective, I mean from a viewing standpoint. There are small ball lineups that feature small forwards at center, and big lineups that have centers playing small forward. I’ll be going according to ESPN’s depth chart, although possibly tweaked due to other lists. Let’s get started.
30: Xavier Tillman, Memphis Grizzlies
There is not much I can say about Tillman here. He is just a role player when it comes down to it. While solid, he is overshadowed by Jaren Jackson Jr., playing next to him most of the time. However, he is only in his second year, so he has some time to improve into a solid player.
29: Javale McGee, Dallas Mavericks
This man is the king of “Shaqtin’ A Fool.” Credit to him, he has carved out a very nice career for himself. Going into his 15th season, he can’t be put any higher. McGee is just not good by the NBA standards. Although he does have three championship rings, so who am I to judge.
28: Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs
This man’s biggest claim to fame is that his name is the name of the NBA version of wordle. But outside of that, he hasn’t done much in his career. Although, he did average 13 points and two blocks a game in his fifth season. So hopefully, it starts looking up for him.
27: Hassan Whiteside, Utah Jazz
He is the newest starter in Utah after the insane Rudy Gobert trade, and he has had a solid career so far. He had a great stint in Miami where he consistently averaged 15 points, two blocks and eight rebounds. While he isn’t doing that anymore, he is still very solid as a role player.
26: Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
We are heading towards the end of Howard’s career as a future Hall of Famer. Superman is a three dime defensive player of the year, and a eight time all-star, but he did only average six points and six rebounds last year. Hopefully he gets the sendoff he deserves.
25: Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons
When you think of Stewart, one thing comes to mind. What do you think it is? It’s when he entirely ran at LeBron James, intending to attack him, and got suspended for it. While that’s why he is remembered, he is a young player with a high ceiling and a bright future.
24: Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets
The Turkish big is a taste of the new NBA center. Tall, skinny, and can space the floor, as opposed to the centers of olden days that were restricted to the paint. He has an incredibly high ceiling, especially with his young Houston team.
23: Nick Claxton, Brooklyn Nets
I hope he enjoyed playing with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving while that lasted because that’s over now. But in terms of him, he is solid. He averaged nine points, rebounds, and a block, without being able to reach his full potential with two ball-dominant players. We’ll see what’s in store for his future.
22: Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Clippers
Zubac knows his role and plays it well. He is surrounded by scoring talent and players who do most of the heavy lifting, so he handles the paint. He averaged ten points and nine rebounds last year. It will be interesting to see him function with Kawhi Leonard coming back.
21: Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks
Did you know that “Splash Mountain” is the all-time leading scorer for the Brooklyn Nets franchise? Nowadays, he hangs in Milwaukee with Giannis and company. He averaged 12 points, four rebounds, and shot 36 percent from beyond the arc. He also went to Stanford; apparently, the dude is smart.
20: Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trailblazers
While he is in a weird spot with the Blazers, he had a very solid season last year. He averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists per game. Nurkic is a reliable center, but I’m interested to see how the Trailblazers use him if they keep him next season, as it’s clear they will run a small-ball lineup.
19: Wendell Carter Jr, Orlando Magic
We always knew he had potential during his time in Chicago, but it took a change in scenery to unlock the center’s actual ability. This past season he averaged 15 points and ten rebounds on a bad Orlando magic team. It will be exciting to see how he is used with Paolo Banchero on the team now.
18: Mason Plumlee, Charlotte Hornets
“Plumdog Billionaire” has all the tools to be great but has not been able to put it together. Aside from the one random highlight he has once a year that makes ESPN, he has struggled. Hopefully, with LaMelo Ball passing him the ball, he can figure it out and become consistent.
17: Kristaps Porzingis, Washington Wizards
How the mighty have fallen. I loved Porzingis when he was with the Knicks, as he looked to be the future of the NBA. But it is hard to bounce back from a torn ACL as a center. He got moved to center after the injury, but hopefully, he can return to the form that was so highly touted.
16: Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks
A lot of people will hate this pick. Robinson is injury prone, but he is arguably the best defensive center in the NBA when he is healthy. He has averaged two blocks throughout his career while shooting some of the best percentages we have ever seen from a big man. If he stays healthy, the Knicks can be scary.
15: Robert Williams III, Boston Celtics
A better version of Robinson. The center proved critical in the Celtics run to the finals, as he was a defensive anchor and one of the prominent people in the effort to stop Giannis in the second round. Another elite defensive center. The league will be put on notice if he can figure out the offensive side.
14: Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder
People will hate this one, but I already think he is above average at his position. We saw in his first summer league game he has the potential to be great defensively in the paint. If he gets a bit of weight, he will entirely change how we look at centers.
13: Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks
All defense, no offense. Lucky for him, that works perfectly on the Hawks with Trae Young. Last year he averaged 11 points, 12 rebounds, and a block and a half. He does what he needs to, and he does it very well. With the addition of Dejounte Murray, his scoring opportunities will also increase, in my opinion.
12: Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
By far the best Lego collection in the NBA. But besides that, he averaged 13 points, seven rebounds, a steal, and three blocks per game. Unfortunately, he is stuck in the eternal land of mid that is Indiana, but I can see him getting traded in the future. He should also greatly help Tyrese Haliburton’s development.
11: Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans
Valanciunas shot 36 percent from three, which is insane considering his progress. It seems that throughout his entire career, he was just never used right. Now in New Orleans, he appears to have found his perfect fit. Hopefully, he can keep it going with Zion Williamson returning.
10: Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls
A very traditional center. While he has struggled defensively, he has settled into his role in Chicago very nicely. He averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds while the Bulls were a playoff team. While their future is very much in question with Lavine rumors, he seems to be a nice constant they won’t have to worry about.
9: Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings
Sabonis has just settled into the poverty franchise known as the Sacramento Kings. It was a surprise to see a trade including Tyrese Haliburton, but I think it was suitable for the kings. The center/power forward has the potential to be great with De’Aaron Fox by his side. It is all up to see if they can end the playoff drought this season.
8: Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
While his future in Toronto is in question as they have been heavily linked with Kevin Durant, he has been fantastic for them throughout his career. He averaged 23, eight rebounds, and five assists at the center position for the Raptors. While it was a switch for him, he adapted well to the position change—just a matter of time to see if he stays there.
7: Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers
Could you imagine if Brooklyn managed to keep him when trading for Harden? He is the definition of player progression, as he has just improved yearly. He had 16 points, ten rebounds, and over a block per game. With Garland there for the long term and Mobley by his side, he could lead that Cavaliers team very far in the playoffs.
6: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Regardless of what is happening between him and the Suns, he has been fantastic for them. He averaged 17 points and ten rebounds as the Suns were the first seed in the western conference. He has also been heavily rumored to be dealt to Brooklyn for Kevin Durant, but no matter where he goes, the center should succeed.
5: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Recency bias is a hell of a thing, kids. Draymond has been one of the best defenders to ever live throughout his time in the league, and this year he showed it more than ever before. The Warriors shifted him to center, and he thrived. While he had to adjust to guarding a bit bigger, he was fine after a while. With him, Curry, and Klay, the sky is the limit.
4: Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves
One of the most extensive trade hauls I’ve ever seen for a player, and it was all for this man. He fits perfectly in Minnesota and is also a very traditional center. Last year he averaged 15 points, 15 rebounds, and two blocks per game. While it didn’t work out in Utah, he should fit in very well with the Timberwolves and Karl Anthony-Towns.
3: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
This is the modern-day center. While he is smaller than most centers standing at only 6’9, he plays way bigger than he is and is exceptional in the paint. He had a block, a steal, and a half per game last year. He is surrounded well by Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, and company. I don’t see him moving any time soon, but the disrespect to him is insane.
2: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
This was always a two-horse race, and unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, Embiid comes in second. He is a fantastic player and has earned praise, but he hasn’t won back-to-back MVPs. However, I can see Embiid walking away with one looking into the future. It all comes down to how far he can get in the playoffs, as he has struggled to make it past the second round. Sometimes his fault, others not.
1: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
I hope you weren’t expecting anyone else on the top of this list. The back-to-back MVP deserves his top spot and is the best center in the NBA. He averaged 27 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists. The eight assists are something never heard of from a center and is what makes Jokic so elite. He has the ball handling and passing abilities of a point guard while rebounding and posting up in the paint. He is also by far the greatest second-round pick in NBA history, even being drafted while a Taco Bell ad was airing on ESPN.