Besides maybe the point guard Position, the center position has been the most dominate and talent filled position throughout NBA history by far. Centers of the past were dominate forces on both ends of the court, who dominated using their physical size and strength plus their skill in the post which was a much more prominent thing to be taught to the youth back in the day. But in the 2000’s, the illegal defense rule was removed from the game which allowed defenses to double the post, which scoring through a post player much harder. The top 10 centers of today know how to take advantage of all the aspects of today’s game is basketball, and while underestimated as position, deserve much higher recognition for their role.
The NBA’s trend towards shooting and smaller lineups made centers much less relevant. So in the early 2010’s, the center position saw the worst play it had ever seen by far in the history of the league. But as the decade progressed, coaches realized that the removal of the illegal defense rule gave the center position a new advantage. Because of this change , centers could now act as rim protectors and make driving to the rim much harder.
Also, an influx of centers with unique talents for the position came into the league making them much more viable. Because of this, the center position once again is very talented and deep, which makes ranking the position even harder. For this list, I will only be counting active players for the 2019-2020 season, so a player like DeMarcus Cousins won’t count. Without further ado, here are the top 10 centers in the NBA.
10. Montrezl Harrell
18.6 PPG|1.7 APG|7.1 RPG|.580 eFG%|.109 DEF WS|49-23 Record
6MOY Candidate Montrezl Harrell is a really interesting player. He isn’t very tall or athletic, but Montrezl is able to get buckets purely just by playing really hard. Montrezl is a dominate interior player because he chases after the ball and plays with lots of energy. He isn’t much on defense which is a big problem considering the Clippers don’t really have any great rim protectors to play defense on Anthony Davis which is a problem buts it’s not crippling. Montrezl does his job of being a spark plug energy guy who comes off the bench for a really good team and that is why I think Montrezl Harrell is a really valuable player in 2020.
9. Andre Drummond
17.7 PPG|2.7 APG|15.2 RPG|.571 eFG%|.066 DEF WS|19-46 Record
Former all-star center Andre Drummond has really been screwed by the way the NBA has been trending over the past decade. Andre Drummond’s greatest strength as a player is his rebounding, and he really might be the best rebounder the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain. Andre is huge and really athletic which allows him to grab pretty much any board. But sadly for Drummond, that isn’t enough to make you an all-star in 2020. On offense, besides offensive rebounding, Drummond doesn’t really provide much value besides just being a big body who can set screens and finish lobs. On defense, you’d think he’d be great but Drummond struggles on the perimeter and isn’t the rim protector he probably should be. Andre Drummond may be an amazing rebounder, but just rebounding isn’t enough to put you any higher on this list in 2020.
8. LaMarcus Aldridge
18.5 PPG|2.4 APG|2.4 RPG|.532 eFG%|.052 DEF WS|32-39 Record
Former Portland Trailblazer LaMarcus Aldridge may be nearing the end of his career, but he is still a great player. LaMarcus has adapted extremely well to this new NBA, now moving his incredible midrange shot out to the three point line where he has been shooting extremely well this year. But LA does still retain his midrange shot and is still a great post scorer. LA isn’t great defensively and can get caught in bad situations quite often. Despite his lackluster defense, LaMarcus Aldridge is still a great player in 2020.
7. Nikola Vucevic
19.6 PPG|3.6 APG|10.9 RPG|.525 eFG%|.092 DEF WS|33-40 Record
Veteran center Nikola Vucevic has seen quite a bit of success over the past two years. Vucevic is an incredible offensive player. He can score in the post and he can stretch the floor. Nikola also sets hard screens and can roll to the rim. He also can provide a decent amount of playmaking with the ball in his hands. All of this makes Vucevic a great offensive player. But what holds him back is his defense. He isn’t quick enough to slide with guards on the perimeter and is prone to getting stuck in bad position in the post where he can get bullied. Nikola Vucevic is an amazing player but isn’t higher on this because of his lackluster defense.
6. Domantas Sabonis
18.5 PPG|5.0 APG|12.4 RPG|.550 eFG%|.123 DEF WS|45-28 Record
Son of NBA Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas Sabonis, is an amazing talent just like his Dad. Sabonis is an amazing post scorer, who can use a variety of moves to score easy points. He also employs a great midrange shot which helps space the floor. Sabonis hasn’t been a good three point shooter this year, or really at all in his career but his strong midrange shot gives me a lot of hope that he will be a good three point shooter at some point in his career. Domantas is also a great passer which adds to his impact quite a bit. Despite what the numbers say, Domantas isn’t a very good defender but he has lots of potential to become good on that end. Overall, Domantas Sabonis is an amazing player who was a deserving all-star this season.
5. Bam Adebayo
15.9 PPG|5.1 APG|10.2 RPG|.558 eFG%|.110 DEF WS|44-29 Record
MIP candidate Bam Adebayo has really made an amazing case for that award this year. Last year, Bam wasn’t much more than just a regular center. But this year Bam has made massive leaps everywhere in his game. On offense, Bam has figured out how to unlock his athleticism and vision to be become a giant ball handling playmaking center who can finish lobs and drive to the rim.
Bam hasn’t added a three point shot yet, but it’s likely that he will one day as he showed in the skills challenge. Bam also is amazing on defense. He can switch onto guards on the perimeter, and he has the strength to guard centers and use his athleticism to be a rim protector. Bam also has the ability to catch rebounds and push the ball in transition all the way to the rim or to kick the ball out to a teammate for an easy score. Bam isn’t higher on this list because he isn’t impactful enough on either end to pass the players ahead of him who are elite on one of the two ends. Despite that, Bam Adebayo is an amazing player with lots of potential.
4. Rudy Gobert
15.1 PPG|1.5 APG|13.5 RPG|.693 eFG%|.123 DEF WS|44-28 Record
French Center Rudy Gobert is one of the best defensive players ever. Gobert is able to dominate on that end using his incredible length. Rudy’s length allows him to contest any shot at the rim, and he has incredible shot blocking instincts which makes him the best shot blocker in the NBA in my opinion. Not to mention, it’s pretty hard to shoot floaters and midrange jumpshots over Gobert because their is no way to even see the rim.
Rudy also has a surprising amount of mobility which allows him to be a non liability in the pick and roll. Not to mention, Robert is also the second best rebounder on this list besides Andre Drummond. Surprisingly, Gobert also has quite a bit of impact on offense. He is an incredible screen setter but most importantly he can roll to the rim hard and finish lobs using his length and hand size. Gobert doesn’t provide much else on offense but his defense is really all that Rudy Gobert needs to be this high on this list.
3. Karl Anthony-Towns
26.5 PPG|4.4 APG|10.8 RPG|.600 eFG%|.034 DEF WS|19-45 Record
I never thought that I would see an all-star level center who’s game revolves around three point shooting, but I was wrong because there is Karl Anthony-Towns. Towns is a deadly three point shooter who opens up his offensive game by making centers guard him on the perimeter, and KAT isn’t just a catch and shoot player. He can shoot off the dribble, and most impressively he can shoot of pin down screens which is ridiculous for a center. This ability will be even more important now that KAT plays with D’Angelo Russell and whoever the Timberwolves take with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft (probably Anthony Edwards).
But KAT isn’t just a shooter. He can kind of take players off the dribble to the rim, but most importantly he can score in the post. In my opinion, KAT is the second best post scorer on this list. He uses his finesse and athleticism to score at an extremely high rate in the post. KAT also has a little bit of a passing game which makes his offense even more threatening. KAT’s biggest weakness by far is his lack of defense, of any kind. He has really high defensive potential but he isn’t good at all, yet. Anthony-Towns isn’t great on the perimeter and gets abused in the paint. He is way to prone to jumping early and is very easy to abuse. But because of his incredible offense, Karl Anthony-Towns is an elite player and center in 2020.
2. Joel Embiid
23.0 PPG|3.0 APG|11.6 RPG|.512 eFG%|.150 DEF WS|43-30 Record
Former Kansas Jayhawk Joel Embiid started off his career quite rocky. In his first couple years, he struggled with injuries and was drawing comparisons to Greg Oden. But in 2017, Joel made his debut and shocked the world by having an incredible stretch of games at the end of the year, and Joel has maintained and even improved on his rookie production. Joel has improved mostly as post scorer and as a defender.
He added strength and most importantly finesse which allows him to become the best post scorer on this list as of now. Embiid also has a jumpshot which provides much needed spacing for the 76ers, but he isn’t a great shooter and i’d much rather have Embiid play on a team where he doesn’t have to provide spacing and he can just dominate inside. But Embiid isn’t just an offensive player. Embiid is also an amazing paint protector who dominates using his size and strength to bully his opponents around. Not to Mention Embiid is also an amazing rebounder. Because of all of these skills and gifts, Joel “The Process” Embiid is the best traditional center in the NBA, and the second best in the game overall.
1. Nikola Jokic
19.9 PPG|7.0 APG|9.7 RPG|.565 eFG%|.093 DEF WS|46-27 Record
Coming out of the 2014 NBA draft, nobody thought that 41st overall pick Nikola Jokic would be anything special, let alone anything at all. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Jokic fell so far in the draft because scouts believed that Jokic was too soft to play NBA basketball. He was compared to Darko Milicic and it was believed that he would stand no chance against the bigs already in the league. But that comparison couldn’t be more wrong. Something scouts didn’t account for was all of the unorthodox skills and tricks Jokic has in him. The Joker’s game mostly revolves around his incredible playmaking ability. Jokic’s height allows him to see over defenders which allows him read the floor better. Jokic is also incredible at using fakes to confuse defenses and make them not look towards where he is actually passing.
He also employs the touch and finesse to make any pass, bounce pass, soccer style, or lob. All of these factors make Jokic the best post passer the game has ever seen. But Jokic isn’t just a high post passer. He has the ability to catch a defensive rebound and either run the fast break, or hit the long pass down court to a streaking teammate. Jokic doesn’t really have the ability to make passes of the dribble, which is why I don’t believe he is quite as good of a playmaker as LeBron James, but he is still amazing.
But Nikola’s passing wouldn’t be even close to what it is without his scoring game. Because of Jokic’s ability to score out of the post, defenders have to respect the fact that he can score and they can’t just play the pass. Jokic has a whole arsenal of post moves, of which his go to is his midrange pull up. Jokic also is a respectable three point shooter which can help space the floor for Denver. Jokic’s biggest weakness is his defense which is bad compared to some other players on this list but his defense is very underrated. Jokic is a good rim protector, and agile enough to not be a liability when guarding the pick and roll. Overall, Nikola Jokic might be unorthodox, but he is the best Center in the NBA right now in my opinion.