The Center position has changed tremendously over the past decade. Many swear that this position is becoming too undervalued and almost taken out of the game.
But this could not be farther from the truth. Some of the game’s best players are Centers, who offer an extremely varied skillset that is very valuable across the league.
These players are extremely skilled and offer more than just standing in the paint and rebounding. The game’s best centers can shoot the ball better than ever before, and can even be point-centers for their teams.
Luckily, some big men still enjoy taking it down low and using their bodies to force easy buckets. At the same time, they can deliver defensively by blocking shots and snatching the ball off the rim for easy rebounds. The big man position is becoming more and more varied, and this will likely continue in the future.
Here are all the NBA’s starting centers, divided into tiers.
Average Starters: Alex Len, Cody Zeller, Dwight Powell, Ivica Zubac, JaVale McGee, Dewayne Dedmon, Jakob Poeltl, Thomas Bryant
To start, these big guys do what you expect them to do, including rebounding and getting easy inside buckets. They are all worthy enough to start for their respective franchises and actually make an impact when they are on the floor.
Len, Powell, Dedmon, Poeltl, Bryant, and Zeller fill these roles perfectly. They are big bodies who protect the rim and make rim runs whenever possible. McGee is a player who was ridiculed throughout his career but has become a productive player thanks to his length and improvements offensively. He now starts for the contending LA Lakers.
Zubac has the most promise of this tier and seems to be the one most likely to move up in tiers as well. He is very young and raw, yet showed his desire to rebound and score the ball like a very effective big man.
Quality Starters: Enes Kanter, DeAndre Jordan, Wendall Carter Jr., Tristan Thompson, Willie Cauley-Stein, Myles Turner, Jonas Valanciunas, Bam Adebayo, Brook Lopez, Mitchell Robinson, Deandre Ayton
Tier 4 centers are big men who offer more than the usual big body and rebounding skills. They have a nice skillset that translates into very effective production on the floor.
A guy like Wendall Carter Jr is a very young prospect who has shown the ability to shoot from the perimeter, block shots, and finish inside. He is morphing into a prototype NBA center and the future is very bright. Likewise, Lopez has mastered these traits and is the perfect center for the Bucks. His sweet shooting is deadly enough to where you cannot leave him open. Myles Turner is also developing into this type of center and might become an All-Star someday.
Thompson, Adebayo, Cauley-Stein, and Mitchell Robinson thrive on the boards and are very effective at outback dunks and layups. Adebayo in particular is a very exciting prospect who will only get better.
Kanter and Ayton both offer solid back to the basket and mid-range games, along with an ability to crash the boards. They are very skilled offensively and only need to improve their defense to become All-Star quality. Valanciunas is also a solid scorer and has shown some solid moves down on the block as well.
All-Star Caliber: Clint Capela, Derrick Favors, Steven Adams, Marc Gasol, and Jusuf Nurkic, Andre Drummond, Nikola Vucevic
Tier 3 centers are players who can potentially make All-Star teams thanks to their all-star skill set in what they do best. These big men have consistently shown improvements throughout their careers and will be tasked with holding down the fort for their respective teams.
Capela, although limited offensively, is a perfect player for his team. His defense and rebounding skills are excellent, and he has shown a strong ability to finish inside through contact. Capela has put up big games in the past, thanks to his ability to play within his role and thrive next to playmakers. Adams is a similar player who was a beast next to Russel Westbrook. Now, he must take on more of a scoring role if he wants to make his team successful.
Favors has not become the All-Star we anticipated he would be, but still looks to be a solid player who will thrive in the Pelicans uptempo system. Favors must improve his numbers if he wants to remain a tier 3 center.
Nurkic is a great offensive player who came into his own before his injury. He is a good shooter from mid-range and has a very soft touch near the rim. His numbers were steadily increasing before he got injured, and he might continue this trend when he returns.
Marc Gasol is a very skilled big man with tons of experience, including an NBA Championship and. Fiba Wolrd Cup title. Even though Kawhi was the man for the Raptors, they would not have done it if not for Spain’s legendary big man.
Drummond is a monster rebounder, who excels at shot-blocking and altering shots. He is also excellent at finishing alley-oops and taking contact inside, albeit without much to offer offensively. Vucevic, by contrast, is a much better scorer than Drummond but cannot defend. Both players are very skilled in their strengths but need to offer more to be considered elite big men.
Elite Stars: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert
These big men are simply the best in their position. Their production is elite, and their skill sets match allow them to impact the game in a special way. Even though NBA pundits swear by the death of the NBA big man, these guys are simply elite.
Gobert is a defensive stalwart who is an All-Star talent thanks to his ability to control a game defensively with his height and length. Gobert is a reigning DPOY who is the best defensive player in the league.
Towns is a beast at scoring the ball and also rebounding. He put up monster numbers on a consistent basis, as the main men on his team. Towns is on his way to becoming a superstar because he has a perfect skillset which includes a deep range jumper, solid handles, and improving defensive skills.
Jokic is the perfect NBA big man. He is an excellent shooter from the outside and is the main playmaker for his team. He was the reason for the Nuggets outstanding season last year, due to his ability to control the game offensively with his scoring and passing. He demands a lot of attention on the offensive end, and he is able to easily pick out his shooters on the wing with sublime court vision. He averaged a monster 7.2 assists per game, which easily led all centers in the league
But one big man stands out as the main man in the league.
Best of the Best: Joel Embiid
Embiid is the best of the bunch, and is a legitimate MVP candidate when he is healthy and dominating the game. He has it all offensively, including an excellent post-game and a nice jumper from outside.
Not to mention, he is becoming a defensive specialist as well thanks to his surprising quickness and athleticism. Embiid is quick to block shots and also alter many more.
Embiid will be hoping to continue to elevate his game and capture an MVP Award this year. Perhaps more importantly, he hopes to lead his Sixers team to the NBA Finals.