Skip to main content

Nikola Jokic vs. Joel Embiid Comparison: Who Is The Best Center In The NBA?

Nikola Jokic vs. Joel Embiid Comparison: Who Is The Best Center In The NBA?

Who is truly the best center in the NBA? The two greatest centers in the game today are easily Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. LeBron The former is the reigning MVP and is one of the unlikeliest dominant players in NBA history. Nobody expected Nikola to develop into the best passing center ever, but he has made it look normal as he puts up near triple-double averages per season. He might also be the favorite for the MVP award yet again this year.

Meanwhile, Joel Embiid is a 4-time All-Star and 3-time All-NBA performer who is one of the most offensively skilled big men in NBA history. Looking back through NBA history, we have not seen many post-up big men that can nail the three and mid-range shots at high efficiency. Embiid is easily a top-10 player in the world and he is also in the MVP race for his dominance, especially stemming from his 50-point performance in 27 minutes against the Orlando Magic. But is Joel Embiid more talented and a better all-around player than reigning MVP Nikola Jokic?

In order to put the debate to rest, and settle who is the best center in the NBA, it is time to compare the two best big men in the NBA today to come out with one winner.

Scoring - Joel Embiid

Charles Barkley Says Joel Embiid Is The Current MVP Favorite: "There's Nobody Playing Better Basketball In The World Than Joel Embiid Right Now."

Nikola Jokic is a terrific shooter for his size, nailing 36.3% from three this year and also shooting 79.3% from the free-throw line. From the field, Nikola is extremely efficient as he is nailing 57.3% without ever taking bad shots. Jokic is extremely skilled in the post, as he has a quick spin move and a perfect touch around the rim. Quite simply, Jokic is unstoppable in one-on-one situations.

Embiid is averaging 28.7 PPG on 49.8% shooting from the field. He is also shooting 81.5% from the free-throw line and 39.0% from three. It's amazing how Embiid can shoot this well from the perimeter at his size but he makes it look natural. In the post, the big man is also proficient as there probably isn’t a single defender who can handle him down low (sorry, Rudy Gobert). Because of his ability to rack up a ton of points with very little effort and in a short amount of time, he gets a slight edge over Jokic.

Athleticism - Joel Embiid

Nikola Jokic is surprisingly quick for his size, as he often leads the break for the Nuggets once he grabs the defensive rebound. He has solid body movement and gets where he needs to be at the right time, which is impressive for a man at 6’11” and 284 lbs. But he is not quite the athlete that Embiid is, because he plays below the rim.

Embiid is a talented 7’0” big man who weighs 280 lbs but has the tendency to explode off his feet to slam dunks over helpless defenders. The big man can also run the floor well and rarely lags behind when the 76ers guards are pushing the pace. The Cameroonian star has a host of posters to his resume already, and he will continue to add to them.

Defense - Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid

Nikola Jokic is mainly known for his terrific all-around impact as a shooter and passer, but his defense is also a big factor in what he does on the floor. The Serbian is averaging 1.4 SPG and 0.8 BPG this season, close to his career numbers of 1.2 SPG and 0.7 BPG. Due to his raw size and basketball IQ, Nikola Jokic is a solid defender who protects the rim very well. After all, he is the reigning MVP for a reason.

But once again, Joel Embiid is slightly more skilled in a specific category. The big man is consistently one of the top defenders in the league, and he is putting up solid numbers in 1.0 SPG and 1.4 BPG this season. For his career, Embiid is averaging 0.8 SPG and 1.7 BPG. Clearly, Embiid is a better shot-blocker than Jokic and that has to do with his athleticism. But in terms of one-on-one defense, Joel is less likely to get fooled by fakes and is one of the best all-around defenders in the NBA.

Clutch - Even

There is no doubt that Nikola Jokic is a special player in the clutch because he might be the most valuable member of a specific team that we have in the league. The Serbian has come through for Denver in the clutch, whether that means making shots, making key passes, or protecting the rim. Whatever the Nuggets have needed from Nikola in key moments, the big man has usually delivered.

Meanwhile, Joel Embiid is as clutch as can be, and he is extremely confident in taking and making big shots. Embiid’s elite offensive skill means he can get any shot he wants and he already has a couple of important moments as a go-to star in the clutch. As skilled as Embiid is offensively, we need to see a bit more before he gets the nod over Jokic. For now, this category is even.

Leadership - Even

Both Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid are the best players on their teams, and everything they do sets the tone for everyone else. Jokic does not seem like the most vocal leader, and he seems to lead by example which is normally the case for foreign players. Nikola also has a relaxed attitude, which means he is sometimes mistaken for lacking killer instinct. But that is simply his nature, and should not be a knock on him.

Joel Embiid is definitely more outspoken and vocal, but that does not necessarily mean he is a better leader than Jokic. Joel has done a fantastic job in keeping the crew in Philadelphia together during the Ben Simmons fiasco, a testament to his improving leadership skills. It is tempting to give this category to Embiid, but this one is even because Jokic elevates the play of his teammates every night.

Basketball I.Q. - Nikola Jokic

When it comes to basketball I.Q., Nikola Jokic is one of the greatest in NBA history at his position. We have not seen a better passer than Jokic at the center position, and that shows on the stat sheet. The Joker has averaged at least 7 APG for 5 straight seasons so far and had his career-high 8.3 APG average last year. Beyond the numbers, Nikola can make every pass on the floor which is why he is the point-center of the team in the half-court and on the break.

We all know Joel Embiid is an elite scorer and defensive player, and he has improved his passing through the years as well. The Cameroonian is averaging a career-high 4.3 APG this season and has taken more of a responsibility to make others around him better in the absence of Ben Simmons. But Jokic is one of the smartest players in NBA history, and his all-time great passing skill is the main reason why.

Impact - Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic

This is the hardest one to gauge because both superstars are playing at an extremely high level. Jokic is leading the MVP race at this point of the season because he impacts the game in every aspect of the game, whether it comes to shooting, scoring, passing, or defense. Without Jokic, the Nuggets are in the lottery and the team knows that.

Joel Embiid is clearly one of the most impactful players in the league, and he does it every night especially on the offensive end. But Embiid is not the passer that Jokic is, meaning he has to rely on others to set him up for plays while Nikola can literally control the ball on every possession. Jokic is also a better rebounder this year (13.8 RPG vs. 10.7 RPG), and might be the smartest player in the game outside of LeBron James and Chris Paul.

1 on 1 Game - Even

Nikola Jokic vs. Joel Embiid

Both superstar centers are elite one-on-one players and need to be double-teamed by opponents. If coaches don’t double-team Jokic or Embiid, they are placing their teams at risk of getting blown out. Nikola and Embiid have too much size and skill to be allowed to go one-on-one, which is why they are forced into being passers more than they would like at times.

Jokic can score against any defender due to his back-to-the-basket game and shooting ability and has the size to be a factor defensively as well. Meanwhile, Joel is a slightly more skilled offensive player who has an array of jumpers to pull off, but Nikola’s basketball IQ means he is often in positions to generate easy buckets. This category is too close to call and has to be even.

Career - Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic MVP

Both Jokic and Embiid are just getting started in their careers and should be on their way to the Hall of Fame if they can stay healthy (fingers crossed). Nikola has made 3 All-Star Teams, 3 All-NBA Teams, made the All-Rookie Team in 2016 and captured the 2021 MVP. A dominant center who impacts the game in many areas, this is just the start for a future Hall of Fame center, especially if he can return to the Western Conference Finals again soon.

Joel Embiid has made 4 All-Star Teams, 3 All-NBA Teams, the All-Rookie Team in 2017, and also made 3 All-Defensive Team. In terms of being a defensive stalwart, Embiid has the edge in that regard thanks to 3 All-Defensive Teams. But Jokic won the elusive MVP award, an incredible achievement for a center in the modern game. Jokic is the first center since Shaquille O’Neal to win an MVP award, and he could be earning his second-straight award by the end of the year.

Final Score

Nikola Jokic vs. Joel Embiid 3-3

There is too little between them to separate because Jokic and Embiid are two stat-sheet stuffers who dominate the game in their own ways. Nikola is a point-center for the Nuggets who literally does everything for the team, while Embiid is a go-to scorer and defensive stalwart for the 76ers. They have different builds and different characters as well, so choosing between them is a matter of preference. One thing is for sure, Nikola Jokic is the frontrunner for the MVP award again this season and he has had a better career than Embiid so far. 


LeBron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo Comparison: The King Is Still Untouchable

Kevin Durant vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo: Who Is The Best Power Forward In The NBA?

Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O'Neal Comparison While They Played Together For The Lakers: Kobe Was Better Than People Thought

Stephen Curry vs. Kevin Durant Comparison: Two Superstars With Similar Careers

Stephen Curry vs. Allen Iverson Comparison: Two Unbelievable Superstars That Changed The Game