It’s hard to deny that most centers in the NBA today no longer fall in the category of the traditional big man. This is completely understandable given how the game has evolved and how the 3-point shot has emerged as arguably the most important weapon in any team’s arsenal.
Nonetheless, it is still worth going into a discussion of some of the best centers in the league today. There are certainly more than a few in this generation, with some of them even possessing Hall of Fame potential.
Before we get things going, I fell that we should at least honor a few guys that missed out on our list. This includes Hassan Whiteside of the Portland Trail Blazers, Marc Gasol of the Toronto Raptors (a one-time NBA champ), Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner, and rising star Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns.
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
10. Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks
The primary reason we have Clint Capela on this list is because of his potential. The 6-foot-10 center is just 25, and while he did lose a bit of steam this season with the Houston Rockets (the arrival of Russell Westbrook was definitely a factor), odds are, he is going to kill it with his new team. Capela is probably done for the season, but he should be ready to go once the 2020-21 season kicks off.
Last season, Capela averaged 16.6 points (on 64.8 percent shooting), 12.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks for the Rockets.
9. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder
Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder is perhaps the most underrated player on this list. The 6-foot-11 big man is one of the reasons behind the Thunder’s improbable run this season (they are currently fifth in the West despite trading away their two best players in the offseason in Russell Westbrook and Paul George). While Adams’ contributions go well beyond the box score, his numbers still aren’t bad at all: 10.9 points (on 59.1 percent shooting), 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.1 blocks this season.
8. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
There’s no doubt that LaMarcus Aldridge would have been much higher up on this list a year or two ago. However, turning 35 this year, Father Time is slowly creeping up on the seven-time All-Star. Aldridge’s role shifted once he joined Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs, now becoming a legitimate five (he was a power forward for nearly his entire career with the Portland Trail Blazers).
Make no mistake about it, though, the five-time All-NBA team member can still bang with the best of them to this very day. Despite his advancing years, Aldridge still logs 33.1 minutes per contest for the Spurs this season, putting up 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.6 blocks, and career-best 1.2 triples per game on a 38.9-percent clip.
7. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
It’s as simple as this: the Orlando magic would not be where they are today (including an improbable, albeit brief postseason run last term) had it not been for Nikola Vucevic. He has carried this team on his broad shoulders, and his efforts were rewarded by an All-Star call-up last season. It’s been more of the same for the 29-year-old this campaign, averaging 19.5 points (on 47.0 percent shooting), 11.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks, and a career-high 1.5 triples per contest. Orlando is hanging around again in this season’s playoffs picture, and they certainly have to thank Vucevic for this.
6. Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
Kristaps Porzingis has taken a backseat with the Dallas Mavericks as compared to his cornerstone superstar role with the New York Knicks a few years ago. He has to thank Luka Doncic for the “demotion,” but we’re pretty sure Porzingis doesn’t mind evolving into the Robin of Doncic’s Batman. Nevertheless, he is still every bit the unicorn he was with New York, and now fully recovered from a career-threatening ACL injury, the future is bright for the 24-year-old in Dallas.
5. Andre Drummond, Cleveland Cavaliers
We don’t know what the future holds for Andre Drummond beyond this season. As far as we know, he could have played his last game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, being that he has a player option on his current deal for next season. One thing is certain though: Drummond still remains in the upper echelon of big men in the league today, and is arguably the best rebounder in the game right now.
4. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert is not exactly a fan favorite right now following his irresponsible antics prior to testing positive for the coronavirus. All this noise aside, however, the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner is without a doubt, the best defensive center in the NBA today. Prior to the season being shut down, Gobert was averaging 15.1 points (on 69.8 percent shooting), 13.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, and 2.0 blocks per game. We wish Rudy all the best in his road to recovery.
3. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
If it weren’t for his injury history, Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid would have probably been at the top of this list. His production has also dipped significantly this season, but he is still averaging 23.4 points (on 47.4 percent from the field), 11.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 1.3 3-pointers per game. It did look like he was about to turn a corner prior to the shutdown, though.
Embiid still has to exorcise his demons, but once he gets his mind in the right place, there’s little doubt that he could become one of the all-time greats.
2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns has been quietly killing it for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season, putting up career-best marks in scoring (26.5), assists (4.4), steals, (0.9), and 3-pointers (3.3 on 41.2 percent shooting). It has, unfortunately, been another forgettable season for a Wolves side who continues to struggle despite having one of the best young players in the league today. They finally parted ways with Andrew Wiggins in February, though, bringing in former All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell, who also happens to be Towns’ best friend. These two have shown glimpses of awesome during their brief time together on the court, and it’s not hard to imagine how Towns is only going to get better in the coming years.
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Among all the players on our list, only Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets has been in the MVP conversation over the past two seasons — and rightfully so. He has led the Nuggets to a second-place finish in a ruthless Western Conference last term, and to prove that this was no fluke, Denver is yet again battling for a Top 3 spot in the conference this season.
Jokic is as skilled a big man we’ve ever seen, and surely, he is the best playmaker on this list. The 25-year-old has been named an All-Star in back-to-back seasons now, and there’s certainly more where that came from. Right now, he is averaging 20.2 points (on 52.8 percent shooting), 10.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 1.1 triples per game, making him the easy pick for the top center in the NBA today.
There you have it folks. It was a pretty long ride, but an enjoyable one (we hope) nonetheless.