Center is the core position in basketball. You cannot expect a basketball game to go smoothly if there isn’t an efficient center player in your team. So, here we are with the Top 10 best NBA center players of 2020.
From time to time, the role of center players has evolved. During the physical era, the crucial role of a center player was to get rebounds, block shots, and to score from the paint. So, their game strategy was to be dominant in the defense. Shaq used to miss a lot of free throws during his time. To date, coaches focus on the offensive end of a center player like Nikola Jokic, who is an incredible facilitator, an excellent three-point shooter and can create his play as well.
Center players are great rebounders, excellent shot-blockers and most of the time are brilliant scorers in the paint. They are likely to be the big guys on their teams and dominate the game using their size, height, and power.
Undoubtedly, basketball is changing right now. It has been a game of pace, space, shooting, and quick offense. While basketball is revolutionizing, it is safe to say that centers also morph according to the needs. They now shoot three-pointers, dribble the ball like a guard and sometimes make incredible assists too.
As we are heading to the 2019/20 NBA Finals, let’s take a look at 10 of the best center players in the NBA right now. But before we begin the countdown here are some players that we excluded from the list because of their injury, health issues, and overall productivity. And they are Demarcus Cousins (C, Lakers) Myles Turner ( C/F, Pacers), Brook Lopez (C, Bucks) Montrezl Harrell (C/F, Clippers)
Here are the criteria for the current top 10 center players ranking.
Most talked by media and NBA journalist.
#10. Steven Adams (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Although Adams had a terrible season last year (2018-2019), he has undoubtedly improved a lot and now has turned out to be the backbone of this team after the Thunders traded their MVP, Westbrook, for Chris Paul. Adams is good at guarding the sharpshooters. He can guard three-point shooters as well as protecting the rim.
This year Adams is almost averaging a double-double with 10 points and eleven rebounds. If he can handle the workload that he is gonna get in the following year and step up defensively, Steven Adams will be in the top 10, without a doubt.
#9. LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)
In number nine position of best nba center players, we have Aldridge. Let me put it straight, the most recent season of LaMarcus Aldridge with the Spurs went pretty well, there’s no doubt in it. The Spurs center averaged 18.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. That’s quite impressive for a thirty-four-year-old guy. Though in the last season he averaged around 21 points, in 2019-20 season, he didn’t fall off the cliff as per his production in both ends of the floor. What amazed us about him this year was that he scored 38.9 % from the three-pointers.
Aldridge has been consistent in his two-way game-style play in this modern era and we hope that he will still be scoring hoops and take his team all the way in the next season.
#8. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
In the number eight position of our top ten center players countdown, we have Bam Adebayo. If you have seen his last game in the eastern conference final against the Celtics, Boston, you must have become his fan by now. The way he blocked Jayson Tatum’s dunk attempt, a lot of NBA legends has said that that was one of the best blocks of the decade.
ANOTHER LOOK AT BAM ADEBAYO'S INCREDIBLE GAME-WINNING BLOCK! pic.twitter.com/RCzQ7FdLDR
— NBA (@NBA) September 16, 2020
Nonetheless, Adebayo did a terrific job for the Miami heat. He along with their superstar Jimmy Butler carried their team to the Conference final this season.
Adebayo is averaging a double-double this season with 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He is also a good facilitator with around 5 assists per game and 54% from the field goals, and we hope he will continue to give us more of his highlight reels.
#7. Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)
After getting the Magic into playoffs in his best season, Vucevic finally shows what he is capable of. A very versatile center on offense with his ability to score from any spots. Vucevic is the leader of the Orlando Magic in terms of points scored. Last season, he averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Defensively, his performance is simply enough. With Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon near him, their flaws are better concealed. He has never been a great shot-blocker under the hoop, nor will he ever be. His function is to excel on the other side of the court. It is also worth mentioning that he is the first All-Star player from Orlando Magic since Dwight Howard’s appearance in 2012.
#6. Clint Capela (Houston Rockets)
Perhaps, Capela is another DeAndre Jordan. The differences are that his paint defense is marginally better and has greater mobility in the perimeter. The offensive role of the Swiss is the same as DeAndre Jordan. In fact, Capela was the one who broke Jordan’s hegemony in the field throw efficiency last season.
While Capela is not as great as Jordan in rebounding, but he is still one of the best nba center players in the league. Last year, he was the leader in shots defended less than six feet and 2nd in shots protected less than ten feet from the basket. His agility puts him at the defensive level of Rudy Gobert.
Capela, only 25 years old, has shown a tremendous offensive repertoire. Six feet floated from the basket does not seem to be an excellent offensive arsenal, but it is something that defenses should consider when reading those pick and rolls with James Harden or Russell Westbrook.
#5. Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
The Pistons have been a model franchise in terms of unsatisfactory results. Stan Van Gundy was supposed to be the beacon that would lead the Pistons to victories. And the Pistons are still in no man’s land. They are fighting for playoffs and nothing else. No reconstruction, no candidacy.
In the middle of so much mediocrity is Andre Drummond. An impressive talent that, for some reason, has not yet become the franchise player. He is one of the best rebounders in the history of the league.
He is ranked third in terms of most rebounds averaged per season – behind Dennis Rodman and DeAndre Jordan. However, the Pistons lost 6.3 points per 100 possessions with Drummond on the court in the 2017 season.
It is challenging to create a healthy offensive around an inefficient interior. Coach Casey demands more movement without the ball, forcing the New York centre to be more active on offense and not stay in his comfort zone. Seventeen points and 16 rebounds a game seem to be a very productive statistic for any center, and that’s why he is on this list.
#4. Al Horford (Philadelphia Sixers)
The Boston Celtics gave Al Horford a maximum contract in the summer of 2016. Celtics fans criticized Ainge for spending valuable salary space on a player who didn’t even manage to catch eight rebounds per game last season. Now three years later, Horford left the Celtics for rivals Philadelphia Sixers.
Perhaps one of the most relevant moments for Horford was the Semifinal Conference against the Philadelphia Sixers of 2018. Horford had to battle with a faster, agile, tall, and bustling center: Joel Embiid. We cannot say that Horford dominated the confrontation, but he managed to stop the Sixer’s star when they needed to score the most. He even managed to defend Antetokounmpo well in the semifinals of the East of 2019. This year, Embiid and the Sixers will want to avenge for their defeat by the Raptors in the last post-season. It may be wise to say that the Sixers will go big this season.
#3. Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
So going to the top 3 in our top 10 nba center players ranking we have none other than the good old Rudy Gobert. The NBA fans spent the last two years discussing which nickname would fit Gobert the best: The French Rejection or Stifle Tower. What nobody has in their mind is the defensive impact that Gobert has on the Utah Jazz. A true defender, he was the anchor of the second-best defense in the league.
He was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the last two seasons. And this summer, he won the bronze medal with France after eliminating the USA in FIBA World Cup 2019 with its defense. Gobert is undoubtedly the best defensive center in the NBA. When he is not on the court, the Jazz goes from having the best defense to a regular one, and the Jazz showed this in the last playoffs. Now, with Conley on the team, Gobert can dedicate himself to what he knows best: defend and finish.
Offensively, Gobert is still a sub-standard player. Like many of the best centers in the NBA, his action is limited to the vicinity of the basket. 95% of his offense is assisted right next to the hoop. In the previous season, he was ranked second after Capela in production of pick and roll points, with 1.28 points per possession, and this year, that number has improved. There is a clear interest of coach Snyder to expand the offensive spectrum of Gobert and prevent versatile big men like KAT and PJ Tucker from being a threat that disintegrates his defense.
#3. Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Last year was a great season for Towns. He made his first All-Star team, All-NBA team, and even led the Minnesota Timberwolves to the playoffs.
Towns is so quick for a center of his size and most importantly, he is a great shooter. Last season, Towns averaged 21.3 points with 12.3 rebounds. Often times, the discussion about the best center in the NBA is a common debate that involves his name and it will be so weird if it doesn’t.
KAT (his nickname) is a brilliant center but often times, he is regarded as a “soft” player by fans. This year, he is trying to change that as he is already involved in two altercations with Joel Embiid and Rudy Gay.
Yes, the defense can improve and sometimes Towns does not excel entirely on the defensive side. The NBA has only seen several flashes of how destructive he can be on that side of the court. KAT must now lead the Wolves along with Wiggins after the departure of several key players like Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose.
#2. Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Jokic is only 24 years old and is already one of the most dominating players in the league. The Nuggets have the time on their side to continue building a team around the Joker.
The comparison with the great Arvydas Sabonis is inevitable. Sabonis at his best was much more mobile than Jokic. However, the Nuggets offense lives and dies with its star center but not in the traditional way as Jokic runs and controls the offense. He operates a 7-inch playmaker, combining his great size with the IQ of great point guards like Steve Nash or Jason Kidd.
The only players averaging over 18 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and a three-pointer percentage greater than 39% in a season are Larry Bird and Nikola Jokic. This year, the Nuggets have already learned that they already know how playing in the playoffs feels like and their young core has experience. Jokic is a solid MVP candidate in the future but the competition will be intense.
Jokic at the top of the key is a nightmare for defenses. He has enough control of the ball to reach the low post, where he generates 0.93 points per possession (8th in the league). If they give him space, he scores 40% of his triples in three attempts per game, which can be a problem for other teams to solve. That’s why he is the #2 in our top 10 best nba center players ranking.
#1. Joel Embiid (Philadelphia Sixers)
So here is the top pick for our top 10 best nba center players count down, and it’s none other than Joel Embiid. Rumor has it that Joel Embiid started playing basketball at age 15. He had never participated in sports before, but the African legend Hakeem Olajuwon made him fall in love with the game.
Embiid spent his first three years as an injured professional (he only played 31 games in his third year) which triggered comparisons with Sam Bowie or Greg Oden, instead of Hakeem Olajuwon. In 2017-2018 those fears dissipated. Embiid played 63 games averaging 22.9 points per game, 11 rebounds, and almost 2 blocks. His team last season won 52 games and advanced to the conference semifinals. Last year, he played 64 with 27.5 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks. But they were crushed again by Kawhi and the Raptors.
On the defensive side, Embiid’s playing style is similar to Gobert. Thus it makes him one of the best centers of the NBA who is excellent on both sides of the court. Embiid did his best, by the number of minutes played. The Cameroonian only needs to develop a reliable outside shot, a healthy body, and a pick and roll partner to be unstoppable.
If you want to see more NBA ranking based on this current season then you might also wanna check out our