Best Centers in the NBA: The Elite of the Elite

Jimmy Remland
By Jimmy Remland 10 Min Read
10 Min Read

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has always been a spectacle of talent, athleticism, and basketball IQ, with the center position evolving dramatically over the years. Gone are the days when centers were solely the towering defenders and rim protectors. Today, they are dynamic, multi-skilled athletes who can dominate on both ends of the floor. In this article, we explore the crème de la crème of NBA centers, analyzing their impact on the game and what makes them the best in the league.

The Evolution of the NBA Center

The center position has undergone a significant transformation, evolving from the traditional back-to-the-basket play to a more versatile role. Modern centers are expected to excel in various aspects of the game, including scoring, rebounding, defending, and even stepping out to hit the three-point shot. This versatility has made the position more critical than ever to a team’s success.

Criteria for Ranking the Best Centers

Ranking the best centers in the NBA is no small feat. It involves a careful consideration of several factors, including offensive and defensive efficiency, versatility, impact on team success, and individual accolades. Statistics such as points per game, rebounds, blocks, shooting efficiency, and advanced metrics like Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Win Shares play a crucial role in this evaluation.

The Elite of the Elite: Top NBA Centers

1. Nikola Jokić

Nikola Jokić, the Serbian sensation, has redefined what it means to be an NBA center. With his exceptional basketball IQ, passing ability, and scoring prowess, Jokić has earned two MVP awards, solidifying his place as the premier center in the league. His ability to facilitate the offense and make his teammates better while also being a scoring threat makes him a unique talent.

2. Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid combines size, skill, and agility like few others in the history of the game. His dominance on the offensive end, coupled with his defensive capabilities, makes him a force to reckon with. Embiid’s ability to draw fouls and convert at the free-throw line at a high rate further underscores his importance to the Philadelphia 76ers.

3. Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert, known as the “Stifle Tower,” is the epitome of a defensive juggernaut. With multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards, Gobert’s impact on the defensive end is unparalleled. His rim protection and ability to alter shots make him a vital piece of the Utah Jazz’s defensive scheme.

4. Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo represents the new age of NBA centers. His athleticism, defensive versatility, and ability to handle the ball and facilitate the offense set him apart. Adebayo’s impact on both ends of the floor has been instrumental in the Miami Heat’s success.

5. Karl-Anthony Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the most offensively gifted centers in the NBA. His ability to score from anywhere on the floor, including beyond the arc, makes him a matchup nightmare. While his defensive game has been criticized, Towns’ offensive skills are undeniably elite.

6. Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton has shown flashes of brilliance that hint at his potential to rise among the ranks of top NBA centers. With a soft touch around the basket and a growing defensive presence, Ayton’s role in the Phoenix Suns’ success cannot be understated. His ability to put up efficient numbers while contributing to team success underscores his value.

7. Jarrett Allen

Jarrett Allen’s rise has been a testament to his development and work ethic. His presence in the paint, both as a defender and a rebounder, has been crucial for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Allen’s ability to score efficiently and set hard screens adds another dimension to his team’s offense.

8. Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez has transformed his game to become one of the most versatile centers in the league. Known for his defensive prowess and shot-blocking ability, Lopez has also developed a reliable three-point shot. His contributions were instrumental in the Milwaukee Bucks’ recent championship run, showcasing his ability to impact the game on both ends.


Nikola Jokić: A Statistical Marvel

Nikola Jokić’s impact on the Denver Nuggets is monumental. Averaging a triple-double over a season, his versatility is unmatched. Jokić’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) consistently ranks among the league’s best, demonstrating his all-around contributions. His ability to elevate the Nuggets’ offense, combined with his clutch performances, underscores his value as a centerpiece of the team.

Joel Embiid: Dominance Personified

Joel Embiid’s scoring prowess is evident in his ability to lead the league in points per game, showcasing his offensive dominance. His defensive metrics, including blocks per game and defensive win shares, highlight his impact on the defensive end as well. Embiid’s frequent trips to the free-throw line, where he shoots at a high percentage, add another dimension to his offensive arsenal.

Rudy Gobert: The Defensive Anchor

Rudy Gobert’s defensive metrics are off the charts, with leading block and rebound numbers that speak to his role as the defensive backbone of the Utah Jazz. Gobert’s Defensive Player of the Year awards attest to his defensive excellence, significantly contributing to the Jazz’s identity as a formidable defensive team.

Bam Adebayo: The Versatile Center

Bam Adebayo’s contributions are not just limited to scoring and rebounding; his ability to assist, showcasing his playmaking skills, sets him apart. Adebayo’s defensive versatility allows him to guard multiple positions effectively, making him a crucial asset for the Miami Heat on both ends of the floor.

Karl-Anthony Towns: The Offensive Juggernaut

Karl-Anthony Towns’ offensive efficiency is highlighted by his exceptional shooting percentages, both from the field and beyond the arc. Towns’ ability to stretch the floor as a center makes him a unique threat, contributing significantly to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offensive schemes.

Deandre Ayton: The Rising Star

Deandre Ayton’s progression is evident in his improved scoring and rebounding numbers. His efficiency around the basket and improving defensive metrics showcase his potential to become one of the league’s top centers. Ayton’s role in the Phoenix Suns’ success, particularly in their deep playoff runs, highlights his importance to the team.

Jarrett Allen: The Interior Force

Jarrett Allen’s presence in the paint is quantified by his impressive rebounding and block numbers. His high field goal percentage reflects his efficiency as an interior scorer, making him a reliable option for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Allen’s development into an All-Star caliber player underlines his growing impact in the league.

Brook Lopez: The Defensive Stalwart

Brook Lopez’s transformation into a defensive anchor for the Milwaukee Bucks is underscored by his leading block numbers and defensive win shares. His ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting adds a valuable dimension to the Bucks’ offense, complementing his defensive contributions.

The Unquantifiable: Leadership and Impact

While statistics provide a significant insight into a player’s performance, the intangibles such as leadership, basketball IQ, and impact on team chemistry are equally crucial. The ability of these centers to lead by example, make smart decisions on the floor, and elevate their teammates’ play is what truly distinguishes them as the best in the league.

Final Thoughts: The Pillars of Success

The NBA’s top centers are not just exceptional athletes; they are strategic thinkers, leaders, and key contributors to their teams’ successes. Their ability to influence the game in multiple ways, from scoring and defending to facilitating and leading, makes them indispensable. As the NBA evolves, these centers continue to redefine the boundaries of their position, promising an exciting future for the league and its fans.

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