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Top ten centers entering the 2023-24 season

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (left) posts up  Phoenix Suns center Deande Ayton (right)

The Center position appeared obsolete after the Warrior's small-ball Dominance in the late 2010s. However, the position has seen a resurgence and is now one of the more vital positions in the game. After the MVP race being dominated by big men for the past few seasons, it begs the question; Who are the top ten centers in the league today?

Honorable Mention. Wendell Carter Jr, Orlando Magic.

Wendell Carter Jr. has been steadily improving since being drafted seventh overall by Chicago. His growth and improvement peaked last season with Orlando, where he posted career highs in points (15.2), three-point percentage (35.6%), three-pointers attempted (3.9), and true shooting (62.1%). Carter has always been an above-average defender, which has remained consistent as he has grown into an offensive player. Carter's newfound ability to shoot from deep has propelled him up the ranks of big men and skyrocketed his value to a young Orlando Magic team. After improving every season in the league, there's no reason to believe he won't continue improving and refining his game.

10. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns.

Deandre Ayton is an intriguing player to attempt to rank. Throughout the regular season, the former first-overall pick has consistently performed at a high level. This past season, he tallied 18 points and ten rebounds per game with above-league-average efficiency. If only the regular season were considered, Ayton could crack the top five. However, the postseason is what drops his ranking. Ayton severely underperformed these past playoffs, only scoring 13.4 points and grabbing 6.8 boards per game. Ayton has all the physical tools to succeed. He's an intense, athletic center who has shown flashes of being able to space the floor from the mid-range and elbows. Unfortunately for Ayton, his apparent inability to remain aggressive on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball makes him a liability at times for Phoenix and their title hopes. Assuming Ayton finds a way to remain aggressive in the postseason, he'll enter the upper echelon of Starting centers; for now, he's ranked as the 9th best center in the league.

9. Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers.

Jarrett Allen is similar to Wendell Carter in that he's improved every season

in the NBA. Allen is an athletic freak who is an excellent rim runner, lob threat, and defender. Before the 2021-22 season, he was considered a top 5 center in the Association. Unfortunately, his performance in the 2023 postseason has dropped his ranking. His scoring output dropped from 14.3 points to 9.4 points, and his efficiency dropped by 3%. This production drop is part of why the 51-win, 4tgh-seeded Cavaliers fell in the first round to the 5th-seeded Knicks. That said, Allen is still a fantastic center who supports the Cavaliers stars excellently. What sets him apart from Ayton is his aggression. He hasn't shown the same lack of aggression that Ayton does at times. He knows his role, and he plays it very well.

8. Kristaps Porzingis, Boston Celtics.

Kristaps Porzingis had a career year last season. He tallied career-bests in points (23.2), assists (2.7), and true shooting (62.7%). Porzingis also had his healthiest season since his sophomore season, playing 65 games for Washington. He showed signs of returning to the elite rim protector we saw during his early days with the Knicks. Porzingis will provide the Celtics with reliable floor spacing and rim protection. If he can have similar health to this season, he could help propel Boston back to The Finals.

7. Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks.

Brook Lopez is a textbook example of adapting. Lopez went from a post-up big and a defensive liability to a floor-spacing center and an elite defender. This transformation capped off this past season, where Lopez had one of his most efficient and best defensive seasons ever. His three-point shooting reached a new career high at 37.4%, as did his rim protection, with 2.5 blocks per game. Lopez has a case to be the best plug-and-play center in the NBA, and his new style of play at age 34 is nothing short of impressive.

6. Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves.

The NBA community at large knows what to expect from Rust Gobery at this point in his career. He is consistently one of the best defenders in the Association and provides elite rebounding. The fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns is questionable at best. His production dropped from the previous season, mainly his block total. He dropped from 2.1 blocks per game in 2022 with Utah to 1.4 in 2023 with Minnesota. However, Minnesota's shortcomings are not entirely his fault. More blame goes to the front office, who sent a plethora of assets to Utah for him. That being said, Gobert is one of the best defenders and rebounders in the NBA and brings value to a team that is properly-suited for him.

5. Domantas Sabonis, Sacremento Kings.

Last season, Domantas Sabonis took his game to another level. He has his best season alongside De'aaron Fox, notching career highs in assists (7.3), true shooting (66.8%), and field goal percentage (61.5%). Though his scoring and rebounding outputs weren't career highs, they were improved upon from previous seasons. The biggest hole in his game is his defense; however, his elite offense helped unlock De'Aaron Fox's potential and also helped propel Sacramento to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. His elite passing and the ability to run the offense through him as a big man provides tons of value for any team. His improved deep ball was also a sign of good things to come. Assuming he stays healthy, Sabonis will make a case for All-NBA again next season.

4. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat.

Bam Adebayo is another player who's improved over every season in the league. Bam is a versatile defender who can guard almost every position. His freak athleticism makes him a lob threat, and his tight handle makes him a bulldozer when he drives to the basket. With a career-high in scoring output (20.4 mpg), Adebayos aggressiveness in the regular season is a definite plus when paired with his athleticism. He's also shown an ability to space the floor from the mid-range in the post-season. He comes in slightly undersized (6'9"), which leaves him slightly susceptible to post-ups from larger centers; However, it makes him very versatile in guarding faster wings. Adebayo is also a good playmaker and a talented passer for his position. Adebayo provides both offensive and defensive versatility for a championship contender.

3. Jaren Jackson Jr, Memphis Grizzlies.

To the surprise of many, Jaren Jackson Jr. played 77% of his minutes at center, so he's included on this list. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year and two-time block champ is also a versatile offensive player. He's seriously cut back his fouling, an issue that plagued him during his first few seasons. His career high in points (18.3), rebounds (6.8), blocks (3.0), and improved three-ball propelled him to his first all-star appearance and second all-defensive team selection. Jackson Jr. is an exciting player because he plays offensively like a wing/forward but defensively like a center. Unfortunately, Jackson Jr's efficiency dropped significantly in the post-season, which helped lead to a disappointing first-round exit. That being said, Jaren Jackson Jr's elite defense and improved offensive game earned him the third spot on this list.

2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers.

There's not much that can be said about Joel Embiid that hasn't already been said. He won his second consecutive scoring title last season and finally snagged the elusive MVP he's been chasing for the past few seasons. He's one of the most physically dominant players the NBA has ever seen. The one thing that withholds him from consideration as the best center in the Association is his post-season record. For another season, the reigning MVP disappointed in the Playoffs. His production dropped drastically. His scoring output dropped ten points per game, and his efficiency plummeted also. And though the disappointing second-round exit is not entirely Embiid's fault, It can't be overlooked. That being said, Embiid is still one of the ten best players in the league and will continue to perform at an elite level during the regular season.

1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets.

As with Embiid, not much can be said regarding Jokic that hasn't already been said. The two-time MVP added to his eye-popping resume by adding an NBA Championship and Finals MVP this past post-season. An elite scorer, passer, and rebounder, there's no one part of The Joker's offensive game that needs improvement. Despite the myth that he is a poor defender, Jokic has been above-average on that side of the ball for several seasons. Jokic is the first center the Association has seen that can dominate all aspects of the game. He's not the fastest or most athletic, but his ability to read the game and his IQ puts him in a league of his own.


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