Ranking All 30 Starting Centers in Today’s NBA

30. Alex Len — Atlanta Hawks

The former top-10 pick never did live up to the hype he brought in from the college ranks. Len battled both inconsistency and injury issues during his tenure in Phoenix. Now in Atlanta, he’s ready for a fresh start. Len can score a little bit, and isn’t immobile from the center position. He’ll be given a big opportunity to showcase himself as a potential piece in Atlanta’s future plans.

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29. Wendell Carter Jr. — Chicago Bulls

The rookie out of Duke will one day be a good NBA player. Carter Jr. is both skilled and smart with the ball in his hands. Many basketball pundits believe he has Al Horford-like upside — while others see a shot-blocking force with a sneaky-good post game. Chicago is in the midst of a rebuild. Once Lauri Markkanen comes back healthy, it will be interesting to see how the duo work together.

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28. Damian Jones — Golden State Warriors

Jones is the lucky fifth cog in the Warriors’ juggernaut starting lineup. After featuring sparingly over the last two seasons, Jones is now entrenched as the team’s starting center. Jones’ primary responsibilities include rim-running, blocking shots, and catching lobs. He’s done a decent job of that thus far — though he must improve upon his conditioning. At this point, Jones will be keeping the seat warm — whilst garnering experience — until DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins is healthy enough to assume the role.

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27. Pau Gasol — San Antonio Spurs

Gasol is at the tail-end of his career. While LaMarcus Aldridge does play heavy minutes at center, we’re opting to have Gasol as the Spurs’ main big man for this piece. Gasol still has a brilliant mind from a passing standpoint. Since his athleticism has diminished, he’s become far more reliant upon taking threes. Much of his value comes with San Antonio’s second unit. The Spaniard will still offer something as an experienced low-post scorer/playmaker.

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26. Marcin Gortat — Los Angeles Clippers

Gortat is towards the end of his career. He’s extremely limited on the offensive end. Much of his production stems from put-backs and dunks. However, the Polish international still is exceptional as both a screener and as a stationary defender. The young Clippers love Gortat’s leadership skills in the locker room. While his best days are behind him, Gortat is still chugging along as a serviceable player.

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25. Tristan Thompson — Cleveland Cavaliers

Thompson has averaged at least 10 points per game only twice in his career. This is shockingly bad for a former top-five NBA draft pick. The Canadian can gobble up rebounds well, and also body up virtually any post player in the NBA. However, he’s horrific from the free throw line and is surprisingly poor when it comes to blocking shots and protecting the rim. Thompson does the dirty work, though his strengths certainly won’t be accentuated on what might be the worst team in the NBA.

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24. Cody Zeller — Charlotte Hornets

The former No. 4 Overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft has been — shall we say — underwhelming throughout his career. Zeller lacks the physicality to be a dominant post player. He gets pushed off the block far too easily. As a result, Zeller has developed into a below-average rebounder/shot blocker for his position. Zeller can stretch the floor decently well, and is a feisty competitor. However, he’s not far from the dreaded ‘seven-year backup center’ label.

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23. Brook Lopez — Milwaukee Bucks

Weirdly enough, the 7-footer out of Stanford has developed into a spot-up shooter. Lopez was never an overly physical player — though he did have some huge years with the Nets. At this point in his career, he’s more than comfortable floating out to the three-point line for perimeter shots. This skill works well with Mike Budenholzer’s fast-paced, free-flowing style of offense. Don’t ask Lopez to be much of a rebounder, however. Last year, Lopez averaged an anemic 4.0 RPG.

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22. JaVale McGee — Los Angeles Lakers

Though it’s very early in the 2018-19 season, McGee is on pace to have his best season as a pro. The Lakers afforded him the ability to start — and he’s taken full advantage. McGee is blocking shots at a high clip, and has been fantastic in running the floor. The bouncy athlete certainly is prone to mental lapses. Duly, his inability to play long stretches on the floor limits his ranking within this piece. Regardless, McGee has been a pleasant surprise in Los Angeles.

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21. Dwight Howard — Washington Wizards

Howard is a weird player. If he focused solely on rim-running, rebounding and blocking shots, he’d skyrocket up the list. Instead, Howard has some injury concerns, attitude issues, and a proclivity for thinking he’s better than he really is. Howard’s at his best when focusing solely on the aforementioned three traits. When trying to isolate for himself in the post, Howard is a turnover machine. As he approaches 33 years of age, it will be fascinating to see how his season in the nation’s capital shakes out.

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20. Willie Cauley-Stein — Sacramento Kings

Cauley-Stein is better than people think. The Kansas native has shot over 50 percent in each of his first three seasons in the NBA. Exceptionally gifted laterally, Cauley-Stein is excellent when it comes to switching in screen-and-roll situations. He’s also got quick hands — evidenced by the fact he averaged more than a steal per game in 2017-18. At only 25 years of age, Cauley-Stein is just scratching the surface on his considerable potential. As a defensive-minded athlete, many teams would love to have him anchoring the back end of their defensive alignment.

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19. Serge Ibaka — Toronto Raptors

Toronto uses a platoon of Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas at the five — though the former seems to be getting starting minutes. Neither player is projected to see large chunks of time this season. New head coach Nick Nurse is opting to go smaller for longer stretches of time. This then means that Pascal Siakam would slide over to man the five spot. However for the purposes of this piece, we list Ibaka as the starting center. The Congolese international isn’t the shot blocking force he once was. However, Ibaka can still be decently productive when given the opportunity.

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18. Jusuf Nurkic — Portland Trail Blazers

Nurkic is a player with limitations. On one hand, he’s adept at scoring around the rim. Nurkic possesses a bevy of post moves — including drop-steps, fakes, and clever footwork. On the other hand, he struggles immensely on the defensive end of the floor. A lack of lateral quickness prohibits Nurkic from playing when the opposition goes small. Nurkic is a fair rebounder, and is decent at protecting the rim. Though a throwback to an earlier time, Nurkic is still productive all the same.

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17. Enes Kanter — New York Knicks

Kanter is exceptionally good at two things: Scoring around the basket, and rebounding. He’s a legitimate force when given the chance to operate in the paint. Combining supreme skill and a brutish demeanor, Kanter is one of the most underrated post scorers in the NBA. He’s also highly efficient — an aspect which will be appealing to other teams should the Knicks look to unload him in a trade. While he can’t protect the rim, his net positives as player give Kanter nice value.

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16. DeAndre Ayton — Phoenix Suns

While Ayton has just begun his professional career, we’re already seeing signs of a player destined for super-stardom. The former Arizona product has already turned into a walking double-double. His feathery touch extends from anywhere in the painted area to the mid-range. Ayton’s instinctual prowess is best showcased when pursuing missed shots in traffic. As he gets bigger and stronger, Ayton should also become a more prolific shot blocker. If he continues on this current pace of development, he’ll be a top-10 center a year from now.

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15. Jarrett Allen — Brooklyn Nets

The 20-year-old is one of the more promising big men in today’s NBA. Allen wasn’t supposed to be this good so quickly. When drafted late in the first round by Brooklyn, he was looked at as a project. However, Allen’s rapid development has him starting for the Nets. He’s a supremely springy player — most notably when leaping to block shots. He can score around the basket, and can also run the floor better than most at his position. By the looks of it, Brooklyn has its franchise center for the next 7-to-10 years.

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14. Nikola Vucevic — Orlando Magic

Vucevic can roll out of bed and grab a double-double in his sleep. The skilled big man out of USC is very adept at using his body to carve out space for himself to operate in the post. Vucevic can finish with either hand, and is also equipped with a multitude of counter moves. In recent years, he’s even become a threat to shoot from beyond the arc. At 28 years of age, Vucevic is smack-dab in the middle of his prime. It will be interesting to see whether a contender opts to trade for him before the deadline.

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13. Myles Turner — Indiana Pacers

Turner has yet to fully realize his vast potential. Considering he’s only 22 years of age, there’s certainly enough time to do that. Very few 6-feet-11 bigs can both shoot threes and protect the rim at a high clip. Turner is rare in this regard. Possessing a well-rounded offensive game, Turner can hurt opponents in transition as well as in the half court. His consistency levels haven’t been where they need to be. Assuming he can turn that aspect of his game around, the sky is the limit.

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12. Steven Adams — Oklahoma City Thunder

On a team full of volatility, Steven Adams is the one source of consistency. The New Zealand native averages close to a double-double on an annual basis. He’ll nab a block a game, will rarely turn the ball over, and can play above-average positional defense. In short, Adams is the quintessential glue guy on a very good team. At only 25, he’ll prove to be a very valuable commodity going forward (particularly if he’s ever put on the trade block).

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11. Hassan Whiteside — Miami Heat

On talent alone, Whiteside is a top-10 player. However, there are far too many instances where inconsistency sabotages his game — both on and off the court. His attitude has been called into question on more than one occasion. On the court, there are spells when Whiteside is the most dominant player…and other times when he looks disinterested. There are few players as maddening as Whiteside when looking at his overall ability.

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10. DeAndre Jordan — Dallas Mavericks

Jordan is certainly a player with faults. His free-throw percentages are historically awful. There’s no attempt — or even a thought — at shooting a three. In the modern NBA, most bigs are now required to step out beyond the arc. Though he’s a bit of a relic, Jordan is still elite at rebounding, shot blocking, field-goal percentage, and finishing at the rim. The Texas native is a lock to gobble up at least 13 rebounds per contest, whilst shooting close to 70 percent from the floor. Despite the free-throw shooting woes, most teams would take this production in a second.

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9. Marc Gasol — Memphis Grizzlies

Gasol is a transcendent player in a number of ways. His uniqueness stems from the ability to adapt his personal game to the changing NBA landscape. Once predominantly a physical post player, Gasol now has the capabilities to stretch a defense with his perimeter shot. Gasol’s ability to read the game masks deficiencies he has as a 33-year-old center. While he won’t be the dominant two-way player he once was, the younger of the Gasol brothers still has a place in this league as an above-average big man.

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8. Clint Capela — Houston Rockets

Capela benefits greatly from playing alongside two of the NBA’s most prolific playmakers. The Swiss-born center is the beneficiary of multiple lobs a game. While plays aren’t generally run through Capela, he’s excellent at knifing through traffic for offensive rebounds and dunks. Duly, Houston’s transition game is fully humming when Capela is darting from rim to rim. Defensively, his abnormally long wingspan aids in him being one of the best shot-blocking bigs in the league.

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7. Al Horford — Boston Celtics

Horford’s unassuming persona often has him undervalued when compared to his peers at the position. He isn’t flashy — nor is he outspoken. However, Horford is a hard-working, efficient player with winning traits. He’s arguably the most important player on Boston’s star-studded team. Horford is the human version of the ‘things that don’t show up in the box score.’ He defends at a high level — both in terms of blocking shots and playing stationary defense. On offense, Horford is an excellent screener, passer of the basketball, and has range beyond the three-point line. His lack of athleticism aside, Horford is an incredibly well-rounded athlete.

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6. Rudy Gobert — Utah Jazz

The ‘stifle tower’ is arguably the best shot-blocking force in the entire NBA. Gobert gobbles up blocks like the cookie monster does with cookies. His freakishly long arms pair immensely well with significant instinctual brilliance. Gobert is uncanny at timing his jump to snuff out shot attempts around the rim. The Frenchman has nice touch around the rim. He’s not the type of guy to pound the ball on the block, though Gobert certainly can score when called upon. Above all else, his defensive metrics has Gobert squarely inside the top-six.

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5. Andre Drummond — Detroit Pistons

The former UConn star is very good in a number of categories. In pick-and-roll situations, Drummond resembles a gigantic bolder rolling towards the rim. Powerful and fast, he’s nearly impossible to stop when getting the ball in the painted area. Drummond’s quick first-step enables him to be one of the league’s best rebounders. The 25-year-old big man has averaged over 13 rebounds per game since entering the NBA — a mark few can match. The free-throw line is a problem area for Drummond. However, every other aspect in his game has the two-time All-Star ready for potential all-league accolades.

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4. Karl-Anthony Towns — Minnesota Timberwolves

The 23-year-old out of New Jersey has the chance to one day be a perennial All-Star. Towns has every possible offensive tool one could think of in the perfect modern day NBA big man. Towns can finish with either hand, and has a host of elite post moves to pull from. Should you clog the lane, Towns is equally as comfortable with shooting from the mid-range and all the way out past the three-point line. He’s as skilled as any post player you’ll find — which makes his game maddening at times. For as talented as Towns is, he has a tendency to play with a lack of urgency. He floats too often out on the court. Assuming Towns can play with a motor each and every night, there’s no question he could develop into an elite player.

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3. Nikola Jokic — Denver Nuggets

It’s mind-boggling to think that Jokic is only 23 years of age. The 6-foot-10 center has already established himself as a real problem in this league. Jokic shouldn’t be as good as he is. He’s a below-average athlete with bad foot speed and a penchant for turning the ball over. Alas, his insane skill level — coupled with a fiery disposition — makes him an elite NBA player. Jokic can score from anywhere on the floor. Often times, he chooses to bring the ball up the floor. Sans LeBron James, there isn’t another big man possessing Jokic’s ability to pass the basketball. Without question, he’s a star.

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2. Joel Embiid — Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid is legitimately one of the most talented basketball players on the planet. It isn’t everyday when you see a 7-foot-2 center bombing threes with regularity. His game resembles Hakeem Olajuwon — though there’s some nastiness thrown in there. When he’s fully engaged, few — if any — can defend Embiid. He can shoot over you, power through you, and even shake you off the bounce. Defensively, Embiid’s whopping wingspan is a real deterrent for anyone thinking about driving the lane. The only real question mark surrounding Embiid is his health. Assuming that’s in order, you’re looking at a future Hall of Famer.

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1. Anthony Davis — New Orleans Pelicans

AD is a monster. There’s really no other way to describe the Chicago native. He’s a dominant player in every single aspect of the game. There’s nothing Davis can’t do on the floor — whether it’s scoring on the block, shooting from the perimeter, defending other players, blocking shots, or playmaking for teammates. Health issues have been a concern with him in the past. If Davis is able to ward off the nagging physical ailments, you’re looking at the next great NBA player.

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