Throughout the history of basketball, the role of NBA centers has been crucial. They are typically known for their dominance in the paint.
A Center possesses the ability to score, grab rebounds and be a strong defensive presence. These bigs of the game were often seen as unmovable forces, anchoring their teams' defense and creating opportunities for their teammates.
However, over the years the game has evolved and the NBA has witnessed a substantial shift among centers who have now adapted to the changing demands of modern basketball.
The two-time NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic is a live example of the shifting trend. Due to his broad range of skill sets including scoring, passing, and defense, as well as his dynamic playmaking abilities, Jokic is the best in the league.
Similarly, the 2023 MVP winner Joel Embiid is also easily one of the top centers in NBA right now.
Below is the list of the 15 best centers going into the 2024 NBA campaign ranked based on their offensive skills, scoring prowess, defensive ability, versatility and basketball IQ.
Nikola Jokic has evolved to be one of the most dominating players since joining the league in 2015. Denver Nuggets picked Jokic in the 2014 NBA Draft.
However, he signed a contract a year later in July 2015. In his debut season, the Serbian center played 80 games averaging 10 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
With each campaign, Jokic gradually kept improving and in 2021 he came on top winning the NBA Most Valuable Player. The five-time NBA All-Star won his second consecutive MVP title in 2022 with a career-high of 27.1 PPG.
Nicknamed, 'The Joker', the 6-foot-11 giant helped the Nuggets win their first-ever NBA championship in 2023. Nikola was honored with the NBA Finals MVP against Miami.
With that achievement, Jokic itched his name as one of the NBA best centers of all time.
Joel Embiid had the league's best stats in the 2022-23 season. Embiid led the league in points per game (PPG) for the second straight year.
The Philadelphia 76ers star finally gets his hands on the NBA MVP award in 2023 after finishing second for two consecutive years. One of the best centers in the NBA right now, Embiid some even see him among the best centers all time.
In the last season post season, the 29-year-old managed to get 23.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.7 APG and .905 FT% in nine games with the Sixers.
Speaking of his individual accomplishments, Joel has been selected in the NBA All-Star game for six successive years since 2018. He has also won four All-NBA Second Team and also earned NBA All-Defensive Second Team three times.
Bam Adebayo was ranked among the top 10 NBA centers by ESPN Insider in 2023 based on the Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
Adebayo had his best season in the 2022-23 season as he pulled 20.4 points per game and .806 free throw percentage in 75 matches. He led the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals, participating in 23 games where he averaged 17.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game in the playoffs.
The 6-foot-9 New Jersey native is best known for his defensive capability and has the ability to adapt to different game strategies.
Came as a 1st round pick for the Heat in the 2017 Draft, Adebayo quickly became a familiar face among the basketball fans. Besides, he has been selected as an NBA All-Star twice and has earned a spot on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team four times.
Anthony Davis is a Los Angeles Lakers center who averaged 2.0 blocks along with 25.9 points per game in the 2022-23 NBA season.
Davis was also the only player in the previous season who maintained an average of more than 25 points and 12 rebounds per game. Due to his impressive height and massive size, his rim protection and defensive prowess are both among the best at the position.
In the 2023 playoffs, Davis recorded 22.6 PPG, 14.1 RPG and 2.6 APG in 16 games but was not good enough to advance to the NBA Finals as the Lakers were thrashed 4-0 by the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.
Playing alongside the all-time great Lebron James, Davis won the NBA title once in 2020. He is an 8 time NBA All-Star and became the All-Star Game MVP in 2017.
Domantas Sabonis joined the Sacramento Kings from the Indiana Pacers in 2022. Sabonis became a massive part of the shift in The King's roster.
He played a crucial role in turning the team around leading the NBA by grabbing 12.3 rebounds per game and also contributed by providing 7.3 assists per game.
Sabonis, 27, is a terrific passer and screener who grew into the game with each season's passing. Teaming up with De’Aaron Fox, Sabonis ushered Sacramento to their first playoff berth in nearly two decades.
Besides, the former Oklahoma City Thunder player has been selected in the All-Star games thrice along with an All-NBA Third Team selection in 2023.
The Kings and Sabonis agreed on a five-year contract worth $217 million in July 2023, making it one of the biggest sports deals in Lithuania's history.
Bedford, Texas born superstar Myles Turner is easily one of the most promising current NBA centers. Turner was picked by the Indiana Pacers in the 2015 NBA Draft.
The 27-year-old narrowly fell short of securing a spot among the top 5 NBA centers and is currently ranked sixth on our list. He had an overall improved performance in all departments in comparison to previous seasons.
After Sabonis left Indiana to play for the Kings, Turner stepped up his game on the attack and his points per game went up from 12.9 (2022) to 18.0 (2023).
Similarly, his RPG increased from 7.1 to a career best of 7.5 and his APG rose from 1.0 to 1.4. Considered one of the most underrated players in the NBA, Turner has won NBA Blocks leader twice in 2019 and 2021.
Rudy Gobert is a French professional who is currently playing his second season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Gobert spent nine seasons at the Utah Jazz.
Although his first season with the Wolves in 2022-23 was not up to par, Rudy still makes the list of NBA best centers right now.
He has been consistently giving banger after banger performances each season since 2018 and one cannot easily write him off just because of a dip in form.
The three time NBA All Star first came into proper limelight after leading the league in Blocks per game (2.6 BPG) in 2016-17. In his last season with Utah, he had his greatest year ever. He was the best at grabbing rebounds, getting 14.7 per game, and had the highest field goal percentage at 71.3%.
Furthermore, Gobert has been named NBA DPOY on three occasions in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Kristaps Porzingis enjoyed the best-ever season of his career in 2022-23 with the Washington Wizards. Porzingis averaged 23.2 points, 2.7 assists and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Following a prosperous basketball career in Europe, he transitioned to the more challenging NBA in 2015. The Latvian international began his NBA journey with the New York Knicks where he played for four seasons.
Porzingis moved to Dallas in 2019 and later joined the Wizards in 2022 for a year. He was traded to the Boston Celtics by the Wizards in June 2023.
His rim protecting ability lies on par with the best in the league. Throughout his career, Porzingis has blocked an average of 1.8 shots per game thanks to is impressive stature of 7 feet and 3 inches.
Deandre Ayton has been consistently averaging a double-double for five seasons straight since he entered the NBA in 2018.
2018-19: 16.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG
2019-20 : 18.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG
2020-21: 14.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG
2021-22: 17.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG
2022-23: 18.0 PPG, 10.4 RPG
The skilled scored and rebounder has been an invaluable asset to the Phoenix Suns squad. Ayton guided the Suns to their first NBA Finals in 30 years but were unfortunate to win the title in 2021.
Ayton, 25, is still very young and has lots of time and opportunities ahead of him. The 2019 NBA All Rookie First Team member could play a pivotal role for the Phoenix team going into the 2023-24 season, benefiting from the guidance of experienced veterans such as Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Devin Booker.
Nikola Vucevic is considered one of the best centers in the NBA 2023. Vucevic joined the Chicago Bulls from the Orlando Magic in 2021.
For the first time in his 13-year NBA career, Vucevic played a full 82 regular season games in the 2022-23 campaign with the Bulls. He averaged an impressive 17.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
In an exclusive category of highly skilled Bigs, Vucevic stands out for his impressive passing ability and proficiency in shooting from long distances.
Except for the 2011–12, 2015-16 and 2017-18 seasons, the two time NBA All star has produced a double double in every other season.
Moreover, his career best points per game was in 2020-21 where he averaged 24.5 PPG and 11.8 RPG.
Clint Capela has been playing in the NBA for almost a decade now. The Atlanta Hawks star also breaks into the list of Top centers in the NBA.
Apart from his first three seasons, Capela has recorded a double-double in every season that followed. In the previous season, he managed 12.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game and his career average is 12.4 PPG and 10.7 RPG.
Capela alongside Trae Young and Dejounte Murray in the Hawks team make a good trio. However, they were eliminated from the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs after suffering a defeat to the Celtics.
Besides, the 6-foot-10 center has been consistently giving his best each season. His 14.3 RPG was the most in the league in 2021 resulting in him winning the NBA Rebounding Leader.