With the NBA season just around the corner, it’s time to put together our list of the best NBA centers 2022-23.
These guys can lock down the paint and make their presence felt on both sides of the glass, and some of them are even dominant scorers.
Best NBA centers 2022-23
While some believe the old-school, heavy-footed, front-facing big man is a dying breed, most teams continue to prove that size still matters in the NBA. That’s why no roster is complete without a big man anchoring the paint, setting picks, and cleaning up the glass.
Of course, today’s league is perimeter-oriented, which means modern big men need to work on expanding their game and their range and trying to become ‘unicorns’ now more than ever. Still, some don’t try and do more than they’re asked to, and they’re still quite valuable pieces to their teams.
In an era where we won’t see Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar anymore, some big men still make the offense run through them. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 15 best NBA centers 2023.
15. Clint Capela
While he doesn’t get much credit, Clint Capela is one of the most hard-working and efficient big men in the league. He really expanded his offensive game as a pick-and-roll threat and rim-runner, and he can finish above and below the rim, although he’s rarely asked to score.
Capela can lock down the paint and be a dominant rebounder, even on limited minutes. He’s not a defensive liability in the perimeter either, as his long arms allow him to switch and stay in front of quicker players. Hopefully, he’ll avoid missing time with injuries, as has been the case over the past couple of years.
14. Jarrett Allen
Jarrett Allen has slowly and quietly but steadily become one of the best NBA centers right now. He proved that he could coexist with another shot-blocking, dominant rebounder in Evan Mobley, shutting down all spacing concerns and still managing to make a big impact on the defensive end of the floor.
Allen made the NBA rounds for emphatically swatting shots from multiple stars of the game. He won’t hesitate to challenge you and meet you at the rim, even if that means getting put on a poster. Also, he’s the kind of big man who embraces his role and won’t try to force things on the offensive end.
13. Mitchell Robinson
If he stays healthy and avoids foul trouble, then Mitchell Robinson is a lock to be one of the best NBA centers 2023. Nonetheless, those are two massive ifs for Robinson, who’s injury proneness seems to be the biggest thing holding him back at this point in his career.
Robinson has made great strides in expanding his offensive repertoire. He’s worked on his handle and has become an efficient passer, and he was already one of the best rim protectors in the game. However, he gets into foul trouble way too often, so he needs to learn when to be aggressive and when to take a more conservative approach.
12. Jusuf Nurkic
Jusuf Nurkic doesn’t get a lot of love, mostly because he plays on a small market team. But make no mistake, he’s the second most important player for the Portland Trail Blazers, as they’ve looked completely terrible and unable to get a stop in the paint when he’s been forced to miss time with injuries.
Nurkic is more than just a heavy-footed big man. He’s shown that he can put the ball on the floor, has sweet footwork, and his physical traits allow him to bully his way to the rack every time he gets the ball in the low post. Still, he needs to be more consistent, especially as a defender.
11. Kristaps Porzingis
If we tell by his performances in FIBA basketball this offseason, then there’s no doubt that Kristaps Porzingis should rank among the best NBA centers right now. But then again, we’ve seen that way too often, and he still needs to prove that he can consistently dominate in the Association as well.
One of the first unicorns, Porzingis’ unusual combination of size, handles, and shooting skills make him a valuable asset everywhere he goes. However, it seems like injuries and character issues will never allow him to fully live up to his potential. Hopefully, he’ll prove us wrong and wreak havoc this season.
10. Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic is coming off one of the worst seasons in his career, but he’s still a top-10 big man in the Association. He can put the ball in the hoop in multiple ways and is one of the best shooting centers we’ve seen in years. He’s got unlimited range and a green light to shoot from beyond the arc.
Vucevic has never been much of a lockdown defender, though. He gets cooked often in the post and doesn’t have a long wingspan despite being such a big man. But all in all, Vucevic’s offensive skill set makes him a guy all teams would want to have on their roster, even if it’s coming off the bench.
9. Robert Williams III
Robert Williams III doesn’t play a fancy game, but he was by far one of the best NBA centers 2022. He’s a physical beast, a relentless, hard-working big man who doesn’t mind giving up an inch or two because he can make that up with his impressive athleticism, strength, and defensive instincts.
Williams III has been hurt often, and that has kind of stalled his development. But he’s the kind of guy who’d rather play through an injury than bail on his team. He’s one of the finest rim protectors in the world and the kind of big who could swat five shots a game on any given night.
8. Jonas Valanciunas
While he’s been overlooked way too often, Jonas Valanciunas continues to prove that he’s just too valuable. He was expected to come off the bench or be traded or waived to make room for the younger Jaxson Hayes, but he challenged Father Time and kept on doing his thing.
Valanciunas is one of the best pick-and-roll players in the league. He’s an elite screener, rebounder, and looks like a bulldozer going your way when he gets the ball rolling to the rim. He’s not exactly athletic or fast, but he makes up for it with top-notch strength, awareness, and quick hands.
7. Myles Turner
Myles Turner was one of the top NBA centers 2022, so it wasn’t shocking to see him tangled up in multiple trade rumors again. Eventually, the Indiana Pacers decided to hold on to him, but there’s no way he’s not traded by this season’s deadline as they look to tank and rebuild.
Turner never took off and became the two-way superstar some scouts thought he’d be. But don’t let the expectations fool you, as he’s had quite a good career anyway. Turner is perhaps the best shot-blocker in the league, and he can also guard the perimeter. Moreover, he can efficiently score from all three levels.
6. Domantas Sabonis
Domantas Sabonis is expected to be one of the top-10 best NBA centers 2022-23, but that’s not likely to do much to help the Sacramento Kings put an end to their playoff drought. If anything, he should look to force his way out of that team before wasting years of his prime.
Sabonis isn’t the elite playmaker his old man was, but he’s a willing passer and a guy with better handles than most players his size. He’s a nightly double-double threat who can dominate both sides of the glass, and he’s got a nice bag of moves in the post as well.
5. Deandre Ayton
Deandre Ayton will always live under Luka Doncic‘s shadow, which is why he’ll always be somewhat underrated, even by his own team. He was one of the best NBA centers 2022, yet he had to wait for months before finally getting the contract he wanted and deserved.
Ayton’s offensive contributions and skills have never been in question. He can finish above or below the rim with both hands and is a gifted athlete. Moreover, he’s made great strides into becoming an efficient and more consistent defender, and he’s still quite young. Stop sleeping on the former first-overall pick.
4. Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo is another perfect example of the Miami Heat’s elite scouting and development staff. He wasn’t much of a highly-coveted player, but he worked his way up in the depth chart, allowing Erik Spoelstra to cut ties with Hassan Whiteside and slowly take over as the starting big man.
Adebayo has expanded his game ever since, and he only keeps getting better. He’s added the jump shot to his offensive repertoire and is one of the best passing big men in the Association. Bam is also an elite defender who can hold his own and stay in front of quicker players in switches.
3. Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert is and will always be a subject of controversy. On the one hand, he’s one of the greatest rim protectors and shot blockers of all time. On the other, there’s just no way to justify that massive salary. He’s both great and massively overpaid, especially in today’s big men’s market.
That has often driven the narrative around the French stud, and that’s something he’ll either have to deal with or take as a challenge and prove his doubters wrong. He’s been exposed in the playoffs way too often and hasn’t done much to improve his offense, but his interior defense speaks for itself.
2. Nikola Jokic
He hasn’t been in the league for that long, but Nikola Jokic might well end up becoming one of the greatest centers of all time. He’s already the best passing big man to ever set foot on an NBA hardwood, and getting into better shape has allowed him to keep that stamina late into games, which was a concern early in his career.
Jokic is a better point guard than most NBA point guards, and that just doesn’t make any sense. He’s an elite playmaker with Magic Johnson-ish passing skills. He can put the ball on the floor, lead the offense as a one-man fast-break, and also pull up from everywhere on the court.
1. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid was the second-best big man in the NBA last season, but we predict he’ll take over that number-one spot in the 2022-23 campaign. He’s too talented and naturally gifted and is reportedly in the best shape of his career, which is a scary thought for the rest of the Association.
While Embiid isn’t as offensively versatile as Jokic, he could be even more dominant. Moreover, he’s a better defender and has a better supporting cast. Also, unlike Jokic, he has a realistic shot at leading his team to the NBA Finals.