Who said that the big man is dead? Last season, the two NBA MVP candidates were centers that mixed the traditional post-game and shooting of today’s game. This is why the best centers right now are more than just rebounding and defense.
Best centers 2021
The top centers this season are a focal point in their respective teams—offensively and defensively. It’s safe to say that the big man position is here to stay and it will just evolve further.
Here are the ten best centers in the 2021-22 season…
10. Jonas Valanciunas
A bruiser in the paint, Jonas Valanciunas is one of the best traditional centers in the league.
His offense mostly comes in post-up situations as he ranked seventh in post-up opportunities last season. This is why he can average a double-double easily on any given season.
Now with the Pelicans, he’ll act as an improved replacement to Steven Adams in the scoring and rebounding department.
9. Clint Capela
These two are deadly in the pick-and-roll as seen both in the regular season and in the playoffs.
Capela was a huge part of Atlanta’s success last season. He led the league in rebounding with 14.3 rebounds per game and acted as their primary defensive anchor in the paint.
8. Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic makes it looks so easy with his offensive game. He can shoot anywhere on the court and operate in the low-post with great efficiency.
Last season, he averaged 23.4 points and 11.7 rebounds per game on .47/.40/.84 shooting splits.
7. Domantas Sabonis
It’s no secret that Domantas Sabonis is now Indiana’s best player. Like the other European centers in this list, he can do everything offensively as well.
This is why he averaged 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 6.7 assists on 54% shooting last season.
What’s noticeable with Sabonis’ game is his physicality in the low block. He doesn’t shy away from contact against opposing bigs.
Now under new head coach, Rick Carlisle—expect Sabonis to dominate again.
6. Deandre Ayton
Last season, we saw the rise of Deandre Ayton as one of the top centers in the NBA. He took it up a notch in the postseason where he averaged 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds on 66% shooting. He played more aggressively.
Ayton’s usage was heavy on pick-and-roll for the past year. Obviously, he can do much better if Phoenix lets him work in the low post.
Now on a contract year, he’ll definitely command the ball more and average better numbers than last year.
5. Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo‘s rapid improvement was well-documented for the past three seasons. Despite being undersized, he was athletic and versatile enough to become Miami’s primary anchor in the paint after Hassan Whiteside.
Last season, Adebayo averaged 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists on 57% shooting. The versatile big man was a beast on the defensive end as well—as he was selected in the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. The only thing that’s lacking in his game is a reliable three-point jump shot, which would see him climb the list of the best centers in 2021.
4. Karl-Anthony Towns
Despite injuries and personal issues, Karl-Anthony Towns still managed to put up monstrous numbers last season. He dropped 24.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game with 122 threes made.
As you can see, Towns is still one of the best centers this season. He’s already a complete player who can hit the three-ball pretty well (39%) for his size. He’s arguably the best three-point shooter in this ist.
It’s now up to the Wolves to build a contending team around him and Anthony Edwards.
3. Rudy Gobert
Albeit being limited on the offensive end, Rudy Gobert has shown that he’s one of the best centers in 2021-22.
His impact was vital to Utah’s success, especially on the defensive end. Last season, he averaged a league-best of 2.7 blocks per game and ranked first in Defensive Rating (100.6) and Defensive Win Shares (5.2). Without him, the Jazz might not become the best team in the league.
Gobert is still a top candidate in winning the Defensive Player of the Year award.
2. Joel Embiid
Domination. That’s Joel Embiid‘s game. He’s simply unstoppable in the low post with his strength and footwork. Last season, he took it up a notch by averaging 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game on 51% shooting while leading the Sixers as the top seed in the East.
If not for the knee injury he suffered last season, then there’s a huge chance he would have beaten Jokic in the NBA MVP race. Now fully healthy, Embiid will look to bounce back and have a monstrous season again.
Embiid is still one of the top NBA MVP candidates this season.
1. Nikola Jokic
There’s no way that Nikola Jokic, the league MVP, won’t be on the top of this list. He’s arguably the most complete offensive center in the league right now. For his size, he can shoot, rebound, and make plays at such an elite level.
Jokic was selected 41st in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Nuggets. No one expected him to flourish today and average a near triple-double on crazy efficiency.