While it is true that the NBA has become a guard-driven league, the growing versatility of bigger frontcourt players is steadily stealing the spotlight. It is a much different era of basketball nowadays, and gone are All-Star centers who dominate mainly from the post.
However, that doesn’t mean that the league’s big men are not dominant anymore. Moreover, I don’t think that their value has also drastically decreased. Sure, you have these centers like Hassan Whiteside or Andre Drummond who have failed to cope with the small-ball, positionless type of game. But if your team has an elite center who can attack from all fronts on offense and still be between decent to great on defense, it’s a sure thing that you will be a playoff contender.
With that said, let’s take a look at the best centers entering the 2020-21 NBA season.
5. Rudy Gobert
Even though Rudy Gobert is yet to develop a multi-faceted skillset on offense, his body of work on the other end helps him to stay on the floor even against a small-ball line-up. The French native pulled down a career-best 13.5 rebounds in his All-Star season last year, while also averaging 2.0 blocks per game.
On top of his defensive prowess, Gobert is also fairly efficient on offense. He put up 15.1 points last season while producing a stellar 69% clip from the field. He may not space out the floor for you, but he rarely makes the wrong decisions when he has the ball inside the paint. If Gobert takes the next step and eclipses the 20-point mark average next season, he should be a Top 3 big man in the league.
4. Karl-Anthony Towns
Rarely do you see a player averaging 25 and 10 not make it to the All-Star game. Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t just hit these numbers last season, but he also dished out a career-high 4.4 assists per contest. The 25-year old star is already rounding out his skillset, and he is yet to reach his peak years. That’s scary to think of.
Team success is hard to find in Minnesota, but if Towns and the Wolves have the tools to surprise a lot of people next season.
3. Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo had a sub-par performance in the 2020 Finals. He produced 15.9 points, 10.2 boards, and 5.1 dimes last season, numbers that slightly pale in comparison with the other big men in this list. So, why is he among the current top 5 centers in the NBA?
He has the tools to guard all five positions, something that the other four names in this list can’t do. Bam is a walking triple-double threat each night, and his versatility on both offense and defense allows the Miami Heat to mix and match with their line-ups.
2. Joel Embiid
When he puts his mind to it, Joel Embiid is just an intimidating force on both ends of the floor. He is a decent shooter from outside, and he can put the ball on the floor and leave other centers in the dust. He has the footwork to fool you in the post, has the soft touch for a semi-hook or a fade-way, or pin you down with a strong poster dunk.
Embiid’s efficiency on defense dipped a little last season, but I see him trying more with the Philadelphia 76ers gunning for a deeper finish in next year’s playoffs.
1. Nikola Jokic
If Nikola Jokic would want to always score 30 points each night, I don’t doubt that he can. He has the knack for hitting the most difficult shots out there, and he has the smooth touch from long-range.
But the Denver Nuggets superstar is just not that kind of player. Jokic’s game has always been built around his court smarts, which helps him make plays for his teammates and throw accurate passes. He isn’t a rim protector on defense, but many people forget that Jokic has compiled a career-average of 1.1 steals per game. He reads his opponents’ plays and puts himself in the right position to interrupt that team’s offensive flow.
It’s crazy to think that with his already-polished game, Jokic is just 25 years of age. It will take a long while before another big man overtakes him for the top spot in the best current centers in the NBA.