Ranking the Top 10 NBA Centers 2020-2021

April 12, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the fourth quarter at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s top 10 NBA centers are very competitive. Centers, such as Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, are not only leading their positions, but they are also frontrunners for MVP.

Furthermore, the center position has evolved from dunks and blocks to three-point shots and incredible athleticism. However, many centers in the NBA play the old style to perfection on their respective teams. Here are the top 10 NBA centers this season.

The criteria for this ranking include individual performance, team success, and how well the player fits his role on his team.

Honorable Mentions

Deandre Ayton – Phoenix Suns

Andre Drummond – Cleveland Cavaliers/ Los Angeles Lakers

Richaun Holmes – Sacramento Kings

#10: Jonas Valanciunas

Apr 11, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas (17) handles the ball against Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis (11) during the second half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Valanciunas is averaging 17.0 points per game along with 12.8 rebounds per game. He averages the third-most rebounds per game in the league this season.

Valanciunas is the number two player on the Memphis Grizzlies behind Ja Morant. The duo is underrated, and together, they complement each other in their play styles. Not only is the Grizzlies’ center performing well individually, but the team is performing exceptionally well. The Grizzlies are standing at the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Also, he fits his role perfectly on the team. The Grizzlies have many guys who can shoot, such as Kyle Anderson or Grayson Allen. Therefore, a perfect center for them can rebound the ball and score in the paint efficiently. These skills can be fulfilled by Valanciunas efficiently, which puts him number 10 among all centers.

#9: Christian Wood

Apr 14, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Christian Wood #35 of the Houston Rockets shoots a basket over Domantas Sabonis #11 of the Indiana Pacers during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Carmen Mandato/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Wood is averaging 21.2 points per game along with 9.6 rebounds per game. Also, Christian Wood is a strong defender averaging 1.3 blocks per game.

Christian Wood has been exceptional this year, as he is in the conversation for Most Improved Player. From last year, his performance has taken a significant jump. Also, he fits his role on the team. He can score from anywhere on the court, as Wood improved his three-point shooting.

However, the Houston Rockets have the worst record in the NBA. Yes, Wood has been dealing with injuries this season, but the Rockets sit at 15th place in the Western Conference. Nonetheless, Wood has shown a lot of improvement and has a lot of potential for his future NBA career.

#8: Myles Turner

Apr 6, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) blocks the shot of Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams (44) in the third quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Myles Turner has been one of the best defensive centers this season. He is leading the league in blocks per game with 3.5. Also, he is averaging 12.7 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Turner is one of the most versatile centers in the league and fits his role on the Pacers. He elevates the Pacers’ defense and can also score the basketball quite well. His two-point field goal percentage is 61.3 percent, and Turner can score efficiently in the paint. Although his three-point shooting is less efficient, he can score the basketball from a distance.

Yes, Myles Turner is not a scorer, but he does not need to be. Players such as Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon carry the load for the Pacers’ offense. However, the team needs a center who can lock down the paint as a rim protector, and Myles Turner does just that.

The Pacers are the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference, which would qualify them for the play-in tournament. Although they are 9th, they are only four wins away from the 5th seed, making him a top 10 NBA center.

#7: Clint Capela

Apr 13, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Yuta Watanabe (18) attempts to block the shot of Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela (15) during the second quarter at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Clint Capela has been holding his own this season, as he leads the league in rebounds per game. He is averaging 15.4 points per game and 14.3 rebounds per game. Also, his rim protection has been remarkable this season, averaging 2.2 blocks per game.

Capela is the perfect center for a team like the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks’ team has consistent scorers, such as Trae Young, John Collins, and Danilo Gallinari. However, they lack strong defense and rim protection, precisely what Capela adds to the team.

The Atlanta Hawks are currently the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, making them a playoff team. Clint Capela is instrumental in the team’s success by elevating their defense and grabbing rebounds.

#6: Bam Adebayo

Apr 14, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) attempts a free throw in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Bam Adebayo is undoubtedly the most athletic player on this list. He is averaging 19.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game.

Bam Adebayo can do it all for the Heat. He can score in the paint, create open shots for his teammates, and protect the rim. This year, Adebayo has incorporated a mid-range shot into his game, which increases his versatility.

Furthermore, he fits nicely on the Heat team. They have a great three-point shooting team with guys, such as Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro, and a star in Jimmy Butler. All they need for Bam to do is grab rebounds and block shots. However, he can do so much more and shows his talents night in and night out by catching lobs, hitting shots, and facilitating the offense.

Currently, the Miami Heat are 7th in the Eastern Conference, and Bam Adebayo is a huge reason. Although they are 7th, they are only two games away from 5th and can make a push by the end of the season.

#5: Nikola Vucevic

Apr 14, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) dribbles the ball while defended by Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Vucevic is one of the best centers in the league in terms of offense. He is averaging 24.1 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game.

Vucevic can score from anywhere on the court. He is dominant in the paint and can shoot threes efficiently, ranking third among all centers in 3-point percentage. On top of his stats, Vucevic is very consistent on the offensive side of the ball and elevates his current team, the Bulls.

Also, he fits his role well on the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls need consistent scorers, precisely what the Bulls needed to complement Zach Lavine in the recent trade with the Magic. He can shoot the ball very well and score on command.

However, Vucevic can struggle on defense. He lacks the athleticism to block shots consistently and cannot protect the rim as well as the other centers on this list.

Also, both of his teams this season have struggled heavily. The Magic and the Bulls are sitting at the 14th and 11th seeds, respectively. Nonetheless, Vucevic is a top-five center in the league and is a great offensive scorer.

#4: Rudy Gobert

Apr 16, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Edmond Sumner (5) fouls Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the second half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Rudy Gobert is a perfect example of an old-fashioned center in the current NBA. He is averaging 14.4 points, 2.8 blocks, and 13.4 rebounds per game.

Gobert is ranked 2nd in terms of blocks per game and rebounds per game in the league. He cannot shoot the ball well, but he can catch lobs and dominate in the paint on offense. Also, his defensive presence for the Jazz is a huge reason why the team has the best record in the NBA.

Gobert fills his role perfectly on the Jazz. The Jazz already has a star in Donovan Mitchell who can score consistently. Also, they have great 3-point shooters who can stretch the floor in Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic. They need someone who can lock down the paint, offensively and defensively, and Rudy Gobert does just that.

Rudy Gobert is one of the best defensive players in the league, enough to put him over Vucevic. Also, his team has had immense success this season, holding the best record in the entire league.

#3: Karl-Anthony Towns

Apr 16, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) and forward Trevor Ariza (8) defend the shot of Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) during the first quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Karl-Anthony Towns must be high up on any center ranking. He is one of the top talents in the league. Towns can score the basketball from anywhere, create shots for his teammates, and play decent defense. He is averaging 25.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.

Although the Timberwolves center has dealt with injuries this season, he is still a top 3 center. He has excellent footwork in the paint and can create opportunities for himself regardless of who is guarding him.

Also, the Timberwolves need a star to elevate their team to the next level. Towns fits this role well because he can score consistently night in and night out. However, this season he has struggled with illness and injury, which caused him to miss months of games.

Furthermore, the Timberwolves sit at 14th place in the Western Conference. The team has not found much recent success, but Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the bright lights on the team. Also, he is only 25 and still has room to grow in his young career.

#2: Joel Embiid

Apr 14, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) celebrates after making a basket and drawing a foul against the Brooklyn Nets during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

With the season that Joel Embiid is having, it feels wrong putting him at number two. Joel Embiid is averaging 30.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. Although he’s averaging fewer rebounds per game than he did last season, his points per game increased by seven.

This season, Embiid is unstoppable in the paint. Also, he can score from everywhere on the court, with a 37.9 three-point field goal percentage. He adds star power to the Philadelphia 76ers and does it all for his team. Furthermore, Embiid’s defense is exceptional and is well-rounded from anywhere on the court.

Even though he has battled injuries this season, he is still top five in the MVP conversation. Embiid has elevated the 76ers, and his team holds the best record in the Eastern Conference.

#1: Nikola Jokic

Apr 16, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots the ball over Houston Rockets forward Kelly Olynyk (41) during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Jokic is the best center in the league. He is averaging 26.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. Jokic has had 15 triple-doubles this season, which puts him at 2nd in the league behind Russell Westbrook.

Among all centers on this list, Jokic is the most valuable to his team. Without Jokic, the Nuggets would not be the 4th seed in the Western Conference. They would not even be a playoff team. He quite literally does it all for the Nuggets.

Also, Jokic is the best passing center in the NBA. He is averaging the most assists per game among all centers and is fourth among all players.

Furthermore, Nikola Jokic is the frontrunner for MVP and leads his team as they look to push for the championship.

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