20 Best Centers In the NBA Right Now

20 Best Centers In the NBA Right Now

The best centers in the NBA is often an overlooked discussion in the league today, but it’s one that’s getting our attention as we take a look at the best of the best. The ones that cause fear in their opponent. The ones that make you change your game plan in hopes of containing them.  

The center position has evolved greatly since the inception of the NBA. What was once a position that dared to step outside the paint has matured into a versatile position that can make plays from anywhere on the court. It has been exciting to watch these new age players develop.

While the best centers in the NBA have always been dominant throughout the years, the best centers in the NBA today are dominant in different ways. They can do so much on the floor and demand a lot of attention from opposing defenses — opening the floor up for their teammates.

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Who Are the Best Centers In the NBA Right Now?

20 Best Centers In the NBA Right Now
Gints Ivuskans / Shutterstock

If you had to rank out the best centers in the NBA right now, who would be your top choice? What about your top-five, top-ten, or even your top-20? There are plenty of players to choose from and they each have unique talents, skill sets, and roles, so make sure you choose wisely.

As for us, there are several centers that come to mind without hesitation, some that are certainly worth considering, and others that we’re definitely going to avoid. There are some that deserve it that will definitely make our top-20, but also some that deserve it that won’t make the final cut.

At the end of the day, we’re going to do our best to portray the 20 best talents at the center position in the NBA right now. Before we get into the thick of things, let’s first take a look at some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make our list of the 20 best centers in the NBA in 2021. 

Honorable Mentions: Andre Drummond (PHI), Steven Adams (MEM), Ivica Zubac (LAC), JaVale McGee (PHX), Mitchell Robinson (NY), LaMarcus Aldridge (BKN), Daniel Gafford (WSH)

20. Bobby Portis

Team: Milwaukee Bucks

2021 Stats: 16 games, 27.9 minutes, 15.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.9 assists per game

Career Stats: 397 games, 20.8 minutes, 10.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks per game

Bobby Portis was drafted 22nd overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2015 and has already played for four teams in his career. He landed with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020 and played a majority of last season off the bench. Early on this season, he already has 12 starts in 16 games. 

Portis has scored above 11 points in all but two games this season. His season-highs are 28 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. He has six double-doubles and three games above 20 points. He has grabbed four or more offensive rebounds in five games. 

19. Wendell Carter Jr.

Team: Orlando Magic

2021 Stats: 22 games, 28.5 minutes, 13.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks per game

Career Stats: 163 games, 26.8 minutes, 11.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.9 blocks per game

Wendell Carter Jr. was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the seventh overall pick in 2018. After two and a half seasons with the Bulls, Carter Jr. was traded to the Orlando Magic and he has been with the team ever since. It’s the fresh new start he needed and is going well for him so far.

He’s a regular starter for the Magic this season and has scored double-digit points in 15 games thus far. His season-highs are 26 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 4 blocks. He already has 10 double-doubles and seven games with three or more offensive rebounds. 

18. Evan Mobley

Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

2021 Stats: 17 games, 33.8 minutes, 14.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.8 blocks per game

Career Stats: 17 games, 33.8 minutes, 14.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.8 blocks per game

Evan Mobley is the only rookie center on this list and for good reason. He was drafted third overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2021 to be their successor to Andre Drummond and it was the right move for a young team looking to rebuild. He’s one of their most consistent players.

Of the 17 games he has played in his young career, he has only scored less than 10 points in two of them. His season-highs are 26 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 4 blocks. He already has four double-doubles this year and at least three offensive rebounds in five games. 

17. Richaun Holmes

Team: Sacramento Kings

2021 Stats: 18 games, 27.4 minutes, 14.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.3 steals, 1.0 block per game

Career Stats: 349 games, 21.0 minutes, 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.1 blocks per game

Richaun Holmes was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft. After three years with the team and one season with the Phoenix Suns, he signed with the Sacramento Kings and has been with them ever since. He has played his best basketball there.

Holmes has been on a tear this season, scoring double-digit points in all but four of his games thus far. He has scored north of 20 points in five different meetings and his season-highs are 23 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 4 blocks. He has seven double-doubles, as well. 

16. Al Horford

Team: Boston Celtics

2021 Stats: 18 games, 28.7 minutes, 12.5 ponts, 8.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.2 blocks per game

Career Stats: 899 games, 32.4 minutes, 13.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.2 blocks per game

Al Horford was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the third overall pick way back in 2007. Entering his 14th season, he has played for four teams throughout this career and has become one of the most vocal leaders in the game. He’s as consistent and reliable as they come.

So far this season, Horford has scored double-digit points in all but four of his games. He has eight double-doubles, has grabbed three offensive rebounds in four games, and his current season-highs are 20 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 6 blocks per game. 

15. Montrezl Harrell

Team: Washington Wizards

2021 Stats: 21 games, 27.0 minutes, 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks per game

Career Stats: 408 games, 21.5 minutes, 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.9 blocks per game

Montrezl Harrell was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft. He spent two years with the team before spending five years in Los Angeles — four with the Clippers and one with the Lakers. This is his first season with the Washington Wizards 

So far this year, he has scored double-digit points in all but one of his games and scored north of 20 points in seven of his 21 games. With six double-doubles and six games with five or more offensive boards, his season-highs are 25 points, 18 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. 

14. Jusuf Nurkić

Team: Portland Trail Blazers

2021 Stats: 21 games, 24.6 minutes, 12.5 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks per game

Career Stats: 376 games, 23.3 minutes, 11.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.2 blocks per game

Jusuf Nurkić was drafted 16th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2014, but has spent a majority of his young career dealing with injuries. Entering the 2021 season, he had only played in 45 games the previous two years. The talent is there, but the durability — not so much. 

Nurkić is having himself a fine 2021 season, though. He has scored double-digit points in 13 of his 21 games, has nine double-doubles, and five games with five or more offensive rebounds. His season-highs are 28 points, 17 rebounds (three times), 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.

13. Nikola Vučević

Team: Chicago Bulls

2021 Stats: 15 games, 33.1 minutes, 14.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks per game

Career Stats: 683 games, 30.7 minutes, 16.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks per game

Nikola Vučević was also drafted 16th overall, but this time by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011. He was traded to the Orlando Magic after his rookie season and spent the next eight and a half seasons with the team. It was in Orlando that he cemented himself as a valuable starter. 

Vučević was traded to the Chicago Bulls last season and this is his first full year with the team. He has only played in 15 games, otherwise he’d be higher on this list. He has 9 double-doubles and his current season-highs are 30 points, 19 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. 

12. Mo Bamba

Team: Orlando Magic

2021 Stats: 21 games, 29.9 minutes, 10.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 2.2 blocks per game

Career Stats: 176 games, 17.0 minutes, 6.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4  steals, 1.4 blocks per game

Mohamed Bamba was drafted sixth overall by the Orlando Magic in 2018 and is slowly becoming a star for the team — especially on defense. This is just his fourth season in the NBA and his first as a regular starter. It’ll be interesting to see how high he can elevate his game. 

Bamba has already scored double-digit points in 14 of his 21 games this season. He has 9 double-doubles and has recorded four or more offensive rebounds in six games. As it stands right now, his season-highs are 18 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 6 blocks. 

11. Myles Turner

Team: Indiana Pacers

2021 Stats: 22 games, 28.5 minutes, 12.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 2.8 blocks per game

Career Stats: 411 games, 28.6 minutes, 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.3 blocks per game

Myles Turner was drafted 11th overall by the Indiana Pacers in 2015 and has been a consistent starter for them ever since. While he has never averaged more than 15 points per game in any particular season, he’s a force on the defensive end and can block better than anyone. 

So far this young season, Turner has scored double-digit points in 14 of his 22 matchups. At his best, he’s one of the most lethal centers in the league, scoring a season-high 40 points in late October. His season-highs thus far are 40 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 6 blocks.

10. Jarrett Allen

Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

2021 Stats: 18 games, 33.2 minutes, 16.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks per game

Career Stats: 303 games, 25.9 minutes, 11.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.3 blocks per game

Jarrett Allen was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets with the 22nd overall pick in 2017 and while he consistently improved over the next three and a half seasons, he was eventually traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2020 season in a move that brought James Harden to Brooklyn.

Allen has been great for the Cavaliers and is having his best season as a pro this year — posting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, field goal percentage, and minutes per game. His current season-highs in 2021 are 28 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. 

9. Kristaps Porziņģis

Team: Dallas Mavericks

2021 Stats: 14 games, 30.5 minutes, 19.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.6 blocks per game

Career Stats: 300 games, 31.1 minutes, 18.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.7 stelas, 1.9 blocks per game

Kristaps Porziņģis was drafted by the New York Knicks with the fourth overall pick in 2015. He gradually progressed over the next three years with the Knicks, but injuries started to haunt him and he eventually missed the entire 2018 season before signing with the Dallas Mavericks. 

Since joining Dallas, he has been good when on the floor — but he’s rarely on the floor. Still, he’s one of the best scoring centers in the league and would likely be higher on this list if he was more durable. His season-highs are 32 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 4 blocks. 

8. Christian Wood

Team: Houston Rockets

2021 Stats: 20 games, 32.7 minutes, 16.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.6 stelas, 1.1 blocks per game

Career Stats: 174 games, 21.9 minutes, 13.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks per game

Christian Wood went undrafted out of UNLV in 2015, but signed with the Philadelphia 76ers after a successful Summer League. He bounced around over the next few years and had stints with the Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, and Detroit Pistons. 

Wood is currently in his second season with the Houston Rockets and things are going well, though his numbers have dipped a bit this season. He still has 11 double-doubles so far this season and his season-highs are 33 points, 21 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. 

7. Clint Capela

Team: Atlanta Hawks

2021 Stats: 21 games, 29.6 minutes, 12.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.4 blocks per game

Career Stats: 418 games, 26.8 minutes, 12.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.7 steals, 1.6 blocks per game

Clint Capela was drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 24th overall pick in 2014. He spent the next six seasons with the team and cemented himself as a reliable starter during the James Harden and Chris Paul era. He was eventually traded to the Atlanta Hawks for the 2020 season.

Capela has been just as good for the Hawks as he was in Houston, though he’s seeing a small dip in numbers this season. He has 15 double-doubles, nine games with five or more offensive rebounds, and his season-highs are 23 points, 22 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals, and 3 blocks. 

6. Jonas Valančiūnas

Team: New Orleans Pelicans

2021 Stats: 23 games, 31.6 minutes, 19.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.9 blocks per game

Career Stats: 644 games, 25.8 minutes, 13.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.0 block per game

Jonas Valančiūnas was drafted by the Toronto Raptors with the fifth overall pick in 2011. He spent the next six and a half seasons with the team as a consistent and reliable starter during the DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry era. He also spent two and a half years with Memphis.

Valančiūnas is in his first season with the New Orleans Pelicans and is having his best season as a pro. He has 17 double-doubles, 12 games with 20 or more points, and 22 games in double-digits. His season-highs are 39 points, 23 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. 

5. Deandre Ayton

Team: Phoenix Suns

2021 Stats: 14 games, 30.1 minutes, 15.4 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks per game

Career Stats: 192 games, 31.0 minutes, 15.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.1 blocks per game

Deandre Ayton was the first overall draft pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. He was taken by the Phoenix Suns and is currently in his fourth season with the team after helping them to the NBA Finals last season. He doesn’t score as much as he did earlier in his career, but he’s still good.

The only knock against Deandre Ayton is the time he has missed this season due to injury. In the 14 games he has played in, Ayton has eight double-doubles and 11 games with double-digit points. His current season-highs are 22 points, 21 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. 

4. Bam Adebayo

Team: Miami Heat

2021 Stats: 18 games, 32.9 minutes, 18.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks per game

Career Stats: 305 games, 27.6 minutes, 12.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks per game

Bam Adebayo was drafted 14th overall by the Miami Heat in 2017 and has emerged as one of the premier centers in the league over the past three years. He was a large reason why the Miami Heat made it to the NBA Finals in 2020 and will likely find his way back there soon. 

Adebayo is having another great season after having his best season to date last year. He has 9 double-doubles, eight games with at least 20 points, and six games with at least four offensive rebounds. His season-highs are 30 points, 19 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals, and 2 blocks. 

3. Karl-Anthony Towns

Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

2021 Stats: 21 games, 34.3 minutes, 23.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks per game

Career Stats: 429 games, 34.3 minutes, 22.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.4 blocks per game

Karl-Anthony Towns was drafted first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2015 and has spent his entire seven-year career with the team. After averaging 18.3 points per game his rookie season, he has averaged north of 21.3 points per game in each season since. 

He’s doing so again this season with 23.5 points per game. He has 10 double-doubles so far this season, including 16 games with at least 20 points, and four games with at least 30 points. His current season-highs are 35 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. 

2. Rudy Gobert

Team: Utah Jazz

2021 Stats: 21 games, 31.4 minutes, 15.1 points, 14.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.0 steal, 2.1 blocks per game

Career Stats: 566 games, 29.8 minutes, 12.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.2 blocks per game

Rudy Gobert was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 27th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, but was traded to the Utah Jazz on draft day. He has spent his entire nine-year career with the Jazz and has become one of their centerpiece players searching for a championship.

Gobert is having another incredible season so far, both offensively and defensively. He has 16 games with at least 10 points, five games with at least 20 points, and 16 double-doubles this season. His current season-highs are 23 points, 21 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 5 blocks. 

1. Nikola Jokić

Team: Denver Nuggets

2021 Stats: 15 games, 32.4 minutes, 26.2 points, 13.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.9 blocks per game

Career Stats: 468 games, 30.0 minutes, 18.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks per game

With how well Nikola Jokić is playing these days, it’s easy to forget that he was once a second round draft pick in 2014. Known for drafting project players, the Denver Nuggets have done extremely well with his development and have turned him into the best center in the league.

Jokić does it all on the floor and knows how to fill a stat sheet. He has 14 games with at least 20 points and four games with at least 30 points. With 12 double-doubles and two triple-doubles, his current season-highs are 35 points, 19 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, and 4 blocks. 

Who Are the Best Centers In the NBA All-Time?

The center position has always been an integral part of the NBA and it’s a position that isn’t going anywhere. Some of the best players in the league play the center position and they are helping to further evolve the position for generations to come. It’s an exciting position to watch.

With that said, there have been plenty of centers over the years that have embodied greatness on the floor. They helped pave the way for centers today and were likely some of your favorite players growing up. In fact, many of them have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since. 

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Some of the best centers in the NBA all-time include Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, George Mikan, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Bill Walton, Willis Reed, Wes Unseld, and Bob McAdoo.

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