Centers have seen a renaissance in recent years thanks to international basketball’s influence on the NBA, and the last three league MVP awards were won by centers.
Gone are the days of the big man backing down his opponent on every possession. While that’s still part of a center’s job, they are taking on more and more responsibilities – especially on the offensive end – as the years go by and new talent enters the league.
So, ahead of the 2023/24 NBA season, we picked the top five centers in the league.
Towns can just about do it all on the basketball court. Entering his ninth NBA season, KAT has averaged 23 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 blocks per game for his career.
His averages dipped slightly last year after the Minnesota Timberwolves added fellow center Rudy Gobert to form a formidable partnership with Towns in the paint. He also shot his lowest number of three-pointers per game since 2018/19, which is counterintuitive to playing next to a seven-footer who doesn't take threes.
If Towns can adjust to playing alongside Gobert, the Timberwolves could surprise people.
Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo has consistently improved since entering the NBA before the 2017/18 season. In 2022/23, he averaged a career-high 20.4 points as he took on more of a scoring role in coach Erik Spoelstra’s offense.
Adebayo has the ability to facilitate the offense, as evidenced by two seasons averaging over five assists per game, and he has averaged over nine rebounds each of the past four seasons.
Having lost in the NBA Finals twice since his rookie year, Adebayo will be hungrier than ever to win his first.
In a year where he helped the Sacramento Kings to a third-placed finish in the Western Conference and saw his coach win Coach of the Year, Sabonis grew from being a good NBA starter to a great one.
He led the league in total rebounds and rebounds per game while being the Kings’ second-leading scorer while shooting 61.5 percent from the field.
A tough player to stop in the paint, Sabonis is an ideal pick-and-roll partner for the speedy Kings guard De'Aaron Fox, and he has the ability to slow a game down and get a bucket when he isolates a defender in the post.
The reigning MVP and two-time reigning scoring champion, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has cemented himself as a true superstar in the NBA.
Not many players can come close to matching his 2022/23 averages of 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 11.7 free throws per game. Teams can plan to stop him, but actually doing that while keeping him off the free throw line is one of the hardest things to accomplish.
The one thing missing from his glittering resume is an NBA Championship.
The reigning NBA Finals MVP has a few things that give him the edge over regular season MVP Embiid.
First, Jokic has a championship ring. Second, Embiid had a 1.23 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, while Jokic’s was 2.72.
Jokic, a seven-foot, 250-pound center, is a true Swiss Army Knife as he led his team in points, rebounding, and assists in both the 2022/23 regular season and playoffs.