The roles of each basketball player are diverse. Shooting guards are meant to rack up the points, while point guards are meant to move the ball and initiate plays. Forwards are the players that do a wide range of work depending on the position, and the centers are the heavy players on the teams.
A center’s role can go anywhere from charging the rim to being the last line of defense for an offensive charge. That being said, NBA centers are extremely important when it comes to basketball. A great center can keep their team in the game, while a mediocre one could be the reason they lose.
With the NBA season in full swing and rounding closer and closer to the playoffs, it’s worth noting the top NBA centers in the game right now as of 2019. A good center is strong in both offense and defense. Because they’re usually the tallest and biggest player on the team, the center needs to be able to do several things well.
First, they need to play exceptional offense, using their height and proximity to the rim to score high-percentage shots given by a strong offensive push. Meanwhile, they also need to be able to rebound well. A strong rebounder can help keep their team in the game and give their opponents pressure like nothing they’ve ever experienced.
And finally, a strong center needs to have a good grasp on defense. They’re usually the last person to defend the rim from a drive, and because of this, they need to be able to use their height to an advantage that will give their team the best chance of a successful defense.
I’ll be grading each center on this list based off of these requirements. Let’s get started!
Whenever you see the Mavericks play, you’re probably focused on the star players of the team such as Luka Dončić and Dennis Smith Jr. But one of the players that allows these stars to shine is DeAndre Jordan, and that’s thanks to his ability to play around the team.
DeAndre Jordan is a player with solid stats and solid game, but he’s gone under the radar recently, largely due to the arrival of several other big-time centers. However, his stats are incredibly solid and are worth noting. Currently, he leads the NBA in highest field goal percentage and is second in the league when it comes to rebounds. And when it comes to his team, he’s one of the central pieces to building a strong array of strategies.
He’s great on communication and knows his role in the game. He can execute well when it comes to finishing up shots, and he usually starts the next offensive push after successfully defending the rim. Overall, Jordan is a great team player that can show off the talents of Luka and Dennis.
DeAndre excels at creating space for his teammates and giving them second chances provided that they mess up the first time. He can hold the team up and keep them there for a good amount of time before transitioning to defense. While he’s great at starting up points and finishing them, DeAndre lacks in the defensive department. His movements are slow and can even be considered lazy at times, and he thrives more in an offensive environment where the ball is being moved around.
Overall, he’s an excellent offensive player that works around the power players of the Dallas Mavericks but lacks most of the skills he would need defensively. If Jordan can work on fixing these issues, we could easily see him go up a few spots.
Like DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz is a key player in setting up plays that benefit the entire Jazz roster on the court. He’s great at finishing out points, and his rebounds are on par with that of DeAndre Jordan’s.
Right now, he’s fifth in the league for rebounds, averaging thirteen a game, while his field goal percentage is at 64.2%, the second best in the league. That’s only .2% behind the top field goal percentage scorer in the league, DeAndre Jordan. He doesn’t play big star-like moves and instead lets his team do the work while he does what he can from his position. Whether that includes screens or looking for the pass, he does it all at the highest level he can provide.
What gave him the five spot over Jordan was the fact that Rudy does a very impressive job of staying on his man and keeping pressure on them while simultaneously defending the rim with his height. He plays a better defense game than Jordan can and thus provides more utility overall.
However, while he’s an extremely solid player and is one of the best rebounders in the game, Rudy Gobert seems to only be strong against mid-level teams such as the Trail Blazers or the Clippers. When they play a team that works around shooting long-range and passing the ball around, this is where Rudy Gobert fails to show presence.
Rudy Gobert is a strong support for the Utah Jazz so that they can play the shots that they want to play. However, Gobert is going to need to up his game a little bit more if they want to have a shot at winning a championship this year.
Anthony Davis is a one-man show and someone that you’ll always want to keep your eye on when it comes to solo performances. This man can do it all. He’s extremely great at playing both defense and offense and does it in a way that doesn’t make him seem like he plays center.
While he can be seen as either a power forward or a center, most regard him as a center largely due to his ability to dominate the rim when he gets in. But the thing is, he doesn’t just play like normal centers. He also works around the court, leaving his defenders nervous.
Right now, Anthony Davis is third in the league for points per game, averaging 29.3 PPG. He’s fourth in the league for rebounds, averaging 13.3 rebounds per game. He’s second in the league for blocks, averaging 2.6 per game. And finally, he has the second-highest player impact estimate in the league at 20.1.
This player is a one-man team. He can shoot, he can pass, and he can finish points at the rim. Despite centers usually not commanding the teams, Anthony Davis is one of the few exceptions. Without him, the Pelicans would be nowhere close to where they are right now.
This is what separates him from the rest of the average centers. He plays a playstyle that reflects a large pool of shots. You could see him go from shooting at mid-range one point to finishing at the rim, making him a highly versatile and highly dangerous player.
While the New Orleans Pelicans have been struggling, their star player, Anthony Davis, certainly hasn’t. He’s shown a great amount of skill commanding the team, and his talents haven’t gone unnoticed at all.
If you’ve heard of this name, you know of the Philadelphia 76ers star that is known for his big mouth. But he can back up his trash talk, and he backs it up well. At an average of 27.2 points per game and 13.3 rebounds per game, Joel Embiid is a monster you don’t want to mess with.
He’s the second highest when it comes to PPG, just barely behind Anthony Davis, and he’s tied for third in the league for rebounds. When it comes to advanced stats, Joel Embiid is fourth in the league for player impact estimate and second for usage percentage, making him a big factor of the successful plays that happen for the 76ers.
Joel Embiid isn’t just good at offense, though. He’s good at defense as well. He can switch from guarding a shooting guard looking to drain a three to protecting the rim of an attempted drive. Furthermore, with his 13.3 average rebounds per game, you can expect Joel Embiid to have a high chance of rebounding it if the shot is unsuccessful.
When he’s on offense, he’s a whole different nightmare. Like Anthony Davis, he can set up the points, and he shoots extremely well at mid-range. He’s always moving, and because of this, it’s hard to guard him effectively since he isn’t like most centers who stay near the paint/rim.
When the ball’s in Joel Embiid’s hands, he can easily use it to drive to the rim, and it can take anywhere from two to three people to stop him, and sometimes, they can’t stop him at all. Joel Embiid is a critical part of the 76ers roster right now, and if they want a shot at winning a championship, Embiid is going to play a big part in it.
Jokic isn’t your average center. With the player nearly averaging a triple double every game, the center has a unique spark to him that doesn’t go unnoticed. What separates him from the traditional and the unorthodox is his high variety of point play. And while names like Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis can counteract this, they’re more captains than a team player.
As I mentioned before, both DeAndre Jordan and Rudy Gobert are major team players, able to hold their team up while finishing out points. But Nikola doesn’t just do these things mentioned. He does more. He’s one of the best support players in the NBA right now.
As a center, he’s leading the league in assists, averaging 7.7 assists per game. That’s something that you don’t usually see from a center since they’re usually the players that finish out the points and aren’t part of the transition to scoring a basket.
But like I said, Jokic is the support of the Denver Nuggets. He also leads the league in 2nd rounders PPG at 19.8 points per game. He’s also the fifth best in the league when it comes to player impact estimate, and he’s fourth in the league when it comes to assist percentage. At seven feet tall and 249 pounds, he’s extremely hard to guard and equally hard to beat to the rebound. This can help him drive to the rim quite easily or finish off a point if he’s close to the paint.
That’s not the end of Jokic, though. He can shoot as well as he passes, and with a center that passes, you can’t expect him to be one-dimensional. He’s very good at giving his team the second chance they need to convert a missed shot, making him a lifeline that the Denver Nuggets have depended on time after time.
You can see him as a captain, but when you look more in depth at the variety of benefits he brings to the Nuggets, you’ll see that he’s more of a team player that holds everyone together with his strong ability to give his teammates a second chance for a missed shot.
In basketball, it’s easier to focus on the roles that get more attention such as the point guard or shooting guard, and this is because they seem to be the players that captain the team. They’re essential to commanding the ball and shooting the ball—two of the biggest fundamentals to the game of basketball.
But the position of center can be equally as important as a shooting or point guard because of their ability to rebound and finish off points. They can be the difference between scoring 70 and scoring 90, and in basketball, when games can come down to a point, that’s something you can’t afford not to have.
Some of the best teams in the NBA have the best centers, and you can see this with players like DeAndre Jordan and Rudy Gobert who are extremely good at playing around their star players. You also have captains like Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid who, despite their center status, can move the ball around and score like a guard on the team.
And then you have Nikola Jokic, one of the best centers to date with an uncanny ability to convert rebounds into scoring opportunities for his team thanks to his passing abilities and high scoring percentage.
For viewing pleasure and basketball betting alike, the center in basketball can make or break the game, and if you want your team to succeed, having a good center is the perfect place to start.