As the Pacers, Grizzlies and Spurs have shown in this year’s NBA playoffs, a dominant center can change the fortunes of a team almost single-handedly. The best shot in basketball, despite the recent rise in the three point shot’s value, is still a shot from the paint. Centers are responsible for controlling the paint on both sides of the floor. Here’s our list for the top ten NBA centers in the game today.
10. Omer Asik: One of the best defensive centers in the league and flourished in Houston with ample playing time. Excellent rebounder, post defender and shotblocker and while he doesn’t have a great offensive game, he is improving his passing and finishing around the rim.
9. Nikola Pekovic: Pekovic is an excellent post scorer, rebounder and underrated shot blocker for the Timberwolves.
8. Tyson Chandler: Although he did not play well in the series against the Pacers, Chandler remains one of the best defensive centers in the game.
7. Al Jefferson: Set to become a free agent this off-season, Al Jefferson had another strong season, despite the Jazz missing the playoffs. He is one of the best post scorers in the game although he settles for perimeter shots too often. He is not a great post defender but makes up for it with his rebounding and shot blocking. His free throw shooting (77%) is very high for a center.
6. Al Horford: Although he should be a power forward, Horford has played center for the Hawks for most of the season due to their lack of other options. Horford’s remarkable efficiency on offense (54% FG) and a career high 17.4 PPG make him one of the best centers in the game. Horford is likely the best interior ball handler in the game and can make shots from the perimeter and facilitate for his teammates.
5. Brook Lopez: While he is not a great rebounder, Lopez more than makes up for his deficiency with excellent shot blocking and scoring ability. In fact, he led all centers, both in the regular season and the post season, in scoring. He averaged 19.4 PPG in the regular season and 22.3 PPG in the post season. His jump shot and post moves on offense make him the best offensive center in the game today.
4. Roy Hibbert- Despite losing to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, Roy Hibbert established himself as one of the best centers in basketball. While he has been one of the premier NBA shot blockers since he joined the NBA, his offense was lacking. After averaging over 22 points per game against the Heat, scoring in a variety of different ways, Hibbert established himself in this league as one of the best in his position.
3. Dwight Howard- Despite all of the drama, both during his time with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers, and his off-season back surgery, Dwight Howard is still a very talented NBA center. He averaged over 17 points and 12 rebounds last season despite his adjustments and struggles in LA. His shot blocking, post defense and rebounding on both offense and defense are his premier traits. Although he doesn’t have a great array of post moves, he can still move well without the ball and finish at the rim. His free throw struggles will continue, but whichever team signs Howard (could it be Houston??) will get an excellent rim protector.
2. Joakim Noah- While Noah isn’t like most traditional NBA centers who position near the basket every possession, Noah offers a skill set that not many NBA centers can come close to matching. Noah is the best center in the NBA in transition, due to his athleticism and ball handling. What other center can lead a team on the fast break besides Noah? Also, Noah is one of the NBA’s hardest working defenders, and is the best perimeter defender amongst NBA centers by far. Also, his awkward looking jump shot is rounding into form and Noah is an excellent facilitator for his teammates.
1. Marc Gasol- Marc Gasol has everything a team could want in an NBA center, save for some of Noah’s unique skills. Marc Gasol is an excellent post scorer and can score with either hand. He has an excellent outside shot to help stretch the floor. Also, Gasol is one of the best shot blockers, rebounds the basketball well and is a good post defender. Along with all of these skills, Marc Gasol is the best free throw shooter among centers, shooting 85% from the line this past season.