The center position has seen a decrease in importance as the years have gone on. Let’s look at some of the best guys at the 5 as the season draws closer.
Just missed the cut:
15. Clint Capela – Houston Rockets
Capela will start at center again this season after taking over for Dwight Howard last year. With new star teammate Chris Paul coming to Houston to play with MVP candidate James Harden, along with several skilled shooters, Capela’s main job will be to protect the rim and provide a presence inside. The 23-year old Swiss big man has become the Rockets best defender and after a semi-breakout year last year, his strengths are just what Houston needs to compete with Golden State this season.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 12.6 RPG: 8.1 APG: 1.0 BPG: 1.2
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 11.1 RPG: 9.3 APG: 1.2 BPG: 1.7
14. Steven Adams – Oklahoma City Thunder
Adams remains the third option for the Thunder following the trade for Paul George. The former Pitt star broke out during the 2016 postseason but didn’t completely live up to expectations last year. Adams defensive I.Q. and elite jump hook make him a big piece for Oklahoma City as they attempt to grab another West playoff spot this season.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 11.3 RPG: 7.7 APG: 1.1 SPG: 1.1
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 10.8 RPG: 8.3 APG: 1.4 SPG: 0.9
13. Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons
Drummond and the Pistons had a down year last year and need to rebound this year if the core is to stick around for much longer. Van Gundy and co. traded for Avery Bradley this offseason, resulting in the loss of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Bradley and Drummond have the potential to be one of the East’s top small-big duos if Drummond is able to improve his notoriously awful free-throw percentage and mediocre defense.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.6 RPG: 13.8 APG: 1.1 SPG: 1.5
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.3 RPG: 13.9 APG: 1.0 SPG: 1.2
12. Dwight Howard – Charlotte Hornets
Dwight Howard has progressively gotten worse and worse as the past few years have passed. He’s still a double-double center and can hold his own on the defensive end, though his offensive efficiency and importance to his team have lessened. The league wide play style nowadays doesn’t fit Howard’s and his footwork in the post definitely doesn’t help him at his age. It’s possible Howard sees a lift in his game this season with Charlotte, but don’t expect him to ever bring back his Orlando days.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.5 RPG: 12.7 APG: 1.4 BPG: 1.2
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 12.9 RPG: 11.8 APG: 1.3 BPG: 1.7
11. Myles Turner – Indiana Pacers
Turner enters this year as the new #1 option for the Pacers after the Paul George trade. He and Victor Oladipo will have the keys to the franchise as their rebuild begins. Turner’s 3-pt shooting ability coupled with his shot blocking ability make him a rare talent in the league. As the Texas native looks to have more opportunities on offense this season, he could emerge as an Eastern Conference All-Star candidate this year.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.5 RPG: 7.3 APG: 1.3 BPG: 2.1
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.3 RPG: 9.4 APG: 1.7 BPG: 2.6
10. Brook Lopez – Los Angeles Lakers
Lopez comes home to LA this season to join the young Lakers. The big man will be expected to bring his outside scoring ability and leadership to Hollywood. The former Stanford star became the Nets all-time leading scorer last year and is improving his long distance jumper year by year. If Lopez is able to sustain that 3-pt% and possibly become a more prominent rebounder, he should be the go-to guy in Los Angeles this season.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.5 RPG: 5.4 APG: 2.3 BPG: 1.7
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 18.9 RPG: 7.6 APG: 3.1 BPG: 1.5
9. Al Horford – Boston Celtics
Horford is now the third piece of the new big 3 in Boston along with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. The big man won two National Championships at Florida and enjoyed a successful career in Atlanta before going North to Boston last year. Horford is a bit undersized at the center position and it shows in his rebounding numbers. He makes up for it with his playmaking ability and shot from deep. He’ll need to use both of these skills next season to give the Celtics a chance to get passed the Cavaliers and to the Finals for the first time since the Paul Pierce era.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.0 RPG: 6.8 APG: 5.0 BPG: 1.3
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.2 RPG: 7.3 APG: 4.6 BPG: 1.1
8. DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers
Jordan and his partner down low, Blake Griffin, will be without their point guard and leader this season as Chris Paul left for Houston earlier this summer. Jordan has climbed to the top of the league over the past few years and made his first All-Star appearance last season. His defense, especially his shot blocking ability have made him the player he is, though his offense is limited and he’s rarely used in plays on that end. With the departure of Paul, Jordan may see an increase in his individual numbers but the Clippers look to be on the outside looking in in the Western Conference.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 12.7 RPG: 13.8 AGP: 1.2 BPG: 1.7
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.1 RPG: 13.9 APG: 1.1 BPG: 2.0
7. Hassan Whiteside – Miami Heat
Whiteside became the leader of the Heat last season after Dwyane Wade made the decision to go home to Chicago. Whiteside has emerged as a top NBA center over the past few seasons after not being able to get his feet under him early in his career. Nearly leading Miami to the postseason last year, look for another big statistical year from him. Expect another double-double year from Whiteside and likely a playoff spot for the Heat in the weak East.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 17.0 RPG: 14.1 APG: 0.7 BPG: 2.1
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.7 RPG: 14.3 APG: 0.9 BPG: 2.6
6. Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies
Gasol enters this season without his usual frontcourt partner Zach Randolph. The 7-foot Spaniard isn’t big in the rebounding category, but he makes up for it with his playmaking and defense. He’s helped lead Memphis to 7 straight playoff appearances and become one of the best centers in the league, surpassing his brother. If Gasol continues to make plays out of the post and maintains his percentage from deep, look for a similar season from him.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 19.5 RPG: 6.3 AGP: 4.6 BPG: 1.3
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 20.6 RPG: 7.2 APG: 4.1 BPG: 1.4
5. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets
After making the All-Rookie second team in 2015-16, Jokic burst onto the scene this year as really a point-center. The Serbian big man has been a second round steal for the Nuggets and become their star this past season. What separates him from most other guys in the middle are his guard skills at his size. He can handle the ball well at 6’10” and make plays out of the post for guys on the perimeter. He’s got a new partner now in Paul Millsap and with an improving young team around him, look for Jokic to take Denver back to the playoffs.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 16.7 RPG: 9.8 APG: 4.9 SPG: 0.8
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 18.7 RPG: 11.1 APG: 5.9 SPG: 1.0
4. Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz
Gobert is now the man in Utah after Gordon Hayward’s departure to Boston back in the summer. His efficiency on both ends of the floor get him this high on the list. The Frenchman is a tremendous low post scorer and has also become one of the top 3 defenders in the league after finishing as a finalist for the DPOY award this past season. Gobert needs to be even greater this season to give the Jazz any shot at the postseason, though it doesn’t look too good for Utah right now.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.0 RPG: 12.8 APG: 1.2 BPG: 2.6
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.3 RPG: 13.7 APG: 1.1 BPG: 2.8
3. DeMarcus Cousins – New Orleans Pelicans
Boogie and AD enter this season as the clear cut top frontcourt in the league and will have the highest expectations of each of their young careers. Cousins has been developing a three point jumper over the past few seasons. He’s not automatic from deep, but his range could come in handy for a Pelicans team in need of shooting. Cousins’ playmaking ability is also a huge and unique part of his game that will benefit some of the new backcourt players this season in New Orleans. Boogie must continue to show versatility on offense and play energetic defense to help get the Pels back to the postseason in the final year of his contract.
16-17 Stats (NOP): PPG: 24.4 RPG: 12.4 AGP: 3.9 SPG: 1.5
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.3 RPG: 11.8 APG: 4.1 SPG: 1.4
2. Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid broke out last season after not playing a game his first couple years as a member of the Sixers. The wait paid off for the Cameroonian big man. He’s now the leader and star of a young, talented team with Philly poised for the playoffs this year. Embiid’s advanced metrics were crazy last season and his offensive and defensive efficiencies were some of the best in the league. While climbing to the top of the league, Embiid still wasn’t 100% and played on limited minutes before being shut down for the year. Embiid will come back even stronger and better this season for the Sixers and thats scary news for the rest of the East.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.2 RPG: 7.8 APG: 2.1 BPG: 2.5
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.6 RPG: 10.2 APG: 3.3 BPG: 2.8
1. Karl Anthony-Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
KAT comes in at number one on this list. Since he’s been a rookie, Towns has shown the whole league his ability to dominate on the offensive side of the ball and lead the young Timberwolves. Now that he has veteran guard Jimmy Butler in Minnesota with him, Towns will look to make the next step with teammate Andrew Wiggins and take the Wolves all the way back to the postseason. Towns greatest attribute is his ability to get his shot off easily and efficiently down low, and occasionally stretch the floor with an improving 3-point jumper. The Kentucky product majorly improved last season, increasing his points and rebounding totals, showing his rookie year wasn’t a fluke. Defense is a facet of KAT’s game that is solid right now, but if there’d be a part of his game he could improve, emphasis on defense would be it. If Towns’ cleans up a few things in his game and keeps up his work ethic, he could be the league MVP soon.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.1 RPG: 12.3 APG: 2.7 BPG: 1.3
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.6 RPG: 13.9 APG: 3.4 BPG: 1.8